The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

It’s Political InCorrectness Gone Mad.
December 8, 2009, 6:21 am
Filed under: Comment

A little while ago, on a UK program called “Britain’s Got Talent”, a rather plain, slightly dotty, socially-nervous individual got on stage and within a few seconds, blew the World away.

That individual was called Susan Boyle.

To this day I feel sorry for her … not because of her looks or her uneasy manner … but for the way the World has – and continues to – treat her.

Without doubt she has talent, however I can’t help but feel that if Susan was better looking not only would the World’s reaction to her have been different, but so would the level of her success – and it seems her record company agrees because to accompany the launch of her first album, they’ve used a visual that reminds us of her ‘plainness’ as well as another image that is seemingly there to reassure us that we don’t have to worry, “the freak is less freaky these days” so we can openly buy her music.


I believe the reason Susan made such an impact is because we’ve become a society who believes talent is in some way linked to attractiveness – mainly driven through media and advertising influence – so when some dumpy lady came on stage, we’d already had the expectation she couldn’t possibly amount to much and then, when she proved us all wrong, we felt a level of amazement and guilt that transformed itself into hype, acclaim and record sales.

So am I saying talented but ugly people have a secret weapon in their quest for fame and fortune?

Well I don’t know if it’s a secret weapon, but if they manage to achieve mass exposure [which let’s face it, is very unlikely and difficult] then it is quite possible they will attain a level of impact that goes beyond their level of talent … even though if that happens, you can be sure they’ll be given an almost immediate makeover [to be more ‘acceptable’ to the masses] and will never achieve the level of success as someone hot – who has less talent – will get, which is another example of societies inherent prejudice.

Whilst adland has always said it has the power to change opinions and behaviour – it might be nice if for once they did it in a way that not only encouraged people to buy/consider PRODUCT X, but also helped change the inherent prejudices that exist in society so ugly people aren’t viewed as talentless, men aren’t viewed as stupid and darker skinned women [in Asia] aren’t labelled as coming from ‘peasant’ stock.

[Are you listening Unilever? Just because you have Dove doesn’t escape the fact you profit from exploiting the fears of millions of women with your ‘Fair & Lovely’ disgrace]

23 Comments so far
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youre auntie fucking george in disguise arent you campbell? no youre not, mr nice wouldnt pick a fucking fight with unilever hed try and change them through love and gentle bastard encouragement. thank fuck for that, i dont have to kill myself and can stick the boot in.

youre not exactly revealing anything new here are you campbell? pretty beats talent in a whole fucking host of industries just ask kate adie.
its might not be fair but either is the amount of money you earn so deal with it.

i agree with your hairy susan comments though im not sure if she really is fragile or playing the ditz better than anyone sine pammy anderson but at least she has some fucking talent rather than the women tigers paying to keep their mouths shut after he used their mouths open.

you might not be george but you cant fucking disguise this is another attempt to flog your political agency yawn but now i know it means annoying those brutch bastards unilever i might warm to the idea.

Comment by andy@cynic

The dove brand is like a corporate CSR project, more about making the senior management look and feel better for shameful business practices than anything approaching genuine compassion and care.

It’s boardroom karma protection.

Nice post, especially compared to yesterdays. 🙂

Comment by Pete

stop fucking encouraging him dodds.

Comment by andy@cynic

isnt it funny how ideals are framed in the media… it all ends with the ‘freaks’ and ‘underdogs’ standing out, if they are lucky enough, and after they had been held down, of course. whos not bored with broadly standardized beauty anyway? too superficial and omnipresent. well, maybe i m alone with that view. and jordan proves me wrong. well, she is a freak herself, at least a bit of a caricature of the beauty ideal… id wager if susan boyle would have looked and behaved slightly ‘average’, she wouldnt have had the success on britain’s got talent she has had and is still living on (regardless of her talent; kind of the same with paul potts).

and that photo is amazing. somehow ironic that a stylist and some posing can make someone ‘ugly’ look beautiful. she now reminds me of a brown-haired meg ryan 🙂 of course, they need to show her before the make-over and after, holding her hands to hide the double chin. so you dont forget where she s coming from. sheesh!

anyway, that fair and lovely range is a disgrace. thanks for pointing me in their direction. they even got their own fair and lovely foundation (not the stuff you put on your face though lol) to empower women. i dont know what to say about this. well, i know, but i better bite my tongue or ill be spouting venom.

speaking of poison, skin whitening stuff cant be healthy. and so are tanning and tanning products… i dont know if i should call it ironic that lighter skinned europeans and americans try to get a tan and darker skinned asians try to get lighter skin. mad world. unilever seem to endorse it instead of making sense of it.

