Brigitte Boisselier, Raelians, appearance and credibility
December 28, 2002 9:25 PM   Subscribe

The Clone Crone: Is Brigitte Boisselier the scariest woman of 2002? Will she replace the Bride of Wildenstein in our epidermic disaffections? The Sunday British tabloids seem to think so. How much does protagonists' physical appearance influence our perception of public events, such as the alleged cloning of a human being? [ See MeFi's recent thread.] Are rampant male chauvinism and female cattiness making a comeback? In other words, would people take the other, more famous Brigitte more seriously if she were still beautiful? Or a man?
posted by Carlos Quevedo (28 comments total)
It seems that a person must get 2 out of 3 points in order in order to get the proverbial thumbs up. If you are ugly, you had better have a pleasant personality and do good work. If you are an a-hole, you'd better be good-looking and do good work. If you make a habit of being an evil-doer, you'd better be very, very hot and charming.

Unfortunately for Dr. Boisselier, she is cloning babies for kooky religious reasons, is fairly unattractive, and seems to have a grating, weird personality. That's three strikes. She never had a chance.

Being unattractive can benefit those who are lacking in other areas, but won't break the deal for people who have their ducks in a row.

When's the last time you heard a (serious) snide remark about Mother Theresa's appearance? Does Stephen Hawking's ideas about the origins of the Universe get shafted due to his not particularly attractive physical state?

And as a side note, Florida gets one more point on its Most Bizarre State in the Union scorecard.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:10 PM on December 28, 2002

Oh come on, anyone can be made to look unattractive when the tabloids decide to choose the most unflattering pictures of them possible. The tabloids (especially the Brit ones) are famous for launching such campaigns against people they decide not to like (remember Fergie?). Boisselier's got a bit of a scary gum-monster smile, and she's not the most photogenic person out there, but she certainly wouldn't be universally considered unattractive. I think the tabloid labelling sways people more than people's own honest opinions do. Once someone gets labelled unattractive, and the only pictures printed of them are unattractive, people assume they're unattractive, regardless of what they might have thought if shown a flattering picture without the labelling. People are such mind-controllable sheep sometimes.

I doubt many people are swayed from one side of the fence to the other by the hotness quotient of any given person, but I suppose it could certainly sway a fence-sitter, sad as that may be. I think it's of more use to those who are already decided on the issue: "see the kinds of people who approve of cloning!? I must be right to disapprove of it!".

I don't see how his physical appearance could have swayed public opinion of Hawking's work, it was scientifically sound and he presented it in a way most people could understand. It was hardly controversial to Joe Q. Public the way cloning is, and his somewhat unpleasant personal nature is more or less common knowledge and seems to have no effect on his skills and intelligence.
posted by biscotti at 11:33 PM on December 28, 2002

I think her appearance is a bit of a red herring here--she can't be taken seriously because she is a member of UFO worshipping cult, not because of her looks. If she was the spokesperson for, say, John Hopkins Medical School, announcing the first cloned baby in a situation where there was actual scientific backing, then her looks would be no more noteworthy than that of any other highly groomed PR woman or middle aged lawyer. But when you are a high ranking member of a church which is known for staging orgies, etc., you can't demand the same kind of respect.
posted by jokeefe at 12:00 AM on December 29, 2002

Good points, 4easypayments and biscotti. I posted this because almost all the comments I heard on the cloning story (whether from men or women) were alarmingly predicated on Dr. Boisselier's appearance. And I found myself going along with them. Surely this can't be right?

Looking "suspicious" isn't the problem - it's how paramount what you look like is. And women have it (I'd say increasingly) harder than men. Isn't this unhealthy? Or is it some sort of return to earnest evaluation? I sincerely don't know. But it feels different; that's for sure.
posted by Carlos Quevedo at 12:01 AM on December 29, 2002

katherine harris redux, particularly with the floridian angle.
posted by donkeyschlong at 1:01 AM on December 29, 2002

It is a great deal harder for women to navigate the shoals of public perception. Not only are women scrutinized more carefully and criticized more often regarding their appearance, there are so many different variables to get right. Too much makeup? Slut. No makeup? Dyke. Trousers or skirt? How high is the skirt? How tight are the trousers? Hair length, color, cut... Low heel or high heel? Nail color and length, weight, accessories, jewelry... it all makes a statement. And when it comes to be taken seriously, women are as often penalized for being too attractive as they are for being unattractive, while, for the most part, a man can just put on a darkish suit and muted tie and it is unlikely his appearance will garner too much attention.

That said, it doesn't appear that Boisselier is even trying to project an acceptable public image. This may be because her chief goal is publicity and her appearance is geared to that end, or she knows that even if she tried to present a conservative facade at this point, past photos would be dredged up and gleeful comparisons made. Or she doesn't have a clue, which is unlikely.
posted by taz at 1:20 AM on December 29, 2002

"[I]n Britain leading genetics expert Dr Patrick Dixon said the birth, if true, plumbed sordid new depths and heralded a terrifying new age of science careering out of control.

He said: "Maverick scientists are locked in a fiendish global race to produce clones motivated by fame, money and warped beliefs. This baby has been born into a living nightmare."

Dr. Dixon went on to say that he is quitting the profession of medicine in disgust, and will instead pursue his first love, an ambition to be a B-movie screenwriter.

