Friday, April 17, 2009

My Weekend Crush

If you somehow haven’t yet watched the video of Susan Boyle that has been making the rounds all week, I want you to stop reading right now and click play. My words can wait and I don’t want to spoil the experience for you. I mean it: watch, then read. OK, are you done? Are you crying? I totally did. I’ve watched it more than a dozen times now and each time it makes me smile from a deep and involuntary place in my heart. It’s not just her talent, which is considerable, but her dream that makes watching this clip of her “Britain’s Got Talent” audition so viscerally moving. Our ability to dream, to strive, to hope against hopes for a seemingly impossible goal is one of both our most magnificent and at times most tragic traits as humans.

When we look at Susan Boyle, we have instant expectations. She is a 47-year-old unemployed, unmarried, unkissed Scottish woman who lives alone with her cat Pebbles. Her bushy eyebrows, her frizzy hair, her double chin. She sure doesn’t look like a superstar. So when she says, quite earnestly, that her dream is “to be a professional singer” the audience laughs. We laugh. She is too old, too frumpy, too everything to possibly make it. We’re almost embarrassed for her. Poor dear and her big dreams. But then, then come those first few sublime notes. And then no one is laughing, just cheering.

The package is not the person. Talent doesn’t have to look a certain way, it just is. Society has conditioned us to believe that only the pretty, the perfect, the polished can rise to the top. We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking our eyes can tell us what our brains should discover. So we dismiss a person like middle-aged, pleasantly-plump, decidedly-unhip Susan Boyle almost automatically. We are a judgmental lot, us humans. But that she has become a full-blown internet sensation with 17 million views and counting of the original YouTube clip is a testament to one of our better human traits: our love for the underdog.

Of course, the cynics are already out. As the newspaper features and television appearances began to pile up (hello, even Oprah has come calling), so do the naysayers. She is not that great. She is a fraud. Seriously, what’s the big deal? I find it interesting that a lot of the critics seem to be men. Now this is just a theory, but I think maybe women react more emotionally to her story. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure she has countless male champions. But as women, we live everyday with constant, almost crushing judgment based on our looks. It’s in the cat calls you hear while walking down the sidewalk and the up-and-down you get while stepping to any counter. It’s at work, at the store, in the pub, even looking back at us from our own mirrors. So Susan reminds us that our abilities and our appearance really have nothing to do with each other.

She is also a reminder that we all of us deserve a shot to shine. Her plight is like so many of ours. “I’ve never been given a chance before but here’s hoping it will change.” It’s never foolish to dream. It’s only foolish to not give people a chance to live that dream. Thank you, Susan Boyle. Dream big, world. Happy weekend, all.

60 comments:

Jaimie said...

your post made me cry. its so true. they totally underestimated her because of her exterior.

pippin said...

susan boyle is amazing! i was left teary-eyed and in awe of her. -pippin

Norma Desmond said...

I cried when I watched the clip, I'm crying now. It's so true. (I also listened to Nancy Pelosi talk tonight about women being able to do whatever they wanted and the power they have and... it was amazing... anyway, it's been a night for women, let me tell you) It's so incredibly true that you can't walk to the bus stop, can't wait for the bus, can't sit on the bus (I ride the bus al lot) without people (mostly men... dammit) taking liberties with their eyes and your body. Without them judging you solely by what you look like. What if we all could, for just one day, totally defy what our outsides mark us as? What if, for a week, we could dared to dream beyond our appearances? God. It'd be great.

Sorry for the rambling. Thank you for a most inspired pick.

invisigoth said...

Thank you for your words!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting such an inspiring piece. Your words hold wisdom beyond just the plight of Susan Boyle. I will be keeping your insight of "We've fooled ourselves into thinking our eyes can tell us what our brains should discover" close to my heart.

Melanie said...

Well said, Snarker.

so-wicked said...

Oh yes, I cried like a little girl. I absolutely didn't see that coming. That was simply amazing.

Anonymous said...

Absolutly stunning ...

;)) babs said...

oh shit, I'm such a sissy, cried me poor old heart out!

;)) babs

Hannah said...

I cried too, but mine weren't tears of joy...I guess I'm just a horrible pessimist, but this clip just reminded me what's wrong with the world. Her talent wouldn't have come as such a suprise if people didn't connect looks with abilities in the first place. I can't really explain precisely why, but this clip made me lose faith in humanity a little bit.