Comment by peggy

All women should look hot for men. All men. It’s part of the constitution or it should be. The end.

Comment by Billy Whizz

“holding her hands to hide the double chin”

You’re more cynical than the cynic boys Peggy. That’s cool.

Comment by Billy Whizz

thanks for the compliment billy 😉

Comment by peggy

rob, i don’t care how many times you write posts like this, i will always praise you for doing so.

and andy, even if you’re taking the piss, “pretty beats talent in a whole fucking host of industries” is no fucking excuse here. and if i hear you using it again as a reason that advertising shouldn’t be using its media sway to stop that cliché, i’ll have your nuts in a jar.

the amount of power that advertising, comms, marketing – all of it – has over women’s body images, and yet continues to replicate the same old outcomes makes me twitch. it’s bloody shameful and the reason why i continue to praise rob. even if he is just talking about it


oh, and that forbes article makes me want to vomit too.

Comment by lauren

Do you have a small jar?

Comment by John

It was that moment of “Oh my god that batty lady can really sing” that guilt tripped the country all the way to the voting lines. Frankly if she has a hit out of our guilt then that’s one step in the right direction. If she looked like Beyonce she would be treated so differently… but then she might not be the same person, so we might not respect her as such.

Don’t forget that while the Asian dark skin issue is there, we have the same problem here that darker skin implies wealth; causing half the nation to turn crusty brown or bright orange for most of the year.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Sorry for the delay in responding, been playing pass the parcel in client meetings with me being the errrrm, parcel.

Anyway I like where this is going though to be fair to Andy, I don’t think he was justifying ‘pretty’, just explaining the reason for it – which is of course a bollocks reason but [1] too many in adland sadly loves the path of least resistence [2] too many clients love the path of least resistence and [3] believe it or not but it’s something none of us subscribe to, hence the VB ad I did with a symphony rather than a big breasted bird bending over.

Of course if I’m wrong, then he’s a shit and you can hit him Lauren.

As for you Mr M, that’s a fair point about tanning – but the cultural implications are far less sever as they are in Asia, given this is a land that lives by myth and legend whereas the UK runs on Heat Magazine and Channel 5. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I’m not sure about that you know. It used to mean more in terms of wealth. But you walk down the street and see people looking hideously orange or dark brown with hideous sun freckles. If people are willing to look ludicrous and/or risk skin cancer to darken their skin it suggests a serious and long term cultural problem that isn’t going away.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

isnt it just different ‘channels’ for different myths and legends in the west and in the east?

while it s the ‘mass’ media in the west since decades, there is e.g. a dominance of offline word-of-mouth which builds a basis for diversity, due to the issue of reach etc. in the east. but with the further economic development in the east, there is a rise of technology, different living standards and the media as well. with different channels, there will come stories that change or at least influence the narrative on a broad scale (i dont subscribe to ‘the medium is the massage’ totally, but thats a different story…). i m generalising here, and i m aware that there are already millions of people living a very luxurious life in asian regions, a life many westerners would dream of. but there are still so many people who can be considered as poor when it comes to income levels. if they should also/further be influenced giving away parts of their own identity, with things like skin whitener, so they end up aiming to live a somehow westernish oriented life is questionable. especially if we look at some ‘wrongs’ western societies seem to suffer from.

as you know there were times in europe as well when it was chic to be pale. so you didnt look like you were working all day outside. same same but different now. and all about the money.

Comment by peggy

Of course I was being a cheeky sod – and I am not doubting the issues in Europe and America – however I would say the myth/legends/associations in Asia go far deeper than in other regions of the World because ultimately the cultural implication is something people believe will influence and impact multiple future generations whereas most in the West are only focused on their current personal circumstances and situation.

