Who’s laughing now?

As an American who never got into reality shows, I don’t know much about Britain’s Got Talent. I know people show off their talents in a number of different categories (when I’ve seen references or clips they’ve mainly been dancers, but there are singers too), and that Simon Cowell is on the board of judges because he’s made it his mission to tongue-lash every aspiring performer on two continents.

I also know that this clip made me blub like a maniac. (They’ve disabled embedding but you MUST click that link.)

In a culture that values youth, wealth, and carefully-maintained femininity, this woman is like a cheat sheet for “don’t take me seriously” signifiers. She’s over 40, she’s ungroomed, she’s on the fat side, and her accent denotes low class [1]. As it turns out, she also has learning disabilities and has never been on a date. She flies in the face of what we expect out of a performer and what we, as a culture, esteem in a woman. The judges respond accordingly: they snigger and mock, and her confident posturing just makes her (in their eyes) more ridiculous, more dissonant. Dissonant because confidence and sass don’t compute from a woman who falls so short of the ideal.

And then she KICKS THEIR FUCKING FACES IN.

Check out the look on Simon Cowell’s face when she sings. He looks positively transported. They’re all so overwhelmed they don’t even taste the crow. Because as it turns out, being low-class, being older, being unfeminine, being any number of culturally downgraded things don’t actually keep you from being fucking extraordinary.

Folks, we are all Susan Boyle. Fat or thin, pretty or plain, butch or femme, old or young, abled or not: people will judge us and find us wanting. You can posture all you want, out of genuine confidence or bravado; you can insist that the ideals are wrong, that the goalposts need to be moved, that rational humans can shake off the shackles of cultural expectation. You can talk big and wiggle your hips — for some people, that’ll just make you more of a joke.

What makes people stop laughing — or at least, what makes you stop caring if they do? The discovery that something about you is utterly remarkable. Because it is. It might not be an angelic voice or some other showy talent. It might be humble, even difficult for others to notice. You might not know what it is yet (lord knows I don’t). You don’t even have to realize, right off the bat, how your remarkable qualities elevate you past any backwards beliefs about who you should be or what you should look like — apparently Boyle herself saw that clip and what she saw was “I looked like a garage” (which at least gets points for being an awfully humorous self-putdown). It’s an arduous process and goodness knows we’ve never said otherwise. But whatever it is, once you really know it’s there, once you know how much that means, a smirk from Simon won’t change a damn thing — and you’ll slap that smile off his face when you bust it out.

[1] Possibly. See comments.

225 thoughts on “Who’s laughing now?

  1. Absolutely Brilliant! Also a terrific demonstration of the fact that you know whether someone’s going to be good within the first measure, usually. The reaction was immediate, once she started singing. BTW, I thought her ensemble was quite nice.

  2. That video has had me floating all day so far. It’s gloomy here and I’m feeling sad, but just picturing Susan Boyle singing her heart out has lifted me up so much.

  3. So glad you wrote about this! I almost did this morning. Totally blubbed like a maniac myself.

    It makes me so friggin’ sad that after all that, she was disgusted by how “fat” she looked on the show — and that people bothered to print it. What a perfect example of how women will run themselves down for (perceived) fatness, regardless of what they’ve accomplished. (Well, actually, Oprah’s the PERFECT example of that. Boyle’s a close second.)

    But setting that aside, my god, what an awesome underdog story. LOVE her.

  4. BTW, I thought her ensemble was quite nice.

    Me, too! Her dress is lovely — though I admit I didn’t really notice that until I saw a still pic, b/c I was so distracted by everything else going on in the video.

  5. You might not know what it is yet (lord knows I don’t).

    Your keen eye for noticing the details and your eloquence in writing about them are at least two of your things, I have to say.

    I’ve been glowing about Ms Boyle for two days now, but what you wrote is exactly how I feel. Thank you.

  6. Aw, I can’t believe that actually did make me tear up a little. I guess I just can’t resist an underdog. I wish we could all have a moment when we make the eyerollers stand up and cheer for us.

  7. That was an amazing performance, and a wonderful post. Both made me cry.

    Folks, we are all Susan Boyle. Fat or thin, pretty or plain, butch or femme, old or young, abled or not: people will judge us and find us wanting.

    So true. I was thinking a while ago about how many amazing people I know–in my family, my neighborhood, my classes–and how every single one of them is sent the message, over and over and over again, every single day, that they are not okay the way they are. More money than I can conceive of is being spent sending them those messages, and it’s just so sad and so frustrating.

  8. and how every single one of them is sent the message, over and over and over again, every single day, that they are not okay the way they are

    Totally. I think the most moving thing about the video is how they ask her why she’s not had any success as a singer so far, and she says, “I’ve never been given the opportunity.” Which, like, everyone on these shows says, often before giving an atrocious performance, so at that point, everyone’s just sneering, “Wonder why, heh.” Then you hear her, and it’s like, holy shit — she really HAS just never been given the opportunity. And then you have to think about why that is, and you come back to the small town, the poverty, the learning disabilities, the apparently very overprotective parents, the bullying… She has this fucking unbelievable gift, but because of where she was born and how she was raised, she hasn’t had the confidence or support to use it for anything but the church choir and karaoke. If that doesn’t smack you in the face with “We do not live in a meritocracy,” I don’t know what will.

  9. Wow. Any chance someone could update us periodically on how she’s doing in the competition?? I’m dying to know, but I strongly suspect that the American non-reality-tv-fan* in me is going to forget to check.

    *Except for So You Think You Can Dance, of which I am a HUGE fan. :)

  10. I wish we could all have a moment when we make the eyerollers stand up and cheer for us.

    I think in a sense we can — it’s just not always going to be that big or that public. Even just finding out you can do something you always told yourself you couldn’t is a big triumph. Just, you know, not one that’s going to get you a record deal.

  11. I found Susan Boyle’s performance yesterday after a really depressing Monday morning. Her voice brightened my entire day, continuing into this one.

    That song in particular was the perfect choice. Especially since Susan Boyle hasn’t let life kill her dreams at all.

    Makes me want to dust off one or two of my own.

  12. I don’t watch these shows — so there’s more to this than this one performance? If yes, what do you want to bet that as it continues, the show will give her a “makeover” so she’ll appear more “acceptable”. I like her just the way she is.

  13. Ho-ly shit.

    I hate Simon Cowell and am totally cynical about “talent-based” reality television, which always seems to skirt the line (ok, sometimes roll right the fuck over it) between opportunity and exploitation, but that made me cry too.

  14. I saw this clip last night and was going to post about it today, but you’ve said everything I wanted to say and much better than I could have done.

  15. *sniff*

    Her voice is giving me chills and making me cry. Awesome! We are all Susan Boyle! *fistpump*

  16. The thing that really gets me about this video is that in the end the judges unabashedly admitted that they were mocking her before she sang. I can’t decide if it is upsetting that they would be so comfortable with the fact that they had such a harsh assessment of her looks or if it is awesome that they were plain honest and were copping to their ooogy ways…the benefit of which is the fact that the honesty has prompted thoughtful conversation. Can’t decide.