Hannah said...

ps: that came out wrong...those people in the audience really seemed touched, and so does everyone on the internet and so on, and I really don't think I'm better than any of them, although it did come across like that in my previous comment. But the clip made me sad instead of "inspiring" me, like it seems to have done most people, and I wish I could say why!

Nicole said...

I have to agree with Hannah. (and I don't think the comment is cynical at all, but a better reflection of what underlies the clip.)

Although Ms. Boyle has a wonderful voice and is obviously very talented, this clip is not "inspiring" in the sense of you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover...because, well, I just figure most adults shouldn't be judging someone's worth/talent by their appearance anyway. This clip is not surprising. Wonderful, yes, but not out of the blue.

When the little blonde critic said that the whole audience was against her before she opened her mouth, I was a little stunned. Not everyone assumes your outer appearance is a reflection of your inner worth. Ageism, classism, sexism...it kinda seems like this clip covers a lot.

But certainly, she has a terrific talent. And I hope preconceived notions haven't/won't keep her from sharing her voice with the world!

frannie said...

Thank you so much for this Ms. Snarker! I must say, I KNEW that this would be your post today. It has just reconfirmed all the awesomeness that's YOU.

I totally cried like a big baby. What a wonderful testament to not judging a book.... AMEN SISTAH!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought up the fact, that though the audience sneered at her first, they also cheered whole-heartedly when she started to sing.

We are able to judge, but also able to be happy for someone we don't even know. And most people wish her well - from the bottom of their hearts. That's great.

valentina said...

I guess it depends on how you look at it. You can choose to think that this is the proof something is very wrong in the world because of how Susan Boyle was such a shock. Because it shouldn't have been in the first place. OR you can see it as a dream come true for a woman who had the guts to face the audience, face the critics and prove she can sing. I think that was touched my heart the most.
She has won millions of fans overnight. And that's IS great.
I guess I'm an incurable optimistic .

Shannon said...

This was indeed one of the best clips of the week that I have watched.

This video brought tears of joy and happiness to my eyes.

Hilarywho said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this.

DanielleF said...

That was an amazing post. The whole thing made me cry, and it was much needed. Thank you so much for posting such an amazing message!

debbie millman said...

Oh Dot, you are so right. Please listen to this heart-crushing version of Susan singing "Cry Me A River," and get ready for goosebumps all over: http://popwatch.ew.com/popwatch/2009/04/susan-boyle-any.html

Anonymous said...

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
As they turn your dreams to shame.

I have seen this clip more than a dozen times, and every time I get goosebumps and I am on the verge of crying. The combination of her beautiful voice and probably in general opinion boring and sad life with this lyrics are in fact something like a wakeup call. and it reminds me and others that we too often reduce people to their looks and don't even give them a chance.

seriously awesome. and now I am going to watch it again.

-narcolepsy_slds -

Elizabeth said...

This made my week! Thank you

Steph Mineart said...

Just an extraordinary voice. And the choice of song says so much about her talent, too. It makes such a difference when the singer connects with the lyrics in a way that it's clear she understands the emotions expressed. Listening to teeny boppers sing songs they don't understand just doesn't have the same impact.

Jordan Elizabeth Rose Lorenz said...

She is an inspiration to anyone who has ever dreamed of being something other than who they are.

Anonymous said...

That was incredible.

>>I find it interesting that a lot of the critics seem to be men

Sadly this does seem to be true, but for the record this straight guy was moved to tears by the celebration of her performance at the end. Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

First, I love, love, love your blog. Second, thank you, I'd certainly have missed this lovely video otherwise. And, finally, even more than thinking that talent has to be in a pretty package, remember, that even without talent, what really brings you to tears in that video is that we know, in some deep place, the beauty that can be hiding anywhere, in anyone, with or without talent.

J9 said...

I cry every time I watch this, and the first time I got the link, I saw the leading still and didn't watch because I thought it was going to be a clip of humiliation, and I'm tired of those. I finally did watch earlier this week, and I cannot get Susan Boyle out of my head - she completely rocks my world, and shows that everyone should live their dreams.

Rocket said...

LOVE the tone of your last two posts, thank you. *clap clap clap*

linster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
linster said...

Beautifully said, D.S. Thank you.

reelgal said...

Brava, Dorothy.
Susan is my hero. Thanks for posting it and writing about it with your usual insight and style.