"Imagine, a child born as a clone, an exact replica of someone else physically, struggling to find his or her own identity."

Um, that's called being an identical twin. There are lots of them. Most do fine.

Look, I'm not defending this effort. The people doing it are bizarre. Apparently the colorfully-haired, beige-toothed Dr. Boisselier had her own children taken away from her because she is believed to be an unfit mother. My understanding is that human cloning, and cloning in general is not considered safe yet: although it can be done in animals, the offspring often develop serious medical problems within a few years of birth. The causes are not understood, and are currently under study. It is way too early in this technology to try to clone humans.

But you can't turn back science. Eventually the problems will be worked out, and healthy humans will be cloned. We'd better start thinking seriously about how we're going to deal with it, instead of ranting like Dr. Dixon.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 2:53 AM on December 29, 2002

...almost all the comments I heard on the cloning story (whether from men or women) were alarmingly predicated on Dr. Boisselier's appearance.

Odd, most of the comments I heard were to do with UFOs. Obviously we move in different circles (although admittedly mine are rather small at the moment).

...would people take the other, more famous Brigitte more seriously if she...

...was a member of an alien sex cult? No, but it'd be much more amusing.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:01 AM on December 29, 2002

Too many damn questions. How about a fpp rewrite:
Brigitte Bosselier hot or not
posted by pekar wood at 4:34 AM on December 29, 2002

It's all about personality--an ugly person with a good personality can be far more atttractive than a good looking person with a shitty personality. Sometimes good looking people with shitty personalities become ugly on the outside; what's really inside seeps to the surface over time.

Not knowing this Brigitte whatsoever, it's pretty darn near impossible to say what kind of person she is, but she comes across as a pretty freaky person. Being in a cult that has relatively preposterous ideas combined with a technology that is still too new to be used on humans and you get...Boisselier, reviled and hated around the world, the new Dr. Frankenstein.

Most of the comments my friends are talking about are regarding the technology and morality of using it, with a little side comment about "the strange lady" who broke the news. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
posted by ashbury at 6:01 AM on December 29, 2002

...and anyway, hasn't Michael Jackson rather conclusively preempted the Bride of Wildenstein in all our elective-surgery daymares?
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:35 AM on December 29, 2002

Returning to the original question - How much does protagonists' physical appearance influence our perception of public events? - would Diana have been considered so saintly if she hadn't been perceived as attractive?
posted by raygirvan at 7:55 AM on December 29, 2002

I, for one, welcome our new Raelian overlords. I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground clone incubation caves.
posted by sharksandwich at 8:08 AM on December 29, 2002

clone that woman a dentist :)
posted by mkelley at 8:36 AM on December 29, 2002

Isn't it a measure of journalistic integrity? If you can't challenge a woman's ideas, you either call her names or belittle her appearance. It actually gets funny when the pundits are so overwhelmed by a woman that they do both at the same time. For example Hillary Clinton, or Ann Coulter.

The next time you read one of these send-ups, ask yourself: are they calling her names or criticizing her appearance? It happens a lot.
posted by kablam at 9:21 AM on December 29, 2002

Exactly, kablam. By their words are they judged.
posted by rushmc at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2002

"...reputable scientists say it will open a Pandora's Box of mutant horrors..." - I would dearly love to know which reputable scientist came up with that choice of words :)
posted by kaemaril at 11:33 AM on December 29, 2002

But when you are a high ranking member of a church which is known for staging orgies, etc.,

Ah, so that's why they boast 55,000 members. Come for the UFOs and..
posted by bargle at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2002

This whole thing is getting way too much coverage until they come up with some hard evidence. I guess anybody can stir shit up with just a press conference these days.
posted by 2sheets at 12:05 PM on December 29, 2002

4easypayments: a dead-on analysis (and a superb Mefi personae). Shitty "science," combined with odd belief system makes many feel they have license to dis her looks. But I would distinguish between not being beautiful, and being odd looking, i.e., looking possessed.

Additional angle: She's French, so all the more reason to pile on.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:22 PM on December 29, 2002

in a world of cheesy flash intros, that was the cheesiest flash intro ever.
posted by joedan at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2002

Are the Raelians harvesting collagen from their clones?
posted by octobersurprise at 8:37 PM on December 29, 2002

Prediction: cloning will become legit; and the gay community will discovery that it's a fundamental right to reproduce by this method.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:37 AM on December 30, 2002

it's a fundamental right to reproduce by this method

I would agree with that statement.
posted by rushmc at 9:56 AM on December 30, 2002

See Brigitte Boisselier and The Girls of Clonaid - Nude!
posted by Wet Spot at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2003

If she didn't show her teeth, she really wouldn't be that unattractive. Neat hair anyway.

But that doesn't prevent her from being the spokesperson for a group of wackballs, which is really the issue :P
posted by Foosnark at 4:56 PM on January 3, 2003

If she didn't show her teeth, she really wouldn't be that unattractive. Neat hair anyway.

I like the way she dressed at that press conference: black clothing, black stockings....GREAT DRESS CODE! If I was going to be brainwashed by a cult, women dressed that way might be able to "pull me in."

On a more serious note, here's an interesting article about just how wacked her cult is.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:57 PM on January 3, 2003

And how embarassing for the media to have given these a-holes so much press coverage.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2003

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