  17. I love the video and showed to my hubby this morning. He was having a bad morning and decided he was going to be cynical about it (he is very cynical about anything dealing with Simon Cowell). I for one loved it and was happy when one of my readers of my blog gave me a link to a Yahoo vid of her performance I could embed after posting yesterday about it.

    I’ve got the original YouTube vid favorited and listed in my featured video play list on my channel.

    While I LOVED seeing Simon gobsmacked, what I loved even more was the look on those girls who were shown rolling their eyes during the introduction. THAT was priceless.

  18. As a performer, I know that “I Dreamed a Dream” is not the easiest song to sing–it’s rangy and for a lot of women, a little too low. Ms. Boyle made it seem effortless. Thanks for sharing and for the great post.

  19. While I enjoyed her performance, there’s something disturbing about the shock and surprise people on stage and off have evinced at her voice.

    It’s not as if any of them (Cowell included) or any of us should be at all surprised she could sing. If Simon Cowell’s reaction (both disdain and surprise) was genuine and not, as I would argue, acting, he’d have to be an absolute idiot (and though I don’t like him, I don’t think he’s an idiot). Cowell’s spent a lifetime in the music industry and there’s no reason at all for him to be shocked that an unglamorous fat woman can sing.

    I mean, I appreciate that she did that little dance and stood up there despite the disdain, but I think the setup was horribly false and put forward the judges as absolute hacks with no awareness at all of the music business. And it was a drama based on the assumption that we should be shocked as well.

    And at my most cynical moment, I think that what we’re in for is for the show to offer to “transform” her into something more palatable to the viewing audiences.

    Marni Nixon, while not fat, was the veiled voice behind Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn. And, before television “killed the radio star,” most of us listened to singers (like Rosemary Clooney, for example, or Aretha Franklin) irrespective of their physicality.

    Anyway–sorry for the cynicism, but this sort of makes me grr more than it makes me happy, because it seems like a sign of how fucked up we are that it should seem like an extraordinary triumph when something happens that, only a few decades ago, would’ve been quite ordinary.

  20. LOVED it. Good for her! This line, though, bothers me: “Now Simon hopes to groom her to stardom via his record label.” That gives me the shivers. She’ll go from being herself to what Simon et al think is more socially acceptable. Hopefully she won’t lose herself along the way.

    I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be so negative. This story is so awesome in so many ways. But why can’t she just be herself and sing, instead of being primped and shaped and changed?

  21. While I think it sucks that she’ll probably have to change her image in order to have a career (and that her changing will be portrayed as such a positive thing), it’s kind of awesome that she’s going to get vocal training. I’ve taken voice lessons (classical, not pop, but the principle is the same), and I know that no matter how good you sound at the beginning, there are always things you can learn that will make you sound even better. So there’s potential for her to sound even more fabulous if she gets the right kind training. If that’s what Simon’s going to offer her, more power to him–though it would be nice to live in a world where “grooming for stardom” focused more on the technical training and less on the image makeover.

  22. It’s not as if any of them (Cowell included) or any of us should be at all surprised she could sing. If Simon Cowell’s reaction (both disdain and surprise) was genuine and not, as I would argue, acting, he’d have to be an absolute idiot (and though I don’t like him, I don’t think he’s an idiot). Cowell’s spent a lifetime in the music industry and there’s no reason at all for him to be shocked that an unglamorous fat woman can sing.

    No, but to be fair, he’s also spent several years judging competitions just like this one, which involves watching thousands and thousands of people who really can’t sing get up there and give similar intros to hers. On top of that, her voice is not just good, it’s stunning — it’s surprising to hear anyone open her mouth and sing like that when you haven’t paid a lot of money to hear it. If she were just a decent karaoke singer, it’d be one thing, but she sounds like a trained professional. And on top of THAT, when a woman says, “I’m 47 years old, and I’ve never sung professionally, but I’d like to,” it’s not unreasonable (if also not at all fair) to assume she probably doesn’t have what it takes — statistically, very few people do have what it takes; most people who are serious about being professional performers get started younger and are more image-conscious, because that’s the nasty reality of the business; and then you’ve got the myth of meritocracy — the assumption that if she’s gotten that old without anyone paying her to sing, she probably can’t. The last two points may be fucking bullshit, but it all adds up to understandable surprise.

    ETA: There’s also the fact that, at least the way she was edited, she sounded cocky — which we now know was entirely appropriate self-confidence, but again, on these shows, it usually ain’t. “I’d like to be as famous as Elaine Paige” is a pretty bold fucking statement — the chances of someone saying that on a talent reality show and then having the goods to back it up are really unbelievably slim.

    So I don’t think the surprise is just a matter of, “Oh wow, frumpy middle-aged chick can sing! I thought only thin, blonde 20-year-olds could!” I think Susan Boyle subverted expectations in about a dozen different ways. So, while I would generally not bother to defend Simon Cowell on pretty much anything, I don’t necessarily think the surprise was either crap or all that disappointing. Sure, a portion of it was, annoyingly and offensively, about image. But there are a lot of other reasons why she’s a jaw-dropper.

  23. Miriam said: “there’s something disturbing about the shock and surprise people on stage and off have evinced at her voice.”

    I 100% agree. As if she’s only worth something if she has something amazing to offer…if they *get* something from her that they like. Like they were “bestowing” acceptance onto her.

    That part of it made me almost physically ill. And they kept going *on* about it, like that attitude was perfectly acceptable! Judges *and* audience.

    Fuck ‘em, I say.

  24. This is exactly how I felt about it. I want a Susan Boyle T-shirt!! Her performance was wonderful on its own, but I loved seeing those smug, complacent, self-absorbed, shallow pig-dogs brought up short by genuine talent. (Um, you can probably tell that I don’t care for reality shows of any type.) I also love the fact that, despite her later comment, she seemed so at home in her own skin as she faced that hostile crowd. Forget the T-shirt, I want to hang out w/Susan and sing a duet.

  25. Like Kate, I think age was a HUGE factor in their reaction, probably more than other aspects of her appearance. Given what they usually see at auditions, to encounter a nearly-50-year-old person who has never sung professionally but has a voice like that is highly unusual.

  26. I also love the fact that, despite her later comment, she seemed so at home in her own skin as she faced that hostile crowd.

    That’s what really stunned me; her poise when she was singing was so incredible, and so different from her self-presentation when she was just chatting backstage. She just became so unapologetically *present* when she was singing. So remarkable!

  27. Also, and I actually meant this to come through in the post but maybe it didn’t, it’s all very well for us to sit in our corner and huff about how they shouldn’t have been making snap judgments and they shouldn’t have been surprised and they shouldn’t have assumed she would sing like less than a seraph. Okay, that is nice, but welcome to Earth: people make these judgments, and not just people on TV. We live with the reality that people will make some judgments about us no matter what. So what do you do about that? Well, Susan Boyle reminds us that one thing you can do is make people choke on their judgment by being absolutely fucking extraordinary — and in some way, we can all follow that example.

