Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nikolai Gogol: The Overcoat

In an Apatow world, socially stunted, slobby, scruffy men somehow manage to have attractive blond girlfriends. These men do not really have to work on their social skills, and Mary Jane problem to find love. It is no wonder these Apatow movies turn out to be blockbuster hits, eh?

But, in the real world we get surprised when "less attractive" individuals actually amount to something. For instance, look at the recent, okay not so recent, YouTube sensation, British Susan Boyle. When she first stepped on the stage, the audience and the judges were ready to write her off, but out came that powerful voice, and she had everyone mesmerized. Had she been a Barbie look-alike, people on this side of the pond, probably, would have never heard of her.

Nikolai Gogol's stories are about such "less attractive" social outcasts. He wrote about social nobodies who work in the corrupt government offices. Gogol had hoped to achieve literary success when he moved to St. Petersburg from Ukraine. But, he had trouble finding his footing in the corrupt imperial capital.

"The Overcoat" centers around Akaky Akakievich, who is a government clerk. Akaky Akakievich not only has an unfortunate name, but is also poor, lonely, and unattractive. He spends his day copying government documents, and getting teased by his co-workers. When his old worn-out overcoat reaches the condition where it's beyond repair, Akaky decides to buy a pristine new overcoat, which he cannot afford. He decides to save up, by skipping dinner, and going without the basic utilities. His sole purpose of existence, which was previously about his menial job, now becomes about buying the new overcoat.

Gogol's stories are about people whose lives are marked by anonymity and oblivion. These individuals find themselves lost in a society, where they are judged on their physical appearances, funny names, and inferior social ranks.

I believe, the reason reality shows like "American Idol", or "Britain's Got Talent" are popular, because they give individuals, like Taylor Hicks, Paul Potts, and Susan Boyle, a chance to do something outside of their social realms. In most cases, the contestants are not restricted by their physical appearance, and/or socio-economic status.


Maria Sondule said...

It's always good to hear about he less attractive people being on TV and getting star roles and such. Every time someone decides that they like me (crushwise) I'm really surprised because I'm not pretty in any way shape or form, and you always hear about guys looking for just beauty. But things like this remind us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not just on the outside.
Just saying though, American Idol definitely restricts people based on their look. They'll put someone through if their singing is great no doubt, but if you're beautiful and your singing is good but not super astounding, they'll give you the edge.

Zany said...


You are right about "American Idol". I am not sure what's going on with the "Idol" this season, but in the past, the contestants who did not fit the conventional looks criteria went through a major makeover as the competition progressed. Kelly Clarkson lost weight. Taylor Hicks, who won the Idol, did not really have any commercial success. He was not considered "attractive" by Simon Cowell. Whereas, the runner up that season, I can't remember her name, was able to appear in a couple of movies.

I find that we are more critical of our looks. So, I don't think you should be surprised when someone likes you.

I know these days I have been swooning over Chris Pine :$, but I find the most attractive trait a person can have is an intelligent brain. Otherwise, I would find them a waste of oxygen.