Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Susan Boyle

Tens of millions have marveled at the emotional impact of a seven-minute clip from a British talent show featuring a frumpy spinster who nevertheless brings down the house with a stirring rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables.  Loads of speculation has been lavished on the subject of what so captivates audiences (American, especially) about this bit of video. Now, here is one more asshole's opinion.

I reject the suggestion that Ms. Boyle somehow carries a banner for legions of unremarkable and perhaps underestimated people everywhere who are held back only by the cruel whims of an elitist, image-obsessed society.  The most obvious reason is that the woman is clearly remarkable herself.  This was recognized at least as recently as a decade ago, when she recorded the jazz standard "Cry Me A River" for a charity album.  And where does this leave the truly unremarkable, in terms of who is fit to go viral and who isn't?  I don't like where this train of thought leads.  I do sympathize with the complaint that there is something very smug and self-congratulatory about reveling in the performer's victory as our own.

I am also unimpressed by the attitude that there is something counterfeit about the seamless orchestration of content in the short video so as to produce maximum tearjerking power. Whether it's the seeming serendipity of song choice or just that shit-eating grin on Simon Cowell's face as his latest creation hits her crescendo, indications are that the entire event was just as canned as any other "reality" TV product.  To which, says I, so fucking what?  I suppose for true authenticity, the Scottish vocalist should have come from an actual French ghetto.

I prefer to appreciate the performance for what it is: a tidy, little modern fable that pushes all the right buttons.

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