  28. I blubbed too and thought about her all evening! First, I couldn’t get over that what folks were fixating on could be fixed in an afternoon at the spa. Seriously folks? That is what you think is important?

    This looks before substance value is so ridiculous. It is like making sure the house that is made of paper and about to blow over is painted nice. Who cares if it is painted? Can it stand up?

    But Susan rocks. And the fashion police can do whatever they want to make her more “acceptable.” But what counts is that she left her house, she took a chance, she stood up there, she did it, and she knocked it out of the park.

    There is no reason why every single one of us shouldn’t stand proud every day. We need to stop placing any importance on what idiots say. Because…they are idiots!

  29. Wonderful, on all counts. And it is a hard song–I’ve sung it. (I’m lucky and gifted and stuff; I can sing it.) It was also the right song. You hear Susan’s story, and it doesn’t match the song’s story, but she has every right to sing it. Plus, sung right, it is a dream, you should pardon the expression, with every audience.

    And, btw, to those in England who do know their Les Miserables, it is Patti Lupone who sang it in the original London cast (I saw her in it in 1986!), and it is her voice they might be comparing Susan to. And still, please note their reaction.

  30. I had a more cynical reaction as well, which I go into more detail about here (I’m linking so as not to step on anyone’s blub here). One shouldn’t have to be “utterly remarkable” to get basic respect.

  31. I do think it’s missing the point to get mad about how assholey and, well, judgy the judges (and audience members) are. The point is that people are judgy assholes – and you can totally Show Them. It’s completely awesome!! (And yeah, she’ll probably be given a makeover, but maybe now it doesn’t really matter. Everyone will remember this moment and this video clip, and she has been completely validated while looking like her usual self.)

  32. I don’t see the ungroomed, unfeminine thing. She looked like she should be playing a mother in 1940s England, sending her sons off to war. She seemed like a perfectly lovely lady. And I do mean ‘lady’ in the old-fashioned sense, of having what would have been called ‘class’.

  33. Jplum – Agreed. I saw what you saw. Maybe its a few years of working for the shop chain that she likely bought her dress from [I’m thinking Bon Marche winter range, either last year or the year before], but she’s just a conservatively dressed lady who appears to be doing that ‘growing old gracefully’ bit.

    When I hear ungroomed I guess I’m looking for slick greasy hair and the clothes you’ve been sleeping in.

  34. they shouldn’t have assumed she would sing like less than a seraph.

    Even prepped by this post, I was amazed. The set-up is classic reality TV preliminary round where the person gets up there and embarrasses himself, and it’s not just that she does a passable performance or a good job, but that she blows everyone away. Voices like that are rare. Rare and completely undiscovered? Unbelievable.

  35. *crying hysterically*

    I’m at a job interview/campus visit. All day I’ve been kicking myself inside for every involuntary giggle that made me seem young, every instance where I was too hesitant or couldn’t make my words come together properly to deflect criticisms of my research agenda… kicking myself for doing too good a job at being smart and not a good enough job of seeming smart… I just… crap, I needed this today. The song and the commentary.

  36. *wipes tear, sniffles*

    Thanks Sweet Machine. I doubt I’ll get this job, although I think I’d like it here and would do a good job.

    I’m realizing what a hindrance it is — the fact that I have a research project that’s so abstract that few people can really plug into it, coupled with an interpersonal manner that’s so young and aw-shucks-ish that people assume their inability to plug into my research agenda is because I’m not that bright. And I keep kicking myself for that. On the other hand, I’m also irritated that growing up I felt like I had to pretend to be less smart than I am in order to be liked…. but then now that that’s become second nature the rules change and I’m instead supposed to bowl people over with my confident badassitude.

    I’m going to go watch that YouTube clip again.

  37. The point is that people are judgy assholes – and you can totally Show Them.

    That is indeed the point of the post. But also, again, the point of these shows is that the judges are judgy assholes — and 90% of the people who watch the audition rounds are there to see people fall on their faces and get ripped apart by the smug asshole judges. That’s exactly why I never did watch the audition eps, even when I was an avid American Idol watcher, for instance — I found it too painful to watch people get humiliated. And having said that, Sherunslunatic, I completely agree that she deserved respect in the first place — but a reality show starring Simon Cowell is not the place to go for respect. (Which, don’t get me wrong, does not REMOTELY make it okay for them to be such assholes to people. But they inevitably are, so the viewer — and ideally, the performer — should have no expectation that the judges will behave like decent human beings. If you want to get into why people keep watching shows that are like 50% horrid bullying, that’s a whole other issue.)

    Anyone who’s watched more than a few episodes of shows like this (even beyond the audition rounds), had their expectations subverted because they TOTALLY gave her the fall-on-your-face set-up. She’s older, she’s not thin (and shown eating), she’s not made up, she’s a bit weird, she blanks on a simple word like “village” (which makes her seem terrified — not usually an indication that a strong performance will follow), and despite seeming generally humble, she sounds cocky about her singing. In the world of reality TV, that means one thing: She’s about to do something awful, and the audience is meant to laugh at her. But then bam, she completely upends that expectation.

    So, as someone who’s seen more of the genre than I’d like to admit, they shocked me just with that. But beyond that, I’m just not getting the comments that are like, “Why would anyone be shocked that a 47-year-old, average-looking, lower-class woman can sing?”

    I think it’s completely fair to ask, Why should anyone be shocked? It sucks that we associate conventional beauty and youth so strongly with talent and ability that people do find that, in itself, shocking. But since most of us who’ve grown up in western culture ARE, in fact, brainwashed to believe that talent and ability are associated with youth and beauty*, the fact that people are surprised by Susan Boyle’s gift is, well… not at all surprising.

    And given those shitty circumstances, as FJ and Volcanista said, one option for rising above them is to show up the bullies. It would be a much better world if the bullies weren’t there in the first place, but when they are, yeah, it’s satisfying to watch someone (metaphorically) kick their fucking faces in. It’s satisfying to imagine we could do the same thing — be awesome anyway, be something the bullies don’t expect us to be. Even if we can’t sing like Susan Boyle, we can all be awesome in our own ways, no matter who mocks and disrespects us. Point of post.

  38. “I wish we could all have a moment when we make the eyerollers stand up and cheer for us.”

    But sometimes the cheers come from the same place as the disdain – is it really worth it? I posted the following on another blog’s comment section about Susan – I have been the recipient of these sort of ‘cheers’ and they burn just as much as the original dismissal.

    ‘I loved the way she gave it to them; I have to admit, I had tears when I watched it. But, I think the way the audience, the judges (and those two twerps backstage, who are they?) reacted to her afterwards was just as bad as the disdain they showed her beforehand. There was an extra element to it, an emphasis (”Wow! I don’t believe *you* did that!”) that wouldn’t have been there if she had fit the mold and still blown them away with that voice. Maybe I’m a little sensitive, because I’ve been on the receiving end of those kind of comments before. But I don’t think Susan has made any kind of dent in people’s attitudes. Much as I wish it were different.’

  39. A Sarah, as you probably know in your heart of hearts, I think we can all agree that the rules of the “acceptable behavior game” change all the time as we get older. Please do consider not kicking yourself for being less-than-omniscient. Consider taking pride in how well you can see rules and decide how you would like best to proceed.

