"Carrie Prejean" Types of Moments versus "Susan Boyle" Types of Moments

Neither Carrie Prejean or Susan Boyle have really left the news since they appeared on our screens a few months ago. In my mind they are linked together because of a recent youth group lesson.  A few weeks ago we discussed relationships, dating, sex, purity, etc. in youth group. Early on, we stressed the incredible importance of identity. This led us to society’s expectations. When you talk about expectations, it’s helpful if you describe values, principles and if possible … examples. Most of us know that all our role models are flawed. My dilemma became what kind of a role model do I use when to discuss “beauty”. This line of thought eventually led me to offer a comparison between Carrie Prejean and Susan Boyle.

The world tells us that you would rather look like Carrie Prejean. Having grown in the church and having served in youth ministry for almost ten years, I think I understand the idea of the Christian celebrity quite well.  (In fact, prior to pastoral ministry, I pursued a career in Christian male modeling.  It turned out that I wasn’t “Christian” enough).  Whether it be male or female, there is always some “Carrie Prejean” type being propped before us as a positive Christian role model. My concern is what is the Church’s message to those who don’t look like Carrie Prejean (and what is the message to those who do)?

The world also tell us that even if you could sing like Susan Boyle, you would still rather look like Carrie Prejean. In fact it’s probably better that you look beautiful and sing like Kermit the Frog than have an amazing voice and be considered, “not stunning”. I know there are exceptions to this, male, Italian tenors mostly and those whose talents compensate enough for their looks but I think it’s fair to say they comprise a small minority. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the world tells us in some way that if you sing like Susan Boyle and look like Susan Boyle than you are better off staying at home and taking care of your aging parents and if you must get a job, it will most likely be an ordinary one. If you still want to sing, consider your church, your shower and maybe even your car but a career in professional music is very unlikely. I told our students that if you wanted a role model from pop culture, consider the moment that Boyle gave us as opposed to Prejean’s. Some students really connected with that. Some didn’t.

Let me explain where I am coming from. I am not necessarily interested in using the actual lives of Susan Boyle or Carrie Prejean, I’m using them more as a caricature. Part of it is an attempt limit objectifying them (which is another story). Also understand that I do not like shows like American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent. Even more, it’s difficult for me to understand the popularity of beauty pageants in general. I’m obviously not alone, otherwise we all wouldn’t have loved Little Miss Sunshine. It blows my mind that there are so many that want to be a part of them. Even more baffling to me are the many women watch these events along side their daughters. You can almost hear the conversations, “Oh, she’s so beautiful.” “Those aren’t real”, “Oh I hate girls that have that look. Reminds me of a girl from high school …” “She has a great smile – she should smile more!”, “OMG, she’s adorable. She should definitely win! Let’s text in our vote.”

To clear up any confusion, I don’t know any men who watch these events. (Feel free to comment if you do, I’ll try not to judge you ;-)  When men want to see scantily-clad beautiful women, they unfortunately have other options that cater to their lusts. So, for the life of me, I do not understand why so many women allow themselves to be objectified by these pageants. While I will admit it was helpful for me to read this article in Chrisitanity Today, it was this idea that finally got me to write this post. To me this Carrie Prejean moment helps support this unhealthy expectation to our identity-seeking teenage girls that this is what they should look like. And if they are Christian, this is how she should respond.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t like any thing about Prejean. These are probably the exact same reasons that James Dobson and hosts of my conservative brothers and sisters like her so much. I know that sounds judgmental and I admit the wrong in my part but perhaps I should clarify. Maybe it’s better to say that I do not like the public persona that I perceive from my television. It seems to me that she wants the attention of whoever will reward her the most. If she were my sister, I’d sit her down and we would have a talk about all this.  To me her plan looked like this:  (1). Be a beauty pageant winner that will (2) lead to a few years of “the good life” that may lead to a career in  (3) modeling or (4) acting or (5) who knows – Sign me up! Insert controversial television moment regarding homosexual marriage here.  (Insert the sound of the metaphorical grinding of gears). “Wait, what? You want me to prop me up front with my blonde hair and Christian upbringing and be an advocate for traditional marriage, uhh sure but, @$%#%, I hope those pictures don’t re-surface … Doh!”

For a moment, let’s pretend she never posed for any inappropriate pictures and let’s forget about implants. What frustrated me was as soon as she defended traditional marriage, she became the spokeswoman for Christian conservatives everywhere. She appeared on Larry King and various talk-shows. Immediately she was flown out to Liberty University to speak in their convocation where she was hailed as a hero. (So help me if Christianity Today puts her on the cover. I will unsubscribe from all their email lists. Not only will I not pay for their print subscription but I won’t even read their free quality stuff. That’ll show’em). Many Christians probably think of her as a Daniel amidst the lions of Perez Hilton and the mean liberal media. It seems (to me) that Prejean didn’t want to be a Daniel (or a Danielle) but probably a movie actress or a model instead for why else would you enter into Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant? It appears that these girls use the success of these titles to parade around casinos, be guest judges of useless events, model for make-up and hope to break through into the celebrity world. And I suppose that’s ok if that’s where you find the God-given calling of your life to be but as this discussion applies to the girls in our student ministry, I wanted to encourage them to pursue something better.  I want that for Prejean too.