With this in mind, the attitude that companies have – as in the case of Fair & Lovely – is far more sinister because they aren’t just trading on people’s desire to appear/feel successful, they are playing with deeply held beliefs that people feel will play a part in how their family name will develop [and be seen by others]… which in Asia’s case, is something of huge importance as it’s linked to the cultural value system of progression.

I’m not saying these aren’t issues that happen in Western markets, but the impact in Asia is to a level that is almost unfathonable for many in the West, though obviously Mr M will apprecaite it because of the wife’s heritage.

Anyway enough of this, I’m off to bed. 🙂

Comment by Rob

isnt progression linked to (personal) growth, which is a basic principle of western economics, too? reputation and a respected family name played an important role in good old europe, as well. class systems and other things… it still does in some cases. just looking at european muslims, or aristocratic or wealthy families that have a nurtutred history… though that has changed a bit/is changing… i could make bets on why. but anyway, enough of this. though i could spend hours thinking about that stuff lol

Comment by peggy

The UK version of the poster doesn’t have her old image by the way! Just an addendum, again I haven’t read all the comments and am posting before

Comment by andreea nastase

It’s a different kind of progression Peggy. Sure that is part of it, but it has a far deeper significance than simply economic value and it effects far more people than just particular segments like aristocracy. [Which I know you are not suggesting, but I’m just highlighting. 🙂 ]

Without wishing to sound a prick [which I will … and I am … but it’s late, I’ve had no sleep and I have to be up in a few hours] you can’t really understand it unless you’ve lived here – and even then it’s hard to quantify – so whilst I am not saying the need to progress is that different from a Western viewpoint, the reasons behind it most definitely are.

Right, now it’s time for bed.

Comment by Rob

I’m just about to switch off then see Andrea pop by. How the hell are you lovely? How’s it going and how’s your evil paper? All done? Great to see you here and hope you pop back soon.


PS @Peggy: I didn’t mean to suggest you were saying personal growth was only linked to economics … it’s just that from an Asian cultural point of view, the whole concept of development is always greater than just being limited to an individual [though that is starting to happen with the influence of technology and Western philosophies] it’s about the wider family and where it is, where it’s come from and where it can go, literally thousands of years from now.

This is not totally unique to Asia – there are similarities with how certain European cultures [ie Italian] view progression – however in terms of how it manifests itself as well as how far reaching they believe its influence can be felt, the differences are very significant.

I can go on about this for ages, but I’m even boring myself so until next time …

Comment by Rob

i think i told you once that i believe the influence of religions and spirituality is what shaped societies and cultures in the past. ancestor worship and what comes with it, is definitely an influence in some asian countries. thats not all what is to it. but i just shut it. well, until next time 🙂

Comment by peggy

I’ve lived in Singapore, China and Japan as well as Holland, UK and US so I feel I have a good sense what Western and Asian cultures are about.

On face value the differences between how West and Asian cultures behave is relatively small.

They both want to progress, they both are influenced from the past, they both have certain goals and prejudice, they both need strong family units but on closer investigation you realise the way Asia is influenced by culture in their behaviour, values, and beliefs is far greater even if this translates to seemingly small differences in how they operate, though those small differences are very important and hugely influential.

As Robert mentioned, technology is impacting both Western and Asian cultures and while both are very complex in their makeup there are significant differences and to suggest otherwise is one of the key reasons why many Western companies fail to succeeded in Asia.

Comment by Pete

is this an answer to my comments pete? if so, i am not suggesting what you seem to suggest i am suggesting.

it is a question of definition if one country or another is influenced by culture more or less. i say there are just different cultures for different reasons. but that is a matter of perspective. generalizing, i feel that the west and the east act differently if judging on face value. and so are different cultures within regions like europe, or even big cities. but i am always looking for things that link everything together, the reasons underneath it all. anyway, just my two cents.

Comment by peggy

As I’ve said in the past, Asia knows the West better than the West knows Asia … and whilst that is changing, the problem is many companies come into the region blinded by the profit potential and don’t see the ‘rules’ [spoken and otherwise] that ensure expanding here doesn’t turn into one giant uber-expensive experiment.

Which is good as that’s where we make so much of our money, ha!

Comment by Rob

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