    I know this is easier said than done in times of stress, but if I could give you permission, I would.

  40. Thanks, atiton. It’s just so hard not to kick myself when I realize how automatic it’s become in social settings for me to downplay my smarts so as to be liked. Particularly when I’m at a job interview, one of the few settings where that strategy doesn’t pay off in the way I’d like. (And the stakes feel really high to boot.)

    I wish I could just… freakin’ turn it off at will, KWIM? I would if I could. But it’s not so easy. And I try to remind myself to turn it off, then get frustrated, and then there’s this whole little drama going on in my head and oh I’m sorry Ms. Committee Member, what was your question again? Arrgh.

    Maybe part of the problem is I’m not clear what I even need permission for.

    Anyway, sorry for hijacking. I’ve got to take a nap now or I’m going to be incoherent at dinner. (They were very kind in giving me some down time. Anyone who ever finds themselves on a search committee — DO THIS!)

  41. Oh dear, this post really did make me cry. I have a hard time coming up with optimism after seeing Boyle finally the recognition she deserves. I have more of a steely determination. I think of all the beautiful people I’ve met in my life who’ve been unfortunate enough to be hindered by poverty, oppression, and bullies. Like my gay friend who wanted to fly jets but didn’t want to sign up for the homophobic Air Force. Or a beautiful girl, inside and out, I knew in high school with the wit and presence of someone twice as old and four times again as large, held back by poverty and childhood abuse. Or my sometimes crippling social anxiety that holds me back from academic achievements. It really does drive home the fact that we don’t live in a meritocracy, not at all. The world would be full of people who sang as beautifully as Boyle at every stage. Einstein would have been discovering how to manipulate gravity because another overlooked genius would have discovered relativity long ago.

    Maybe I’m just a big kill-joy, but half my tears were for a world that could have been, but wasn’t, because of stupid prejudice and oppression. And that Boyle had to wait almost 50 years for the recognition she deserved. I can’t get a nice warm feeling out of the video. I can’t pat myself on the back and say, “look at how awesome society is, by constructing a reality show to give Boyle her day in the spotlight”. Because honestly, that day should have dawned a very long time ago, and every year that has passed that Boyle, and people like her, are pushed aside and slowly destroyed by the relentless tides of oppression and hatred is a year that is utterly preventable.

    Oh dear, I’ve made myself depressed again. At least I am happy that she did finally get what she deserved so long ago. But it’s a very bittersweet happiness.

  42. I hate to be a cynic, but… I actually saw that piece on TV, by a sheer coincidence. I never watch these things – really. :-) Anyways, I really did feel bad about the whole thing. It was my gut-feeling, and I couldn’t help it.

    First of all, I thought Susan was lovely from the beginning – I simply didn’t see anything wrong with her. I thought she looked OK, and seemed like a nice person. Of course I realized she was being made fun of in the beginning, and it just seemed unfair to me. And at the same time, I swear this, I just knew she was going to be an amazing singer. It was all set up that way, I think.

    Yes, she was amazing, and I did love her voice, but at the same time I didn’t feel like she was “kicking their ass” or anything like that. I felt like it was all so over-dramatized, and that although the judges clearly loved her singing, their reactions were clearly over-dramatized as well. And it all just underlined the fact that Susan’s great singing was supposed something unbelievable, coming from someone who is not pretty in a conventional way. I felt like she was part of a TV production that actually diminished her worth as a person, although she herself was of course wonderful. I just didn’t like the whole set-up, and all the drama about “oh my gosh she CAN sing, who woulda known”. It was like she was being made to act a part.

    I feel like I can’t really express myself clearly here, English not being my first language. And I hope I’m not hurting the feelings of those who were moved by this. I was moved by her song too, but infuriated with the context and the messages that were being sent to the viewers.

  43. It’s funny how different people can have different reactions to this video. I’m sort of stunned by the people who are watching it multiple times because it makes them happy. I can’t even make it through the video once–it’s too painful.

    But as a fat, short, moderately weird-looking woman with a brilliant voice who’s far too afraid of rejection to ever really go for it, it hits a bit too close to home.

  44. you are so amazing!! thank you for posting that.
    what i’m a little surprised by is how willing the judges are to tell her everyone was making fun of her, and how nonchalant they are about it. not in the least apologetic, UNTIL she sang. as if, if she hadn’t sung, it would still be okay to make fun of her.
    AND, also as if every single person in the audience was laughing. i wouldn’t have been. i know they zoomed in on that teenage girl to make a point, but i’m willing to bet not every single person in that auditorium was smirking or sniggering just because this woman doesn’t look like taylor swift or something.

  45. I felt like she was part of a TV production that actually diminished her worth as a person, although she herself was of course wonderful. I just didn’t like the whole set-up, and all the drama about “oh my gosh she CAN sing, who woulda known”.

    Agreed with this wholeheartedly. Even when they were cheering for her, it still felt like they were mocking her.

  46. Reading the article at the second link in the OP, I am really struck by how hard-won her cockiness and self-esteem are, and it gives me hope that she will remain level-headed and strong whatever reality-TV celebrity throws at her.

    I’m not angry at the world for not noticing her sooner, because it sounds like SHE decided recently to stand up and be noticed, and it seems that singing has been a refuge from a harsh world as much as a dream about breaking into it.

    Yes, I wish meritocracy reigned and that the hard things about her life hadn’t held her back. But I’m really glad that she has become self-assured enough at 47 to show off her talent in public and not back down in the face of potential humiliation.

    She has talked just enough about her life to suggest that her life has been complicated and that this self-assurance has been hard-won- I’m just so happy for her that she has it AND an opportunity to shine.

  47. I felt like it was all so over-dramatized, and that although the judges clearly loved her singing, their reactions were clearly over-dramatized as well.

    Likely, but there was also a whole studio audience behind those judges who were completely blown away by her performance.

  48. Is it just me or does Simon start flirting with her? I think he does.

    I think y’all are misinterpreting the judges on this audition here. They know how the shows work and what the producers are thinking, and they figured that Susan was going to be really bad or really good, so they hedge their bets and treat her kind of warily from the get-go. I don’t think anyone thought she would be THAT good though. The same thing happened with Paul Potts.

    As for the judging, though – the two non-Simon judges whose names I don’t know seemed pretty condescending, dontcha think?

    Susan Boyle is hugely talented, and she knows it and she’s hilarious and I love her.

  49. “Even when they were cheering for her, it still felt like they were mocking her”

    *Yes*. This is what I was trying to say.

  50. Very eloquent post, Fillyjonk. I needed a packet of kleenexes after that video. Her voice rivals Patti Lupone!!! Nearly pitch perfect, too.

    The eye rolling and laughter at the beginning is unsettling, but I the audience must be like vultures waiting for a kill.

    I have a feeling that the judges were tipped off by Susan’s extraordinary talent. The producers would know a performance like that would pump up the audience and get more viewers.

