Friday, August 01, 2008
Colorblind and Unthreatened
It’s about time I posted about this year’s season of one of my favorite shows, “So You Think You Can Dance.” I was loving this season until the unfortunate and premature loss of Will, my personal favorite and the guy a lot of people picked to win it all. But that’s not what I’m interested in discussing today. On to that…
The other day Davie found a blog post about SYTYCD in which the blogger observed how it was looking like the final three male contestants might well end up to be all black guys. (Not so now that Will got the boot, but the guy who hung on in his place is actually Hawaiian and of mixed Asian race.) She speculated about what a surprise this was, taking into consideration a certain amount of racism you’d expect from the show’s voters (typically white teenaged girls). Some of the comments echoed this sentiment.
Well, in my admittedly limited experience, I have a different opinion and am not at all surprised by success of the African-American guys on the show. First of all, they happen to be the most talented dancers among the males this year. And secondly, I’m convinced the majority of girls in this country under the age of 30 can find men of color just as hot as white guys. I’m sure there are regional, religious, education and economical factors that come into play and don’t make this principle universal, but I honestly believe it’s typically true.
My own daughters, 28 and 23, sure make no distinction based on race. And from what I hear from their peers and friends, they don’t either. I asked my 23-year-old about this and she agreed with me. She pointed out that one of the most popular genres of music currently is hip hop, and the pre-eminent artists are usually black. That means your typical young lady nowadays gets plenty of exposure to sexy guys of color.
The hindrance to sex appeal between people of different races is simply a matter of familiarity. Once you are comfortable with the difference in appearances—and once you have sexual associations with those “alien” qualities (by alien meaning simply different from your own) such as those that happen in the entertainment world—you can recognize attractiveness easily enough.
Young people have been exposed all their lives to attractive and positive examples of people of every race. I’m not claiming discrimination is dead in America, but there’s virtually none of it in the media or in sports, so that means you see beautiful people of every race every day. In fact, if you live/work in an area that is not particularly integrated, like I do, the vast majority of “minority” people you see will be celebrities and therefore more attractive than the average white person you encounter in daily life.
So I think white teenage girls are not going to be influenced much by race when it comes to sexual attraction. Obviously a good thing for the planet!
Meanwhile, a second observation was made and discussed on this blog post that Davie found. That is, when it comes to picking females to vote for, our typical SYTYCD viewer will look for “unthreatening” girls. That is, they’ll prefer contestants who are not too pretty, not too sexy, and don’t seem like they’d steal your boyfriend from you.
Again, I disagree. If you’ve ever been a teenage girl, I think you’ve experienced what I’ll call “the Barbie Factor.” Young females don’t always regard each other as competition. Sometimes they see an attractive girl as someone to identify with, to pretend they are, as girls do when playing with Barbies (or, I’m sure, Bratz dolls, etc.). I’m sure it’s similar when young men, who are competitive with their buddies and classmates, identify with a sports figure.
So don’t expect the least pretty SYTYCD girl to win, unless coincidentally she happens to be the best dancer.
All that said, there’s no denying that sex is a factor for anyone past puberty as they pick their favorites on this show. Even if you can divorce yourself from simple looks—not easy when those pretty faces and toned abs are distracting you—even selecting on the basis of dancing alone is a sexually-motivated choice. Grace, style, coordination, strength…all these are traits that matter in mating as much as in art. As I’ve said before about SYTYCD, watching the show is a spiritual, innocent erotic experience…just as dancing is.
And happily, I think that evils like jealousy and racism don’t play as much a part as some people fear.