Is anyone in the US, or our once estranged mother Britain, so cloistered as to have missed Susan Boyle and her sudden collision with fame?
The matronly woman in her thrift shop dress and unkempt appearance seemed to the audience like a comedy act. The snickers were a manifestation of what may be a universal urge to revert to childhood superiority. Lets make fun of Susie Simple. The judges were bored. And then she sang a song so beautiful and powerfully sad, that the momentarily stunned assembly went berserk in adoration. She is a YouTube sensation.
What captivates her huge and and growing following is the contrast between expectation and result. Her biography amplifies the contrast. She was the youngest of nine children, growing up with a learning disability caused by oxygen deprivation at birth. She was odd looking to her classmates and had a hard time understanding school lessons, and so they made fun of her.
You can hear more than vocal talent as she speaks of her childhood. "The ones who were mean to me are now nice to me," she said in a television interview. The statement is plain, and the context subtle, but it carries the pain of childhood torment. Childhood torment graduated to eventual adult eccentricity. One reviewer still jeers at this "unkempt cat-lady-person."
Childhood pain so often transmutes into an adulthood path. The fork in the road offered by the world goes to bitterness or to selflessness. She cared for her ailing mother until death finally separated them. Her mom was 91. She has been singing in her church for years. She lives alone.
Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune remarks on the eerie resemblance between Susan Boyle and another woman she knows. "... unmarried, unemployed, overweight, bushy-browed, wiry-haired, eccentric. If you said frumpy, I would resent it but I would understand." Schmidt's sister also has a learning disability and knows what it is like to be an object of derision. The difference? Her sister is not redeemed by any talent that is recognizable to a mass audience. And so she remains unvalued to most.
We all know folks who would fit some sort of variation of that description, folks who carry the pain of rejection from the cradle to the grave. It is easy to talk of judging a book by its cover in retrospect, after some aspect of hidden content is added to the cover. The lesson is unlearned. Human value is still not intrinsic, but rather achieved by attribute or earned by talent.
Susan Boyle is presented to us as a broken down reject, a castaway bit of humanity, who suddenly revealed a reason for us to value her after all. An ugly duckling turned beautiful swan.
Susan Boyle is a fraud. For she was beautiful all the time.
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You have crafted an absolute gem with this effort and I was truly touched by it. Thank you for this sensitive, insightful, and wonderful piece of work. This may be your very finest post ever. Those last 2 sentences were a stroke of genius. I hope to someday be able to write half as well as you always seem to do. Meanwhile, I will continue to learn from your posts as I have, and relish the experience. Susan Boyle's magnificent story is uplifting and inspirational. It gives us a little taste of justice and heaven on earth we rarely are blessed to see. Ugly duckling makes good gives us all a reason to carry on in the face of adversity, and to carry on with a smile. Thanks again for a beautiful job, Burr! :)
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