  51. I’m sort of stunned by the people who are watching it multiple times because it makes them happy. I can’t even make it through the video once–it’s too painful.

    I watched it multiple times because a) Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals ever (saw it on Broadway for my 18th birthday, and wore out a set of cassette tapes) and Ms. Boyle sings that song almost as well as the three women I have heard perform Fantine. Her voice gives me shivers.

    b) She deserved that ovation, in my opinion, for finally, at the age of 47, not allowing anyone to take away her opportunity, as, or so I’ve read in the papers (so grain of salt time, but still) she was perhaps stopped by others in the past, well-meaning or not.

    Manipulated build-up or not, I don’t know that it matters whether or not the theater audience only stood because of shallow-based shock or if it’s necessary to turn her accolades inside-out and render them meaningless because teenage girls rolled their eyes and the judges dropped their jaws and got their feet stuck in.

    To deny her that moment of triumph also denies the possibility that some people might have learned a lesson about judging others based on their appearance, or age, or education.

    And isn’t that at least partially what we’re trying to accomplish here?

  52. On the other hand, I’m also irritated that growing up I felt like I had to pretend to be less smart than I am in order to be liked…. but then now that that’s become second nature the rules change and I’m instead supposed to bowl people over with my confident badassitude.

    Repeated for emphasis.

  53. That was amazingly awesome! I’m glad she showed people of the world what being talented is about!
    I had to post that on my blog so I can watch it when I’m feeling down, because that woman is a great inspiration!

  54. Well yes.

    But what I saw on the faces of all three of the judges — Piers most especially, but DEFinitely Simon — was not so much astonishment as *recognition*.

    They saw themselves in her. They saw every single painful insecurity they have ever had and projected. Especially Piers. The look of absolute and total relief on his face was palpable.

    Heck that’s why the audience loves her. She has the audacity, the poesis, the beauty, the spirit to step right out and be amazing, despite all of the ways in which she is Not Right according to all of the pop star litmus tests.

    She reached right inside Piers’ heart — and mine, too — and called us to love our lives no matter how many thousands of ways we are “inadequate.”

    I am grateful. So are those judges.

  55. That’s it! All I need to feel like a worthwhile human being is to be undeniably inhumanly awesome in one area. Just one! Totally fair.

  56. I was also going to mention Paul Potts too, another one the judges dismissed before he blew them away with his powerful operatic voice.

    I don’t know why so many people still get surprised when they realize fat people can sing. Come on people, it’s not anything new! Aretha Franklin? Trisha Yearwood? Wynonna? Pavarotti? Martha Wash? Jill Scott…you get my drift. Vocal talent is not just for pretty women and pretty men with slender bodies.

    The show is called “Britain’s Got Talent,” not “Britain’s Physically Attractive People Got Talent.” You would think these judges would stop being so nasty to those that don’t look like Posh and Becks. But, I guess when it comes to ratings, they have to put on airs.

    I hope Susan Boyle wins the competition. And I thought her dress and figure were lovely.

  57. I believe it is possible to both recognize all the problems with the judges’ prejudices and rude behaviour as well as admitting that Susan Boyle did indeed triumph.

    This lady has numerious things about her background and appearance going against her and she will need to accommodate a lot if she wants to continue in the competition, and yes, of course it’s a load of crap that she would need to be this extraordinary singer in order to be treated with decency – but the fact remains, she did create some possibilites for herself, she did wow them and exposed the unfairness of the way people treated her, and as such I believe we can consider this to be a story about personal empowerment, without forgetting all the reasons as to why her story is extraordinary and why she needs the empowerment in the first place.

  58. I’d seen the headlines for Susan Boyle a couple of days ago, and had been putting off watching the video because I knew it was going to hit a little too close to home for me as well.

    It was the “never been kissed” part, and the fact that, like me, she is not conventionally attractive. I was married for a long time, but that ended almost 2 years ago, and I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be kissed again. In the last year, I’ve had a series of romantic interests that have not gone my way, and it has been a blow to my confidence. I usually feel good about my size and look (US 24, a face that has been artfully rearranged with nerve damage, and a semi-decent sense of style), but after each disappointment, I’m left with wondering if I have any right to feel attractive at all. I wonder about self-delusion and whether I’m just not acknowledging how the world works. And I’m angry as all fuck.

    Today was a breaking point for me, so much so that today’s to-do list included the action item, “Stop believing in fairy tales”. I’ve been spitting nails and feeling more than a little stabby all day long – if you shared the road at all with me today, I apologize for the finger that I almost certainly gave you. But I saw that the fatosphere was buzzing about the Susan Boyle clip, so I forced myself to watch it. Not surprisingly, I snot-cried for a good 20 minutes.

    Regardless of what you think of the set up and surrounding commentary, Susan was simply amazing. I love her attitude, I love the confidence of her walk, and, of course, I love her voice. I think I would have loved her with half of that talent, because that lady has gumption for miles.

    Her story doesn’t make my heart ache any less for the guy that, once again, will not be mine, but it sure as shit shores up my faltering confidence. Even if I’m never kissed (or fucked, or felt up) ever again, that does not take away from my worth as a person, or the fact that I also have gifts that are amazing and that fly in the face of the fat generalizations.

    And finally, fillyjonk – thank you for the great post. Reading it and all of the comments has made me cry all over again, but in a good way. :)

  59. She has talked just enough about her life to suggest that her life has been complicated and that this self-assurance has been hard-won- I’m just so happy for her that she has it AND an opportunity to shine.

    This.

    Even if she croaked like a raven, her confidence is awe-inspiring. Let’s face it, the world has basically been against her for 48 years. And somehow she retains the amazing ability to just be herself, so comfortable in her skin, so unapologetic for her presence.

    I would love to sit down to tea with her. She sounds like she would be a very entertaining host or guest.

  60. all the drama about “oh my gosh she CAN sing, who woulda known”

    The thing is, she doesn’t just have a passable voice or a good voice, she has a phenomenal voice. Even without counting her appearance and age against her, that kind of talent is a massive shock when you have no reason to expect it.

    And when you’re suddenly faced with it out of a woman old enough to be a grandmother who has never performed for a large audience before, never had the least speck of formal training, never went to any kind of arts school or indeed college, someone who nobody has ever heard of before she gets up on stage for Britain’s Got Talent and announces that she’s going to sing a fiendishly difficult piece …

    Yeah. It’s mindboggling.

    I knew, because FJ told us, that she was going to be good and she still made my jaw drop.

  61. I think they had a similar experience last year or the year before when an overweight ill-dressed telephone salesman gave an AMAZING operatic performance.

    But my absolute favourite example of this sort of thing is Jennifer Hudson; considered too fat to be an American Idol she scored a secondary role in Dreamgirls, stole the show with her singing (putting the more famous Beyonce to shame) and walked off with an Academy Award. And the best part – she now has famous designers falling over themselves to dress her voluptuous figure and it’s amazing how hot she looks with proper fitting clothes.

  62. WOW. A lot of people must be hitting this video at the same time, because it’s running very slow. But I could hear her loud and clear, and I could see the judges and audience laughing up their sleeves. And OMG, technical command AND soul this woman has. She didn’t blow a note, performing for a big audience for the first time.

