Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Much Ado About Susan

Forgive me, for I have sinned. It's been seven months since my last blog entry.

Sins aside, I recently saw something so remarkable that I feel compelled to comment.

No doubt everyone has now heard about Susan Boyle
, the rather ordinary-looking singer with the extraordinary voice who was recently "discovered" on Britain's Got Talent. She was so unexpectedly wonderful that, according to Wikipedia (the true source of all knowledge)"...the most popular YouTube video submission of her audition (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY&feature=related) garnered nearly 2.5 million views in the first 72 hours" and "100 million video views on 20 different websites was reached within nine days."

So, why all the hullabaloo? Good question. Was it because we just couldn't believe someone with that kind of talent had gone largely unnoticed for so long? Or perhaps it was because what we saw did not necessarily prepare us for what we would hear. (Which, if true, is mighty sad commentary on all of us.) Or maybe (and I think this is probably somewhat closer to the truth) it was because we love a good "rags to riches" tale--whatever its form--and opportunities to actually watch something like this unfold are, unfortunately, all too rare.

Apparently, folks in the U.S. were particularly taken with Susan Boyle. Again from Wikipedia, "Writing in The Scotsman, Craig Brown quoted a U.S. entertainment correspondent who compared Boyle's story to the American Dream, in that it represented talent overcoming adversity and poverty. The Associated Press described this as Boyle's "hardscrabble story", dwelling on her modest lifestyle and what they saw as urban deprivation in her home town. Similarly, The Independent New York correspondent David Usborne wrote that America is a country that will always respond to "the fairy tale where the apparently unprepossessing suddenly becomes pretty, from Shrek to My Fair Lady." Piers Morgan, one of the show's judges, also commented on the unusual power this story seemed to have in the US, noting that "Americans can be very moved by this sort of thing", and likening Boyle's rise to fame from poverty and obscurity to that of the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa."

I think there's some truth to that, and here's why: Because, on a macro level, it's our history and, much closer to home, we hope--or even expect--it to be our future in some form or fashion. And to watch someone else achieve greatness in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds, I believe, actually fuels the dreams we have for ourselves.

Whatever the reason(s), I am thrilled for this lady.