Is Female Mentalist Rebecca Herrera Too Pretty to be in Magic?

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by MagicFactory, Sep 2, 2018.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Is this the age of female magicians? If so, this is GREAT. Rebecca Herrera fooled Penn & Teller on episode 7 of 'Fool Us' - She becomes the first British female to confound the big guys of magic -
    - -
    The effect was original rather than a copy so I was extra impressed. Unfortunately, the comments were mostly about her looks - and I wonder if females in magic still have less acceptance than we realise. Is Rebecca Herrera too pretty to be in magic ? Your thoughts!

    - -
  2. Well, maybe less acceptance than some people realize.

    For anyone who's actually paying attention, though, it's been blatantly obvious that magic is a boys' club and has been for a couple hundred years now.

    Pop quiz: Which magic-famous author said this? "I’ve yet to find a woman who has contributed anything groundbreaking to magic, but would be interested to learn if anybody of you knows more."

    Google it.

    This is an issue with the field of entertainment in general, though, not just magic. Women in all fields of entertainment are judged on their looks before they are judged on their work. It's the result of a patriarchal society that has been conditioned to think men are the workers and women should be mothers and nothing else. It's outdated and wrong, and something we should all be striving to distance ourselves from.

    So is she "too pretty" to be a magician/mentalist? No. Obviously not. She is one. And she had a nice routine there. I do think she could use some work on her stage presence and vocal command, but I enjoyed the piece she did on P&T and I'd like to see more of her work.

    By asking the question, "Is she too pretty for this?" you're really missing the issue here, too. It's not "is she too pretty", it's "Are the people who comment on her looks instead of her performance too petty?"

    The answer to that one, is absolutely yes.
  3. #3 RealityOne, Sep 2, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2018
    I think this is an issue with life... we make an initial judgement of everyone based on their appearances - not just their basic physical attributes but how they decide to present themselves. Arguably, that is not a bad thing, provided we remain open to changing our initial impression. A great book on this is Malcomb Gladwell's Blink. Anyone's initial reaction to Ricky Jay is going to be different than the reaction Darren Romeo is going to be different to initial reaction to Eric Jones.

    I tend to tune out when anyone says "patriarchal society" because that term has acquired a pejorative meaning and, in my opinion, gets the relationship between society and individuals backwards -- a collection of individuals define society, not the other way around. I also think that any generalization regarding how or why people think a certain way fails when it is applied to any particular individual. That said, we all should strive to distance ourselves from being influenced about people based on any preconceived notions.

    I'll be contrarian here. First, I don't think she is particularly attractive despite her outfit which appears to be selected to provide some "sex appeal." Second, the method is obvious on the first viewing. Third, the presentation premise is not that good. If the method is what she said it was (which nobody actually believed) that isn't really that impressive. I think a bad attempt at an explanation of why you aren't psychic detracts from a performance.

    Agreed on that one.
  4. Yes, we absolutely judge people by appearance at first - which is the only thing we can do. It's the only information we have. But with performers we, in general terms, quickly get more information, ie: their performance. For men, they will generally be judged on that performance unless their looks are WAY out there. For women they will be judged on their appearance throughout.

    Stefani Germanotta took advantage of this tendency when she created her Lady Gaga persona. She purposely created extreme appearances because she knew it would help drive her into the spotlight - where she could then play whatever music she wanted.

    I use 'patriarchal society' because 'society in which women are systemically valued less than men as evidenced by the fact that women in similar positions with similar qualifications will make 30% less than male counterparts and women are clearly judged on looks rather than ability' doesn't quite roll off the tongue the same way.

    Generalizations are just that - generalizations. They don't always (and often won't) apply to the individual. Which is why I use terms like 'generally speaking'. We can all point out exceptions. The point remains that, in general terms, women will be judged by their looks rather than their performance. Watch interviews with female actresses and see what kind of questions they get asked compared to their male counterparts. Look at the comments under YouTube videos of female performers vs. male performers.

    You are of course entitled to your opinion. In this case I disagree. While I am ambivalent to her looks (And that's not the point of the performance anyway) I did enjoy the routine.

    She probably acquired the information somehow, yes - I'll be honest and say up front I'm not sure how she did it specifically, because I try not to figure out other performers' routines. But the premise is actually plausible since that is something someone could do. If she did just listen to the pen, that, to me, is even more amusing that she 'fooled' P&T. Because they are looking for a deceptive method. What better way to deceive them than to be honest regarding what one is doing?