    Most professional singers couldn’t give a performance like that; it’s not just good for an “ordinary Jane,” it’s good for anyone. And to perform that song on that level, no matter how talented you are, means you have also practiced your ass off. Maybe for years. And fucking A you can go all your life not noticed if you don’t look “pretty enough” to sing. Record and ticket buyers are thought to buy pictures first, sound second. (In the whole Milli Vanilli fiasco, I didn’t hear very much about the plight of the guy who actually did the rapping on “Girl You Know It’s True,” who was 45 years old at the time and recording the soundtrack for someone less than half his age. But I’ll bet he spent a lot of years wondering if it would ever be his turn, just like Susan.)

    It was interesting to hear the blonde judge (Amanda somebody? I don’t know her) saying Susan’s performance was a “wake-up call.” You wonder, though, what the take-home lesson will be. “Anyone can have stunning talent no matter what they look like” is a good start, but for me it goes beyond that. I wonder if they’re ever going to get around to asking, “How much vocal richness are we missing out on by insisting all our female singers be super young and super thin and super cute?” It’s not just that someone like Susan can have a great voice in spite of her age and build and looks; it’s that those things made her the singer she is. Physically, certain sounds can only come from certain bodies — not that thin young women can’t be great singers, but their tone is different — and how she’s lived is the source of the soul.

  63. To deny her that moment of triumph also denies the possibility that some people might have learned a lesson about judging others based on their appearance, or age, or education.

    Wow, well said. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    I’m sure some of the people being judgmental and rolling eyes were doing it because she’s not thin and not conventionally pretty. But I think a lot of it is what Kate said upthread – you don’t expect someone who’s 48 and decides to go on a reality-tv performance show to knock one out of the park. That’s unfair and it certainly doesn’t justify LAUGHING at someone, but it’s certainly not the norm so I can see why it was unexpected. Especially with the set-up!

    I’m gonna go watch it again now!

  64. Wow. That was amazing. She was at least on par with the woman I saw playing Fantine in a production in Boston about 10 years ago. And that woman was probably younger Susan and certainly had years of professional training, both for singing in general and singing that song in particular.

    And way to go, Fillyjonk. Great post. And thanks for saying what so many of us undoubtedly need to hear.

  65. Meowser ask:s I wonder if they’re ever going to get around to asking, “How much vocal richness are we missing out on by insisting all our female singers be super young and super thin and super cute?”

    My thoughts exactly. Do you ever wonder whether someone like Janis Joplin could have become a star today–as powerful as her voice was, she was not a “conventionally pretty” woman. Or if Elvis had debuted as the “Fat Elvis” –would people have just laughed at him and walked away?

  66. It’s not just that someone like Susan can have a great voice in spite of her age and build and looks; it’s that those things made her the singer she is. Physically, certain sounds can only come from certain bodies — not that thin young women can’t be great singers, but their tone is different — and how she’s lived is the source of the soul.

    What a great point, Meowser — I hadn’t thought about it like that.

    And Nina, I totally second your comment. Well said.

  67. As much as I agree that the woman has a stunning voice and pretty much delivered the perfect ‘F you’ to everyone who was getting ready to slag her off (audience and judges both), I’m intrigued as to why you say “her accent denotes low class”. What is it about her accent that says that?

  68. Most professional singers couldn’t give a performance like that; it’s not just good for an “ordinary Jane,” it’s good for anyone.

    I read the whole post before clicking on the link, and even with that preparation, I was shocked. I expected a clear, strong voice, like a cabaret singer, not that otherworldly, gorgeous sound. To be fair to the judges – who may or may not deserve it – that voice would surprise me coming out of any amateur, unless she was floating several inches off the ground.

  69. “being any number of culturally downgraded things don’t actually keep you from being fucking extraordinary.”

    This, beautifully put, is what I tried to get into a bit on my own blog but is so much better here. I love to watch the video because I love the song and her singing of it. :)

  70. “But as a fat, short, moderately weird-looking woman with a brilliant voice who’s far too afraid of rejection to ever really go for it, it hits a bit too close to home.”

    M. LeBlanc, that’s me except I’m not short. Maybe we could get a group together? Or at least a karaoke night.

    (kisses caseyatthebat and runs away)

  71. Wow. Just… wow. I’ll join the chorus in saying that Susan doesn’t just have a good voice, she has the kind of voice that people pay hundreds of dollars to hear in prestigious concert halls and talk reverently about the experience for years afterward. This kind of voice is a rare and precious gift. I was expecting a good voice when I clicked on the link; I was not expecting to be blown away by the sheer beauty of her song.

    I hope Susan goes on to live her dreams, whatever they may be.

    On a semi-unrelated note, I get a tiny piece of the “kick their faces in” moment whenever I start talking academics with a person who has been informed that I have horrible terrible seizures EVERY DAY.

    “So you’re going to college? How brave of you! What are you majoring in, dear?”
    “Environmental Science.”
    *stunned silence* “Oh… my. You’re majoring in a science?”
    “Oh, yes! I’ve already done some volunteer work in my field for the City of Smallbeachtown during the summers! It kind of sucks that I’ll have to take statistics, but everyone says that if I survived calculus, I can definitely pass stats.”

    Heh heh heh. People always get that gobsmacked look when they realize that not only am I a science major, I’m serious about it and I know what I’m talking about. I suppose I ought to be more offended that they don’t take me seriously right off the bat, but I get a devilish glee out of watching them squirm. ^_^

  72. I caught the very end of this as I was flipping the stations yesterday and wanted to see the whole thing, but didn’t know what I was looking for. Thank you so much for posting this! As fuzzyoctopus said, that song makes me bawl *anyway*. I LOVED this. Here’s hoping Broadway (or its British equivalent) snatches her up. She’s got more talent than most who seek it out.

  73. Maybe part of it was being primed by seeing people’s comments all day before I could get home and actually watch the video, but… Even before she started singing, I think I fell a little in love when she gave that confident little wiggle of her hips.

  74. I kind of come down on the side of the folks who weren’t so heartwarmed by this. I’m a professional opera singer and voice teacher, and though it’s true this singer has a really wonderful raw talent, there were plenty of things that needed work (a tendency to rush and to sing everything the same and at the same dynamic level, regardless of the emotional content of the song, stood out the most for me).

    Under ordinary circumstances (a younger singer or a more sophisticated older woman with no resume), I can’t help thinking that at least Simon Cowell would have told her ‘look – – I’m not going to lie to you – – you have a tough row to hoe, but you could make something of this,’ and then he might have offered a couple of constructive comments. The fact that this didn’t happen leads me to believe that, despite all that over-the-top gushing, Susan Boyle’s very good performance didn’t really change the way anyone there thought of her, or of people like her. Before she was a dog, now she’s a dog that can sing.

  75. Susan Boyle is not the first person to destroy the preconceived notions of the judges and all the rest of us. Paul Potts did it a couple of years ago, facing similar hurdles:

    Not meeting arbitrary beauty standards is hard, regardless of gender.

