Sunday, April 19, 2009

Boyle-ing Point

This Susan Boyle thing is really starting to creep me out. For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, let me give you a rundown.

Susan Boyle appeared on the program Britain's Got Talent last week. She sang the song "I Dreamed a Dream" from the show Les Miz. After her performance, the audience was cheering and the judges all gave reviews that led to three "Yes" votes for moving her on to the next phase of the competition. Pretty typical reality show sequence of events, but that doesn't explain why Boyle is being described as an internet sensation. Some other facts to color the scene: Boyle is 47, unemployed, and, in her own words, lives with a cat and has never been kissed.

And then she broke the interwebs.

The consensus is that Boyle gave a good performance on the show. Many would say excellent and I have yet to see a review that called it anything less than good, so let's go with the less extreme opinion. However, that's where the joy ends. Many of the blogs that I subscribe to have shared their positive opinions on the Susan Boyle Experience and have since been inundated with flame wars about the varying degrees of opinions and the application of semantics.

People have taken offense at Boyle being referred to as "older". 47 is older than me, so I would describe her as older. But those in their 50's, who do not consider themselves "older", have expressed contempt for that term being applied to someone younger than them. There's "older" used as an adjective of comparison, which seems to be the more common usage in this case, and "older" used as a pejorative adjective which I don't think has been the intention of any use of the term.

The other issue that has come up is physical nature of Ms. Boyle. She is not ugly, she is not glamorously beautiful, she is just...average. I don't have any of her measurements, but she appears to be average in just about every dimension. If anything, she is the human manifestation of beige. This has created intense debate about lookism, particularly in the realm of talent based reality television. It is an interesting conversation topic, but the vitriol is getting a bit much.

There's nothing that bothers me about Susan Boyle personally. Her performance is a joy to behold, which also seems to be part of the general consensus. If anything, the presentation is a bit overwrought, but that is a fault of production and outside of her control. However, all this joy is eradicated as soon as people have shared their reactions on the web. Civility is beginning to go to the wayside because one person's joy does not necessarily synch up with another.

What I'm taking from the clip is that extraordinary talent should be celebrated, regardless of the source. Why does that celebration need to be shouted down by other celebrators?

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