Update:  CLICK HERE to read my post on Susan Boyle’s debut Album ‘I Dreamed A Dream’.

By now, tens of millions have converged on YouTube to watch the sensational phenomenon of Susan Boyle, the middle-age woman from Scotland on Britain’s Got Talent.  Arti has waited for the dust to settle a bit before commenting, allowing her hindsight to catch up.

So, what’s the appeal of Susan Boyle?  The planned and scripted intention of the producer and judges aside, what is so attractive about the 47 year-old woman?  Is it the plain, country look, the greying frizzy hair, the unkempt and overweight physique?  In this image-driven, urbane society of ours, these features definitely aren’t valuable assets.  Or, as so many have claimed, it’s her voice that has enthralled us all.  Yes,  the lady certainly has potential and talent in this regard.   But truth be told, could Susan Boyle have garnered so much praise if she had looked differently?

The universal appeal of Susan Boyle is the mismatch of her look with her voice, a perceived dissonance based on a prejudiced, preconceived notion marking viewers’ expectations.   What talent could a middle-age, plain-looking, hamlet-dwelling woman have?  The public has a real fun case of being fooled.  Ha, the joke is on us.  We’ve been wrong all along.  Unattractive bodies can be talented personalities.  And the audience had enjoyed the twist and surprise.  Susan Boyle’s  TV appearance provides real entertainment value, albeit manipulative according to skeptics of reality shows.  Simon Cowell should be most gratified.   It’s all about the ratings, and future record sales.

susan-boyles-new-lookBut wait, don’t speak too soon.  Now the 47 year-old has a few hairs on her eyebrows plucked, her unruly lock trimmed and dyed a younger look, donned some neater attire.  Lo and behold, the mismatch has diminished.  As the excitement wanes, criticisms arise.  “She shouldn’t change too much,” the public decries.  “That’s the limit that she should go, no further,” the critics advise.  Wouldn’t it be terrible if Susan Boyles decides to join Weight Watchers.  Of course she shouldn’t, it’ll be much less entertaining.

What have we become now?  Spectators of a freak show in a circus?  What about those lyrics that have enthralled us initially?  Can a woman not be allowed to have her own way, make her own decision to change or not, choose her own lifestyle, and interpret her own dream?  Is she selling her soul just by having a facial?  I’m afraid Susan Boyle is no match for our sensationalism and thrill-seeking crowd of  reality TV viewers, or the humongous entertainment business looking to generate more profits in whatever way possible.

I worry too that the overnight rise to stardom is making Susan Boyle equally vulnerable to become an instant victim of the fallout.  A trampled rose or discarded weed, they meet the same destiny.  Of course, I wish her well and that the pursuit of her dream will not become a nightmare in the callous arena of public opinion.

The curious case of Susan Boyle also reminds me of another woman with talent living in obscurity two hundred years ago.  She was a bit younger,  living in rural England, striving to be herself in the pursuit of her dream to become a writer.  Sadly, she did not live to middle-age, nor see her name credited to her work.  To avoid fallouts and social reverberations, she had to seek anonymity.  Now we know her as Jane Austen.

The lyrics of that tune still sound poignant:  “After changes upon changes, we’re more or less the same;  after changes, we’re more or less the same…”

Photo Credit:  Andrew Milligan/PA,  Source: Times Online http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article6161198.ece


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