  76. Marg B

    I was thinking of him too – Paul Potts. I haven’t seen Susan Boyle (can’t afford satellite TV) but I saw Paul Potts. When he came on stage they looked bored and dismissive. I loved the look of consternation on the judges faces when he sang. Classic!

  77. I’ve been thinking about this.

    First, big hat tip to Susan Boyle. I’ve had the experience of walking out onto a stage alone, and singing. (I’m not a trained singer, but have had a history of piano lessons. I did listen to the tape, and I was surprised at how good I was. I don’t sound like that in here.) What she did was hard, and she did it really, really well.

    I’ve thought about the honesty of the reactions of the judges. An earlier comment talked about how dramatic it seemed. I’m betting it was. I cannot imagine anyone makes it to that stage without a number of auditions, and I imagine they are selected as “good tv’.

    I would be astonished to hear that the judges hadn’t heard her voice before, or at the very least, didn’t have notes on the acts.

    I ws amazed at Susan’s stage presence and voice. I am glad she did so well. But I think the whole ‘Shock! Not traditionally beautiful woman can sing!’ is a tiny bit staged.

  78. Wow.

    What a wonderful, wonderful woman.

    I was crying so much, partly for joy for her (and sorrow that it’s taken her until she is nearly 50 to get the recognition she deserves), partly because her rendition of the song was about the best I’ve heard, and partly because I do think that at least some people in the audience and on the panel did actually learn something.

    Possibly I just want to believe that the judges hadn’t heard her before and were genuinely blown away. But I do, at least until I hear evidence otherwise. I think Amanda whateverhernameis was trying hard not to cry. I thought that she at least wasn’t being patronising at all, but humbled.

    :-)

  79. What is it about her accent that says that?

    Halla, yeah, you’re the first person to call me on that but it had occurred to me that I might just be wrong. I’m not all that good at the nuances of British accents… I thought hers was meant to sound rural/villagey from how they were giggling about her town, but it might just sound Scottish. I’d welcome help on that front.

    On a semi-unrelated note, I get a tiny piece of the “kick their faces in” moment whenever I start talking academics with a person who has been informed that I have horrible terrible seizures EVERY DAY.

    Semi-unrelated, my ass — this was what I was hoping people would use the thread for, not complaining that her voice isn’t THAT good or trying to prove their superior cynicism about reality TV. Sheesh.

  80. But Mary Garden, the show exists to find untrained raw talent. It’s just so rare that the talent is this… talented! The contestants on these shows then usually start getting trained during the course of the show. Did Simon say something offscreen that implied they weren’t going to give her that?

    Elly, I didn’t think the judges were being insincere, either – both of the non-Simon ones seemed to be trying not to cry.

    Semi-unrelated, my ass — this was what I was hoping people would use the thread for, not complaining that her voice isn’t THAT good or trying to prove their superior cynicism about reality TV. Sheesh.

    Heh. Maybe it’s all this rain.

  81. I grew up in Scotland, and to me her voice definitely sounds rural working class Scots – like the older people in the mining village where I went to primary school for a while. I’d guess the accent was part of why they treated her like a laughable ignorant yokel.

    The closest things to a Susan Boyle moment I’ve had are the conversations that go:
    Dude at conference: So whose lab are you in?
    Me: Mine.

  82. FJ, the accent is Scottish, and as far as I’m concerned (English) it only denotes that she’s Scottish. The audience appeared to me to be laughing at her forgetting her words at that point – I can’t imagine most of the audience would have the first clue about regional Scots accents.

    I was pointed at this by a friend and am another of those with mixed feelings. I found her voice absolutely wonderful, but at the same time I know exactly how she felt up there in front of those people who were mocking her – I’m choosing to take the good feelings away with me as much as I can, though. She’s an inspiring woman. What struck me most was that having said that she wanted to sing on stage in front of a large audience, that’s exactly what she did. She didn’t expect any more than that and began to leave the stage when she’d finished and had to be called back. Even then, after all of that reaction and the standing ovation, she apparently wasn’t expecting anything else at all.

    First post. Hi.

  83. I’m a sucker for happy endings, but this looks like a happy middle-of-the-story, if you know what I mean. Especially after reading about the challenges she’s faced (injured at birth and tormented by her peers, among others), I am rooting for her all the way. Miss Boyle has a beautiful voice and a beautiful soul that shines through it. A new hairstyle and makeup won’t change that; she’s a great talent whether she’s in railroad overalls or a ball gown. May she enjoy great success.

  84. filyjonk I was wondering why she had to be ‘low class’ as well as whatever else life is supposed to have thrown in her path. :-) It seemed to me an interesting starting point abotu expectations of where a woman will be at that age, what she will have done or achieved or what she will be doing (someone mentioned she’s ‘old enough to be a grandmother’ – is that also an unintended way of remarking that she has not ticked a lot of boxes against the ‘life’s milestones’ checklist? Do we all have these lists, or should we?)

    As an aside, MissPrism and Eleanor Blair, Lothian obviously offers more posh accents than my side of the country (I’m from Paisley originally) because I thought she sounded reasonably well spoken! I’d thought they laughed because she couldn’t think of the word ‘village’ for a moment. This is another of the reasons I asked, I am not familiar with Bathgate accents and genuinely wondered what sort of social strata her accent would place her in. We may still be in the unfortunate position that a Scots accent of any kind gives a negative impression in some circumstances, I thought it was worth exploring a bit.

    Mary Garden I can kind of see your point there. Mind you, have you seen Britain’s Got Talent before? Someone with raw potential (and a heartwarming ‘doesn’t look like a star’ story, too) is a real find for them. To be utterly cynical Cowell is there to make money and this sort of thing is paydirt. We love an underdog here, if she recorded an album tomorrow she’d be on morning TV by next week and multi-platinum by the end of the month. Perhaps the knowing exploitation of other people’s unfulfilled dreams as a TV phenomenon is worth talking about too?

  85. I read this last night, and today I actually have a comment.

    Something they said over on Sociological Images made me think, about the idea that ugly people can’t be good at things.

    There is in psychology a known phenomenon called the “halo effect” where people who are percieved as attractive are automatically percieved as being smarter/funnier/better at what they do, regardless of actualy performance. (I’m not saying this is a valid assumption, i’m saying this is an assumption that people make, a cognitive bias.)

    I guess this is probably an example of a reverse Halo Effect, where it is assumed that people who aren’t percieved as attractive also are not good at things.

    And that sucks.

  86. It is so fun to screw with people’s expectations. It’s unfortunate that most of us don’t get to do it on international television . . . but we can all enjoy it when someone else does.

    I’ve had a few minor moments of that (my extended family assumes that because my parents didn’t move out to the suburbs, that I must not be very smart or well-educated, and, uh, I got into three top-14 law schools — class issues what?) but nothing quite so spectacular.

    I hope she puts out an album of Broadway standards, so I can buy it for my mom.