Julie_Gong said...

that is good... i think this is better though http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article6112697.ece

vikki said...

I've watched this several times, twice with my children (ages 4 and 7). My kids were mesmerized by her performance and we had a powerful conversation about judging by appearance. So, I'm thankful for her amazing performance but also for providing an opportunity for many of us to sit down and talk about the bigger picture.

Maya said...

I've been sobbing while watching this clip over and over all afternoon. Susan Boyle is amazing, not just for having the talent, but for following her dream and proving that it's better late than never. This cynic has left the building (at least for today...).
And to you, Ms. Snarker, I've been following your blog for a few months now, and I must say that you have been my weekend crush for week after week ever since we 'met'.
Thank you!

xXLe_Vie_BohemeXx said...

This was the first time I had seen that clip and when I first pressed play my stomach twisted immediately. I specifically avoid reality show such as these because I simply can't handle people being made fun of. I almost stopped the clip before the performance I was so scared for her. Then she started singing and my heart soared. Watching her prove those cynics wrong felt like I had gone up to every person in my life that has ever doubted me and told them to f-off, that I didn't need their approval to be awesome.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I really needed a reminder that the bitter-hearts aren't always right.

alienaardvark said...

I feel horribly shallow for how I felt about how she was going to sing judging by how she looked.
She's such a sweet lady and so talented.

Anonymous said...

awesome story. Your words are, as always, are moving. Thank you... and "yes" i cried

Anonymous said...

awesome story. Your words are, as always, moving. Thank you... and "yes" i cried

bisquiat said...

re: the male critics.
remember when men got their panties in a twist over the "real women" Dove campaign?

yeah. same thing.

Anonymous said...

haha, ye,
it's like laugh+cry+smile story.
go! susan!

somehow really critic from men?
i can't believe cus they're gonna
see at home similar women, in general.

and i just think that what's wrong trying to looking good? I think if some people like to do it, that's good. i'm not interest to do it but
my sister really good at that like
make up, clothing thing,

so i just feel that every person has different interest. that's it.

thank you for the post, I like her.
actually looks very cute. of course
great voice.

Anonymous said...

i like her way to walk.

tlsintx said...

my weekend crush too...

Emma said...

This is a really interesting analysis: What if Susan Boyle Couldn't Sing?

silkspectre said...

I want to admit--I check women out. Not always, but quite often. I like to see pretty ladies. But, I know that outward beauty (or not so much) has nothing to do with who a person is inside.

I'm not ashamed of appreciating visual aesthetics, and I'm glad I have the common sense to not judge someone as a person based on that. So, please know, ladies, when someone checks you out it doesn't necessarily mean they are judging you as a human being. It may just mean they are on the prowl for attractive imagery.

I was surprised and utterly thrilled to hear Ms. Boyle sing. That level of talent always surprises me and always thrills me. I love that she can sing so magnificently. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this :) I've read about it but wouldn't have watched this clip otherwise.

No one is too old to have dreams.

Sofia said...

Thanks for your words, we shoukd dream more, really.

packrat said...

I totally cried too, and still get a bit misty when I rewatch it. I'm struck by her relentless optimism: "currently unemployed but still looking", "haven't been given the chance [to be a professional singer] before, but here's hoping it'll change."

And her little on-stage celebration? Gold. Gets me smiling ear to ear every time.

Good luck, girl!

jazzluv said...

So beautifully said - you expressed for me what I have been feeling. Don't ever change Susan.

not only but also said...

I kept reading snippets about this all week in the papers at work but didn't have a chance to watch the clip until now. The thing that caught my eye (and irritated me) about the news reports was that she was referred to throughout as the "mid-40s virgin" or "frumpy spinster". It brought to mind Sarah Warn's interesting piece on AE during the week about how glbt's are constantly assessed by the "sex" part of sexuality. I kept wondering what the heck her sexual experience had to do with her wanting to be a singer. It would have been far more interesting to report this as a beautiful story of a classically eccentric woman from small town Scotland landing with both feet planted firmly in the middle of her much dreamed of stage. I agree Ms S - the world of popular media is swimming in blatant sexism that even we women are in danger of swallowing. What a beautiful voice. But more importantly, what a fabulous woman. She has pluck, she has spunk, she has talent. I assume she's been signed up to some fantastic recording deal by now?

shereen said...

it was beautiful.
and what an aptly chosen song.

thanks for sharing.

