Music I Like TV

The lone dissenter on Susan Boyle

Okay, everyone I know is crazy about Susan Boyle. I see Facebook postings about how great she is and how people are amazed by how good she is. I see news stories about how mean people are for laughing at her. I see feminist critiques citing her as a champion for how women especially should not be judged by their looks.

Am I the only one who isn’t caught up in all this? I saw the YouTube video. The instant she appeared, I knew exactly what would happen. She would be awkward and ugly, people would laugh at her (and the camera would linger for that extra moment on each sneer), and then she would blow everyone away with an incredible voice, and the judges and audience would recant their disdain and embrace her.

Do people really think she just walked right on stage like that? Everyone was surprised? No. The producers planned it. She had to audition, and at that moment the producers knew they had it made (“It’s Paul Potts… but better… this will be ratings gold!”). They would let the camera crew know to highlight certain things (if audience members are laughing in disgust, linger longer on those folks), they would let the hosts know to make extra fun of her beforehand. Maybe the judges wouldn’t be let in on it, so their surprise will seem more genuine.

This was carefully plotted, folks. Make no mistake about it. And even though people were surprised, I think they had a right to be surprised (they didn’t have a right to make fun of her, though). It’s not that she’s ugly (even though she is). It’s not that her dress is frumpy and unfashionable (even though it was). It’s her demeanor. It’s her seeming obliviousness. It’s her seeming lack of stage presence.

There are good singers, and there are good performers. If you’re lucky you’ll get a good performer who is also a good singer. If you see someone who seems physically awkward and doesn’t command the room when she walks on the stage, you think you’re not going to see a good performer. It actually makes sense. For the producers and Britain’s Got Talent ratings, it’s just trimming on the tree that she’s also physically unattractive and unfashionable.

But people’s expectations that she would not be a good performer are perfectly in line with how she walked on stage, how she made that awkward little dance while talking (as if she were a three-year-old girl). So stop judging yourselves for misjudging her stage presence and performing abilities.

The worst part is that all of these people who say “Shame on us for judging her by her looks and laughing at her” will still judge people by their looks and still laugh at them. I may be the most cynical of them all when it comes to the Susan Boyle phenomenon, but all I see are Britain’s Got Talent exploiting an ugly duckling, and people congratulating themselves on guilt that won’t lead to real character change. You haven’t learned your lesson, general public.