Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Nun Who Can Sing! Why are we Surprised?

I am very interested in the global interest in the new singing sensation from Italy’s version of The Voice. For those who haven’t seen it, she turned up on stage, all dressed in her nun’s outfit, and turned out to be brilliant, cool, and hip. In the Voice, the judges all hear the singers “blind” and all turned wanting her in their teams. They were all shocked to see it was a nun with this “voice of an angel.” You can see for yourself here ( The thing is, why are we surprised? Just because a person is a Nun, doesn’t mean they can’t sing. The same reaction came with Susan Boyle when she turned up on “Britain’s Got Talent” and sang the house down. Susan doesn’t fit the image bill at all either.  

What gets me is why people are surprised. There seems to be an underlying presupposition in our society’s mythical sub-structure that it is the young, hot, and “cool” who can sing and act. So, when someone comes along who breaks the mould, like Susan Boyle, or a Nun, people get shocked and it goes viral. As I see it, the world of media and arts, funded by the moguls who know that hot people help them make more money, have created this myth by making Hollywood and the music industry a place where image dominates. In fact, a lot of those who “make it” are not that good, but they look good and that is what matters. And unsurprisingly, but sadly, most people like looking at people who look good. We become so shaped by this as we grow up, we are unaware of it. So, when someone like Sister Cristina Scuccia turns up, we get shocked. Because we are inadvertently shaped by an underlying narrative that young, hot, and cool is where it is at. We also don’t expect that a person dressed like a nun can really sing – despite Julie Andrews and Sister Act.

I would imagine, in a world with 1.2 billion Catholics, there are plenty of Nuns who could sing the house down. They just have better and more important things to do. There are a myriad of Susan Boyles out there too. There are lots of older people who can sing, but they don’t fit the story.

What I do like about shows like the Voice and the “…Got Talent” is that they break the underlying narrative that so-called beauty is important and allow some to break through. As someone like this wonderful singer turns up, the narrative is broken as it goes global. May it come to pass that we live in a visual media that is not dominated by the young, hip, and hot. For that to happen, a lot of people in the industry have to be prepared to break the narrative. Some will take a financial hit to do so I suppose. But may more and more do it. And may we as consumers become a lot more thoughtful about what we allow to shape us. We can turn our back on that part of our modern story by being aware of when we are being played by young, hot, and cool, and turning it off in favour of things that have some depth and reality.

I hope this Nun wins, but doesn’t kick the Habit, continues to care for those in need, and helps chip away at the narrative.

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