Piers Morgan’s recent article (and other media commentary) regarding ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ phenomenon Susan Boyle tells us something about the use of categories and the terms and their deployment. The reaction from the panel and the audience to her dream of becoming a professional singer like Elaine Page was ‘hilarity’, ‘eye-rolling’ and ‘loud guffaws’. Why was that? The answer Piers gives is that she was ‘middle-aged’, ‘feisty’ and a ‘funny lady’.
Categories carry huge amounts of culturally rich common-sense knowledge. If a category is applied to, or if a person applies it to himself or herself, that person is presumed to embody the social knowledge about that category and have the appropriate category-bounded attributes. If not, that person is seen to be an exception, different, or even a phoney. Presumably then, the category predicates that Piers provides ‘middle-aged’, ‘feisty’ and a ‘funny lady’ did not match the category-bounded attributes associated with the famous singer for which she dreamed of being. Consequently the panel and the audience surmised she was likely to be a phoney member. As Piers eloquently puts it, ‘We’d committed the oldest sin in the talent- show book – judging a book by its cover’.
Read the article in the Mail on Sunday