I don’t watch "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars," but something about the Susan Boyle story continues to grab me.
Celebrity news usually leaves me cold, but I found myself tuning in last night via the Internet to see how Susan Boyle did. There is still something magical in this tale of the Scottish daughter of Irish immigrants who has defied all logic to become a superstar overnight.
She didn’t disappoint me last night, either. Her nervous start just further endeared her to me, and her thrilling climax to "Memories" from "Cats" was a thing of rare beauty.
I know a lot of the staging around this remarkable woman is phony and that the judges are all clued in by now — no doubt by smarmy Simon Cowell, as the show rolls from success to success. If she doesn’t eventually win, it will be the biggest surprise since a longshot called Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby.
In a sense, that is what the entertainment business is doing now — mining that bird, i.e. Susan Boyle, for as much as they can. But there is a heartening story in The New York Times today that her success took the moguls so much by surprise that they have failed to cash in. In that respect, she is a bona fide "up from the bootstraps" success story that no one anticipated.
The reaction to her first appearance was so intense and widespread that neither YouTube nor the show’s producers had made any financial deals regarding the video rights. When it "went viral." they were left dumbfounded — and alas, none the richer.
I can only imagine the conversations about her success from the top echelons of the media companies who created her. Susan who? She looks like what? How the hell did she get so popular?
Her success speaks to all of us. For my young daughter, it is a rare opportunity to teach her that you don’t need to have a beautiful face to touch people — that your talent comes from within.
To me, it’s a lesson for the digital age that, despite the heavy hand of commercialism in every aspect of our lives, sometimes someone slips through who defies all the conventional thinking and packaging.
So keep your puffed-up "American Idol" with its fake tension and drama. Stuff your "Dancing with the Stars" with its C-list Hollywood wannabees. Susan Boyle speaks to us all in a rare moment of insight in our cluttered and commercial world.
Last night, she proved again that she could touch all of us with her unique talent.
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