All of us run the risk of portraying our selves in the best possible way that will lead to good rewards. The problem with Prejean is that it led to burn every bridge that she thought she created. Eventually Trump predictably fired her. Why is that each year we have a scandal of the crown of some sort? Uhh, that would be for the sake of Trump’s publicity. The poor billionaire, how hard can it be to find an appropriate Miss USA?

Enter Susan Boyle. The American public has been conditioned to immediately scoff at the mere sight of a person who looks and dresses like this. Especially, if this person enters into the same room as Simon Cowell.

You know the story (and it’s worth watching again). She amazes everyone. We are crying, we are confronted by our guilt of stereotyping and at the same time, we are thrilled about her. It’s unbelievable moment with the perfect song and a great back story.

From the “industry’s” perspective, she doesn’t belong there. But we are so happy she is. I believe she was self-aware enough to realize that and I believe that motivation served her. She refused to be controlled by the stereotypes and the images that surrounded her and for that, all of us were reminded of that.

What I love about it, is that it’s inspiring to all people. Especially teen-agers. And when it comes to our society’s expectations of women, identity seeking teen-age girls, we need more examples like this. I want to be careful that I do not prop up Susan Boyle on too high of a pedestal. News reporting emotional breakdowns indicate that her new found celebrity has been difficult for her. Perhaps it’s best to compare and find inspiration in the moments, as opposed to the people themselves. Perhaps it’s better to say that we need more of these Susan Boyle-type moments versus Carrie Prejean-type moments.

Monday Morning Brief 4-21(on Tuesday)

What I Enjoyed This Week – 1. Celebrating Nathan’s first birthday party with our family and friends.  I can’thelp but being really sentimental and grateful but I’ve been very moved by this season of life.  At the party, I was reminded of the many incredible family and friends we have.  We couldn’t invite everyone and there were some that couldn’t make it, but we couldn’t help but feel loved by so many.  I think we all had a good time … except Nathan.  He didn’t take his morning nap and that ruined his afternoon.  After we sang happy birthday to him, he didn’t stop crying and so he didn’t eat his cake and we all wanted to see that. His real birthday is this Sunday and we saved the cake so maybe then.  Pictured here is my favorite moment of the day. Nathan came over and gave me this sweet hug. It came after his nap and the party was winding down and a I promised him that his first car wouldn’t be the church van.  It was a beautiful father and son moment.

2. I was fortunate enough to catch the first game at the new Yankee Stadium with a few friends.  We were missing one though (but I commend him for his financial responsibility, especially at this stage in his life). As for me, I felt that I had to be there.  I shudder to think how much more embarrassing of a loss it would have been had I not been in attendance.  Seriously when you go to games like that, the outcome almost doesn’t matter, you go to be a part of it all.  

Regardless of what thinks of the Yankees, it’s a beautiful stadium and for a while there was a big part of me that didn’t want a new one.  They did a great job but we’ll see if the Yankees magic and charm crosses the street because I’m a little afraid that we may have lost a thing or two in the move (too many luxury seats that equate to 4000 fewer seats worry me).  But again, the stadium is great.  


What Caught My Attention this Week – 1. Desmond Tutu’s NY Time’s article What Burma Needs From the White House. 2. The Obama-Notre Dame debate.  Should Notre Dame have invited him to speak?  I think I’l blog about this one day.  

Student Ministry Update – We did our Sr. High Service Project Weekend and it was pretty good.  Though I wished that more students were able to attend I was reminded why I love to do these.  I know it’s not about numbers and I have a resentment for those that stress it but these weekends are solid and I’d rather bring 30 of them to this than going bowling.  Anyway, I had mentioned to the students that because there were so few, they weren’t going to be able to hide behind anyone – they were going to have extend themselves and serve.  Friday night we went to the Good Shepherd Mission in Paterson and a couple of our kids shared about what God has brought them through.  They did really well, especially since they were being vulnerable.  Before we concluded the worship service, one of the guys in the program stood up and commended them and led an affirming applause.  I don’t care about applause but I was blessed that ourkids connected with the men again.  Saturday morning we picked up trash (not bc of Earth Day but because there was trash on the ground) around our church and around our community.  Then that afternoon we spent time with those who have developmental disabilities at the Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat.  These posts are supposed to be brief but it was so good for us to spend time with people that we never get to see.  We got great responses from the students and I hope this was another step in developing our student culture of Christ and mission.

What I Am Listening To – All the usual podcasts and the new Decemberists album The Hazards ofLove. Initially I think it sounds like the Decemberistis which is ok, that’s who they are and I like them.  But I was hoping for something a little different like the difference between Death Cab for Cuties’ Plans and Narrow Stairs. I’ve said stuff like this before and a few weeks later appreciated the album in a different way so hopefully that will happen again. I’ve also been listening to the Welcome Wagon.  Thomas got to see them in concert so I’m hoping he blogs about that.  If you like Sufjan, you’ll appreciate them.  He produced, played and sang with them.   

What Amazed Me this Week –  Susan Boyle!  Wow, like everyone For the one person who may not have seen this here you go.  Click here for the link (embedding code was disabled by request.  Networks still haven’t figured it out)