    I am not so sure it's as unimpressive as you state. I've done things like this in the past and, in the right context (ie: that of a mentalism show) it would have a good chance of going over well. Keep in mind that a mentalist is often not going for a big 'tada' moment.
    RealityOne likes this.
  5. #5 RealityOne, Sep 3, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2018
    We will have to disagree on that one, at least in part. Appearance is an integral part of character (and I know you understand this). Contrast a 15 year old boy performing in jeans and a t-shirt and a 20 year guy old performing in a dress shirt, sport coat and dress pants. To me, one says kid doing magic tricks and the other says professional performer. That part of their character will pervade and potentially overshadow the performance. Take two female magicians - Jinger Leigh and Kayla Drescher. Jinger's character combines strength of personality, intelligence with a classic 1980's sex appeal. Kayla has a this amazing sense of humor, this great ability to relate to people (probably honed in years of doing magic behind a bar) and "girl next door" sweetness and beauty. Their performances are supported by their characters with no one element of character defining them.

    I suppose that there are people who will react totally based on their appearance, but I think that is the exception rather then the rule. It's like judging an NFL quarterback based on their looks - some do it, but it lacks any serious effort at critical thinking. As for YouTube comments, they don't reflect reality - they reflect people attempting to be get reactions and any generalizations from those comments will suffer from self-selection bias - People who hold well-reasoned opinions rarely discuss them on mediums like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube because those mediums don't lend themselves to in-depth discussions.

    And Rebecca chose her outfit to encourage a certain reaction. If a guy wears a purple top hat over flowing locks of white hair, that says something about his character. If a woman wears what looks like a short plaid skirt and white blouse, it says something about how she defines her character. Change the skirt to pants or to a longer black skirt that brings different elements to the definition of her character.

    To explore that premise and determine our areas of agreement and disagreement is better done over a couple of drinks while sitting in some comfortable chairs.

    Again, I would argue there is some selection bias in YouTube comments. Conclusions from interviews also would be unreliable because of a similar selection bias for the questions based on what the interviewer expects his or her audience would find appealing. Few people seem to want an interview based on an in-depth discussion of important issues but instead prefer something superficial, salacious or controversial - as my journalism teacher said, dog bites man never makes the news, but if a man bites a dog... that's a story. That bias would be more evident based on the target audience of the interviewer. Have the same woman interviewed by People, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Time and Forbes and see the difference in subject matter of the questions.

    The premise is plausible, but in no way inspires wonder. The idea of someone spending countless hours listening to the sound of a marker on paper to discern what is written seems a bit inane to me. In the context of a show like Penn and Teller's Fool Us (and in most magic or mentalism show), any performer provided explanation is presumed to be false. Her explanation puts me in a position where if it is true, it is a demonstration of a rather odd and particularly un-useful skill and if it is false, it is a mere trick.

    As for method, I typically try to enjoy those performances the first time through (it is an exercise that provides me with context when designing effects) However, there were certain things in her performance that were incongruent with a typical drawing duplication and certain tells that caught my attention. That is, things that I said, "that is strange" when they happened. If I'm right, the written explanation of her method isn't far off from her stated method (I suspect there is an intentional subtle bit of humor in that) and the method of disguising the method was one of those things that brings a smile to my face. My comment was not designed to say that the method was at all apparent to the audience, but rather to express a bit of disbelief that P&T didn't guess it.

    I can see the effect being strong, but the presentation significantly weakened it.
  6. And NFL quarterback is likely to check many of the 'attractive' tick boxes - athletic, successful, etc. However, they are judged on their prowess in the game, not their looks (except for those who are fantasizing about them). Whereas cheerleaders are judged more or less entirely on their looks - despite the fact that they train pretty hard as well, and their physical abilities are just as incredible. Oh, and they make peanuts in regards to pay.

    Agreed. I'm partial to bourbon these days, so somewhere with a decent selection thereof is preferable.

    YouTube comments are like drunken comments - they don't change the nature of the person making them, there's just less of a filter.

    Side note to support my claims - My wife stilt walks for events. She gets pretty much the same comments and questions every single time she does an event. Most times, the comments about looks come from men, and the comments about skill come from women. Both genders ask, "How's the weather up there?" though.

