Sarah

Apparently, the world has been overcome by the sudden internet success of Susan Boyle, a Scottish spinster-type turned vocal powerhouse and insta-celebrity. See here for a NY Times recap and here for a YouTube clip of the Britain’s Got Talent! performance that propelled her into the spotlight.

The whole thing has, of course, been making me face my cynicism—and not the cynicism that everyone’s been talking about. (“I thought the whole point of Susan Boyle was that she erased cynicism and swept it out of the room,” Reija said in a gchat today.) When I watched the clip late on Friday night, I’d already gotten tipped off, so I never felt the folly of guessing she’d be bad. I’m not cynical that easy.

No, the cynicism that I’m having to face is the part of me that wants to say: What the heck is the big deal??

Notice the extra question mark.

I guess I should be happy that the world has something to be excited about. Apparently, millions of people watched Susan Boyle sing and cried. A man who had a lousy 59th birthday watched her sing and decided he’d make it to 60. Patti Lupone decided to grow her eyebrows out. North Korea decided to disarm. I acknowledge that she’s a good singer (though I will be excited to hear her after she’s received some training; my vocal performance major brother has finally persuaded me that singing lessons really can have dividends). And I agree that she’s cute in her way.

But really? We were surprised? REALLY? We’re THAT SURPRISED that she’s not as bad a singer as she is a dresser? And here I’d thought that “don’t judge a book by its cover” was a cliché.

I’m being negative, I know.

But to me, the lesson of Susan Boyle isn’t that we were superficial (when she walked on stage and we thought she’d be good for a laugh)—it’s that we are superficial. (Or are being, as would have been preferred in my family’s house, where I was encouraged not to use negative labels.  E.g., Not “you’re selfish,” but “you’re being selfish.”) Really? One surprising performance from a Scottish barmaid, and we’ve learned that we put too high a price on beauty and poise? Really?  One earnest rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” and we’re ready to plus size our models and change our ways? That perfectly complected British judge says, “I think that was the biggest wake-up call evah,” and we’re awake–we’ll never make that mistake again.  Really??

Sorry, team.  My money’s on we totally will.

Susan Boyle is charming and awkward and endearing in her ways. She reminds me of the stocky woman from The Sound of Music who, in the climactic music festival, receives a runner-up award from Max Detweiler and then bows repeatedly, obtusely, and adorably, unwittingly giving the Trapp Family a few moments of escaping time. The stocky woman is clearly awkward, clearly unfashionable, clearly not svelte—but we all know she must have been a good singer. After all, she came in second place to JULIE ANDREWS. Who was, after all, the more beautiful woman.  Darn her.

Advertisements