Meryl Streep as The Worst Singer Ever and Why We Love Awful Failures
Posted on February 17, 2015 at 3:57 pm
Why is complete artistic failure so fascinating? I’m a huge fan of Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever by Mark O’Connell, who pays tribute to the “sort of accidental surrealism” of bad art from people who have no idea how bad it is. He describes a mental condition called the Dunning-Kruger effect. “Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the inability to realize it.” The people with the lowest competence were also the most likely to overestimate their ability, especially in areas like humor, logic, and grammar. It is kind of the opposite of the Imposter Syndrome, sort of being your own courtier in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
One legendary example of this syndrome was a wealthy woman named Florence Jenkins, who wanted very badly to be a great opera singer but who had a dreadful, off-key voice. Her still-popular recordings include The Glory (????) of the Human Voice. Meryl Streep will be playing Ms. Jenkins in an upcoming film, with Hugh Grant co-starring. Can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, here is the original.
And a reminder of what it is supposed to sound like.