    And you are probably right that interviewers are asking questions they think their audience will care about - but that doesn't change the fact that the audience (which will be the same people making YouTube comments) seem to care about what kind of underwear Scarlett Johansson wears under that leather outfit as Black Widow, as opposed to asking Chris Helmworth about his stunt work or workout routine.

    The press surrounding The Avengers is actually a pretty good yardstick, really. ScarJo actually got pretty fed up with interviewers always asking her about clothes and make up and underwear while asking the men about acting and preparation and such that in some interviews Mark Rufalo would answer the questions posed to Scarlett and she would answer the questions posed to him - just so she could stop talking about the same appearance-centric subjects.

    Not to mention red carpet events - women are asked about their dress, men are asked about their accomplishments.

    We are undoubtedly, currently, a society that values women's looks and men's work.

    I don't know. I think you may be approaching this without the correct theatrical context.

    Being able to take one sense and interpret it into another sense is kind of cool. And, just plausible enough to be possible. Maybe it won't inspire wonder - but honestly, that isn't the goal of mentalists in many cases. We are entertainers, yes, but wonder is not the only emotion I seek to elicit. Sometimes I want to evoke outright awe of the degree to which I have honed a particular skill. Perhaps that's a kind of wonder, I don't know.

    Also, side note - I could see this being the plot-turn-point of a criminal procedural like Psych, The Mentalist, Sherlock, etc. where the detective/hero finally cracks the case due to their finely tuned senses being able to take sound and turn it into an image.

    Anyway - I question this specific line:
    In a magic show, I agree with you 100%. In a mentalism show, though - I disagree.

    When someone is performing proper mentalism it should be presented in such a way that is plausible. To that end - I am frequently (almost every show, really) asked about my 'powers' after a show. I never claim to be "real" (unless I'm presenting a genuine skill) - but people believe my premises. I consider this due to the plausibility of my scripts as well as the congruent nature of how I perform.

    So while people going to a magic show will assume it's all tricks - people seeing real mentalist show will often believe what that person says they are doing. The problem here is the number of people who claim to be mentalists who are mental magicians.

    This is why I put "fooled" in quotes in my response.

    After talking with Aiden Sinclair I've changed my perception of Fool Us. I'm not sure how many people actually fool them, and how many people they just want to give stage time or attention. I am absolutely sure that some of the people they have labelled as having fooled them did not fool them - well, did not fool Teller. I'm sure some of those people they just decided deserved time on stage.

    So I'm not positive she 'fooled' them. Maybe they just decided she's good enough to deserve the attention. As I've said, I'm interested to see what she has to offer.
    RealityOne likes this.
  7. In part by design and in part by economics. The point of cheerleaders has historically been primarily aesthetic. Nobody tunes into a football game to watch the cheerleaders and the ratings for the national college cheerleading championships bring in significantly less viewers than any of the national championship bowl games. But again, we are digressing into arguing the example rather than the underlying premise.


    Agreed, but not everyone goes to a bar and gets drunk. The question is whether underlying nature the YouTube comments and the drunken comments can be extrapolated to the larger population which doesn't post on YouTube or go to bars and get drunk.

    Fair enough.

    Wait, they didn't ask Mark Rufalo about his workout routine? Why not? Do you think they would have asked Scarlett Johansson about her underwear if she had an Iron Man type costume?

    Getting back to magic, how about a Forbes podcast about a self-proclaimed Magician in Heels? That returns to my points of who you audience is and what you project through your character.

    The context is that of the Fool Us show. That context (including the "guess the method" theme and the juxtaposition with other magicians) made the explanation seem more farcical than realistic. I could see this piece fitting into a well developed mentalism show but the back story would have to be better. I find that a skill developed in a context or for a reason has better presentational value. Maybe it was something she read about in researching prisoner's of war during World War 2 (learning to hear the scratching on the wall of letters from an adjacent cell). I just think you need to have more than "I've developed this unique and otherwise useless skill merely to show it to you." I like the crime thriller plot.

    Based on the bolded, underlined and red words, I think we are, for the most part, agreeing. I didn't find her presentation of the purported method to be plausible.

    Agreed, let's not mistake entertainment for reality.
  8. I think the ways people talk when either a) under reduced inhibitions (which happens with the first drink, not just when drunk) or b) when given anonymity. It's human nature to act differently when we can't be personally called out - and I think a big part of that different behavior is to say things one thinks but wouldn't normally say due to the pressures of conforming to the social contract.