Dreamy said...

Thank you for such wonderful words.

I dont think that her dreams were killed as the lyrics said but they were granted the moment she sang that amazing song with that angelic and stunning voice.

She is an inspiration not only for that angelic voice she had but also for her personality, i hope that she wouldn't change coz of all of the fame that is coming in her way.

wyrmoftheflame said...

Omg I'd just finnished blogging about her when I made the rounds of my daily-sites that I visit and HERE SHE IS AGAIN! I genuinely believe that this woman deserves a bloody medal and everytime I see this performance I simultaneously want to hug her and cry. I AM that awkward person with a big dream and watching her achieve it despite other people's bullshit was beyond inspiring. A similar sensation - Paul Potts, just doesn't have the same resonance because, hey, he's a bloke and, well, you covered why this is good for women but there is just something about this woman that just shines. It's absolutely beautiful!
Over and out
Wyrm
xxxx

Sabsl Photography said...

even Aston Kutcher and Demie Moore write about her on their Twitter Blogs... this Woman ROCKS the World this week.. and I hope that we will hear so much more about and from her :)
I love the nature of her humor and her self-awareness... She don't care about what people think about her *thumbsUp*

just goood luck to Susan Boyle :) and some kisses *rofl*

J School said...

wow. people kept telling me to look at this vid, but i just hadn't found the time to sit down and watch, mainly because i doubted it would be as amazing as everyone says it is. boy was i wrong. not only was i in tears by the end, at the same time i was grinning like an idiot hearing all the cheers and praise for susan, your write up made me cry as well.

these are the people that need to succeed, the people who never thought they would have a chance. the people who make other's roll their eyes, like the teenage girl the camera focuses on at one point.

to quote my new fave dance crew, freak the dream susan, freak it for all of us!

madmags said...

It would seem that Susan Boyle is the "Weekend Crush" of the entire universe, and deservedly so. I fervently hope that her current success is not short-lived, a flash in the pan, so to speak, but that she achieves all that she deserves with a recording contract and all the rest. And yes, big money for her and Pebbles!

AnyDreamWillDo said...

The thing is, we're so shocked by someone who can really sing -- since we're constantly exposed only to pretty people who aren't actually very talented. It was the same thing with Paul Potts last(?) year.

It's a shame that we're unable to reconcile talent on its own.

Salicia said...

I'm a professional music critic. A real sourpuss. Nothing much impresses me. Even I frakking cried when I heard Susan Boyle. Yes, this is an extraordinary voice. Not because she sounds better than others. but because she something undefinable in it: the ability to move the human heart. I'm not a fan of musicals at all. Susan made me go back and listen to the song form the original Les Mis cast recording. Seriously, I much prefer Susan.

pyewacket said...

Bless Susan Boyle and her gift, she is amazing. I hope there are many someones on her side to just be there for her through the craziness because I cannot imagine her not winning the competition...I think there would be a riot. Susan singing and stunning Simon into silence was a thing of beauty to see.

Bella Jade Chester said...

I think she is just so sweet! I cried when I watched the video. And then for the judges to admit that they weren't expecting much out of her... What a sign of how superficial we have become.

I am glad she is getting attention for talent!

Bella

www.bellachester.blogspot.com

Tiff said...

I apparently had been living under a rock and first heard about her Friday on NPR. Over the weekend, I watched the video and by the 3rd viewing, I could feel the tightness in my chest. She's a wonderfully spunky, inspirational lady. Plus, she chose the absolute perfect song!

Your comment on appearances hit the nail on the head. Thank you!
"It’s in the cat calls you hear while walking down the sidewalk and the up-and-down you get while stepping to any counter."

Anonymous said...

The voice has a huge expressive range.
Piaf lives!

For the rest of the public reaction: it appears to want to make Boyle a touch more unworldly than she is.
For example, it's been made clear in a couple of Guardian articles that Boyle has a few years of performance training at a major Edinburgh centre - - and I have to say that it shows; she had marvellous poise and magnetism, much more than many professionals.

Tip for talent watchers: there are a hundred out there with huge ability for every one who gets through to a career in the arts. In any medium.
Luck is still the biggest factor in any arts career.

Boyle's greatest asset is those lungs - - she doesn't need to **belt** to get the light and shade.

Wonderful!
And I cried at the voice **before** I saw the video.

She's the best of any Les Mis cast I've heard so far.