John Doyle in the Globe and Mail today cynically and sardonically asks “Have we been expertly manipulated” over the Susan Boyle phenomenal performance in “Britain’s Got Talent.” The You Tube video of Boyle's performance has had over 34 million hits since she sang on April 16, 2009. Doyle says that is more people than watched the televised Academy Awards this year.
According to Doyle viewing this video is a “heartwarming experience” and we seem somehow “vindicated” when we view it. What is wrong according to Doyle, the Susan Boyle event reveals “our collective hypocrisy about realty TV, beauty and talent.” He rightly says “If American Idol…actually featured a lot of people who looked like Boyle, then hardly anybody would watch.”
He notes “The attention given to Boyle is the exception that proves the rule – we are relentlessly superficial. It isn’t the fault of television. It’s a collective weakness, as we get the popular culture we deserve.” He laments that Boyle may be the vanguard for the next phase of reality TV lead by “middle- aged ordinary looking people.” The Jerry Springer Talent Show on television perhaps? Would that surprise anyone? I don’t think so.
What is happening on a world-wide scale given this catalytic moment in what was supposed to be merely entertainment? Doyle posits that the Boyle phenomenon is quite possibly being “foisted upon us.”e laments that Boyle may be a vangH He suggests that “… we’re not facing up to the collective hypocrisy that Boyle reveals to us. We are congratulating ourselves for cheering her on…” He challenges us to consider if we are “deluding ourselves about our honesty and fairness.”
Well I think Doyle is very right but not entirely right. The main stream media hype on the Boyle story is superficial and perhaps we are being hypocritical. But the internet participants who initially found the Boyle story from friends on Facebook, Twitter and were encouraging others to go to YouTube to see the phenomenon was not superficial, nor hypocritical. It was community based, heartfelt and human – no hype and hubris from the media machine that followed.
Boyle is a Cinderella story in real life and has been accessed and enjoyed “virtually” around the globe. It was another collective triumph of the power and influence of the internet as a creator of connected human community. That video link invited us to enjoy but also to revisit and reflect on our humanity, our sense of decency and our respect for people.
I know it made me reconsider an ill-considered recent blog post that I subsequently deleted because while it attempted political satire, it could be easily construed as cruel. That cruelty was pointed out by some anonymous comments that I in fact posted. Upon reflection I came to the realization of how easy it was to unfairly prejudge Susan Boyle. I deleted the post.