    I have no idea what they would have asked if she was hidden away instead of in a tight leather outfit. I do know that I was far more interested in the stunt work and acrobatics than I was her clothing choices and would rather have heard about that, but apparently I'm in the minority compared to the rest of people who watch these things.

    Acknowledging that people expect a woman to dress a certain way and using that to get ahead doesn't detract from the fact that people expect women to dress that way and that women will be judged by their looks. That's just women deciding to play by the existing rules because it's way easier than succeeding outside of those structures.

    And there's likely to be a bit of a vicious cycle going there - Ladies understand that they are going to be judged on looks, so they play the part and dress certain ways, which in turn continues the tendency to be judged by looks and so on. It's a difficult thing to break out of, but I think the first step is to shift to judging a performance by what's being offered - So only worrying about looks if looks are something that's integral to the performance.

    Agree to disagree? I think this is preference. Personally, I like seeing people demonstrate skills they developed simply because they had the time and focus to do so.

    I like this sort of thing because I can relate - I'm obsessive too.

    To that end - I'm a sideshow performer as well and most of sideshow is just a demonstration of a weird skill that was developed for little other purpose than getting on stage and demonstrating it. I didn't learn to escape strait jackets because I think I'll genuinely be locked in one some day. I didn't learn how to put a needle through my hand because that would somehow be useful - I just wanted to see if I could do it, and then I started doing it in front of audiences because I knew it would get big reactions.

    On top of that, I'm currently writing a show that is basically that premise. Genuine skills I have developed over time because I was obsessed with them at one time or another, or that highlight some unusual aspect of the human mind that I am likewise fascinated by. This will be my most honest and straight forward show ever - genuine skills demonstrated theatrically but without deception or artifice.

    Historically speaking mentalism has been the demonstration of a skill for the purpose of demonstrating that skill (whether it was done deceptively or not). Which is why I specified proper mentalism. Much of what's called mentalism today is done by people who are too afraid to embrace presenting mentalism as the real deal - so they do it in the way magic tricks are performed. With a nod and a wink to let everyone know none of it's real. But there are still plenty of people who do perform mentalism the way it is meant to be performed and those people are often just, apparently, demonstrating skills.

    I think her premise is plausible because it is something one could do. When she said she was just going to listen to the sounds of the marker, I covered my eyes and tried to do the same. The music got too loud so I couldn't hear everything but I picked up on a curved line, angled lines, and little details. But again, I think this is an agree to disagree thing. She clearly did not set up properly to convince you that it could be plausible that she's just demonstrating a skill, which means there are definitely going to be others who feel the same as you do.

    I think we have reached an impasse, though. Other than a pleasant sounding evening discussing the ins and outs of society over fine liquors we seem to be revolving around our personal preferences.
    RealityOne likes this.
  9. I'd disagree with the use of the word impasse. :) I think we have reached a point where we understand where each other is coming from and have identified areas of agreement, areas of nuanced distinction and areas of personal preferences. The important thing is that we have both been challenged to think and to put our ideas into words. Through that process, we learn. We will get that evening with some bourbon on the calendar as we move into fall.
    ChristopherT likes this.
  10. Am I to pretty to do magic? Just kidding.. Magic does not have a gender, and it’s crazy to believe that only men can do some cool stuff. If she would be a bad looking, I guess she is ok to do it. I’m sorry.. this is to sexist .
    Doctorpeace likes this.
  11. It's sort of a rhetorical question in this case. Obviously, everyone agrees that no woman is too pretty to do magic and in an ideal world, this question would be absolutely ridiculous. However, this question is more calling into question society's view on magic as a predominantly male dominated industry and just age-old gender issues which have been plaguing society for a really long time.
  12. Closing this thread. It has more than run its course.

    I will leave with this. Nothing about your gender identification, sex, race, nationality, religion, looks, etc has ANY bearing on your ability to do magic. No, Rebecca Herrera is not "too pretty to be in magic." There is nothing about her looks that has any bearing on her ability to do magic. If she "fooled" Penn and Teller, it is because she took the time to develop the skills to do so, and had a great performance.

    The comments people make based on her looks have NOTHING to do with her ability to do magic. We do live in a world where there are lots of sexist people hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, and these sorts of comments are going to come up. We cannot afford to give them any validity by entertaining their sexist ideas. We ALL know better than that.

    // L
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

{[{ searchResultsCount }]} Results