  87. I’m a sucker for happy endings, but this looks like a happy middle-of-the-story, if you know what I mean.
    I would argue that there is no such thing as a “happy ending.” Or any kind of ending. Cinderella marries the prince? Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star? Barack Obama wins the election? These are all just “happy middle-of-the-stories.”
    IMO

  88. re: happy endings: I think it was in a CS Lewis book that one of the characters says, regarding “and they lived happily ever after,” “And where will they live? That’s what I always wonder.”

    @Shinobi: the Halo Effect, either way, sucks.

  89. Semi-unrelated, my ass — this was what I was hoping people would use the thread for, not complaining that her voice isn’t THAT good or trying to prove their superior cynicism about reality TV. Sheesh.

    Sorry, fillyjonk.

  90. gawd, that song makes me cry to start, and then she has to go and be THAT awesome?! it’s not fair! so glad i was at home when i watched it. :)

    I hope she puts out an album of Broadway standards, so I can buy it for my mom.

    i want it for me!

  91. If we’re to talk about the joys of kicking people’s faces in, I’ll bite. I’m the youngest person in my department (at 28, heh) and look even younger, so I tend to be underestimated in a professional capacity by people who haven’t met me before; it’s always fun to show them that I do in fact know what I’m doing, moreso than most people in certain areas.

  92. [i]If we’re to talk about the joys of kicking people’s faces in, I’ll bite.[/i]

    I was trying to think of some large “in your face” thing I do and get a shock reaction from people but after a bit of thinking I’ve realized there is really no ONE thing that stands out as an “Oh no way, YOU do that” thing that I do. However, anytime I describe what I do and have done in my average day/week I tend to get disbelief so maybe that counts. Or when I mention that I play jazz trumpet or belly dance?

  93. This made me smile, because i had something similar happen to me in junior high.

    9th grade was a difficult year. I was (for junior high and certainly by my own perception) fat and unattractive, and deep in mourning for my dad who had died the summer before 9th grade. Any wit and personality that i had was well-hidden in grief as i shuffled around in baggy clothes, hair hiding my face, wanting to die too.

    I was at best a non-entity, at worst a joke. I took chorus probably only because i’d signed up for it the year before, before my world had completely fallen apart thanks to a drunk driver who walked away from the accident, leaving my family to pick up the pieces of our lives.

    I have no idea how i got the part, or even how the chorus teacher knew i could sing. Probably she gave it to me out of pity…. i’m sure plenty of other people wanted it, but she was right. I couldn’t wear a size 6 or look anyone in the eye, but i could sing.

    The chorus performance was televised through the school. Everyone ignored it, i was told, until i sang, and i kicked their faces in.

    It blew people away. Here was this girl who never opened her mouth to say boo who sounded, in their words ‘professional’ and ‘adult’. I had people report to me about teachers shutting up their classes so they could listen, and about the bully of the school who had taken no small delight in tormenting me stopping what he was doing to yell ‘She can sing? I didn’t even know she could talk!’

    It’s been 20 years, and i had someone mention it to me just a few weeks ago.

    Did it change my life? Make me a rock star? Make me homecoming queen? No. But it did make a difference. People stopped seeing me as a lump and saw me as a person.

    Eventually, the worst of the grief passed, and i became a functioning human again…. that was a bright spot in a very dark year.

  94. Speaking of “kicking people’s faces in”, last summer I attended a family wedding. I got to sit next to a couple that is friends with my aunt and uncle. The man says to me, “So what are you? A nurse or a teacher?” (As if those are the only jobs available to women these days!).

    So I calmly said, “Neither. I’m an engineer.”

    HA! That shut him up.

  95. Nej, I heard of a similar story!
    Bloke at party: “So what do you do with yourself, my dear?”
    Woman, putting finger to mouth with exaggerated simper: “Silly me’s a judge!”

  96. Sounds like there’s some division on the accent. I definitely got the impression that she was supposed to sound like a yokel on top of everything else. Though Lex is right that most of the audience wouldn’t know as much as MissPrism about Scots accents (and possibly no more than I do), so I’m quite possibly wrong there even if I’m right about what the accent signifies. :)

    Thanks to those who’ve weighed in, no thanks to deleted commenter calling me an “ignoramus” for the same possible mistake. It always amuses me how some people choose to try to make their Shapely Prose debut.

  97. “Semi-unrelated, my ass — this was what I was hoping people would use the thread for, not complaining that her voice isn’t THAT good or trying to prove their superior cynicism about reality TV. Sheesh.”

    Sorry for voicing an opinion that you did not like. Or, in fact, my posting was about a feeling I got rather than a well-formed opinion. I guess I had a feeling you don’t like – but I thought I would be welcome to post about it anyway, as I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone else’s feelings. I was just trying to put my own reaction into words, wanting to join the conversation. For the first time.

    I think a lot of the commentators who found the piece hard to watch did not try to “prove their superior cynicism”. At least I didn’t get that from their messages. They just genuinely had a different reaction to the performance than most.

    Just wanted to clarify that, and now I’ll comment no more…

  98. Oh, FJ, I’m so glad you’re back in action. The last paragraph in particular is what I’m aiming for in this life.

    And, What makes people stop laughing — or at least, what makes you stop caring if they do?

    This. I think the people talking about how when they were cheering they were still mocking her and you shouldn’t have to be utterly remarkable to deserve basic respect, while correct, are missing the post of what’s FJ is saying.

    Susan Boyle was remarkable regardless of what the judges and audience had to say about it — she was remarkable because already she knew she was. Sure, the audience could have cheered in response or they could have booed her, but she would have been awesome regardless. It wasn’t about them.

    The power of finding out who you are and what you can do is ceasing to care what others think (because whether they’re offering criticism or praise, they’re still presuming to judge you). And it can only come from saying “Fuck this noise” and refusing to let anyone measure you against a measuring stick you haven’t given them. Having the confidence to be your own judge and judging yourself good enough is ridiculously, ridiculously hard, but so very worth pursuing, because the reward is a self-confidence no one else can take away. It’s making me think of this bit of the post I linked above:

    So I did. I had a lot of other stuff, too, that Nate left out—things known as “flaws.” But fuck it, I thought, as I turned back to the mirror. Since when has darkness meant there’s no such thing as light? I looked at myself again not through a prism of external expectation, but with my eyes alone. The crushing weight of Everyone Else’s Opinion was gone. I felt beautiful—not in a slamming-dress- and-perfectly-executed-hair-and-make-up way, which is itself a distinct kind of allure to which I am particularly ill-suited, being unfit in both manner and form for couture, but in a je ne sais quoi way, compared to no standard or expectation, and offering as its only alternative an absence of the beauty specific to me.

    This whole thing is also reminding me endlessly of [title of show]. [title of show]! Man, that needs to get back on Broadway. It’s life-changing.

  99. Lex and Halla may well both be right – the judges very possibly couldn’t tell Morningside from Govan, but on the other hand any discernible regional accent at all might sound yokelly to the likes of Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan.

    I suspect it’s no coincidence that the judges all speak posh like, but that the backstage part of the show is hosted by the very Geordie Ant and Dec. There’s a strong “Aren’t The Peasants Funny, Nanny?” vibe to the whole thing.

  100. There’s a strong “Aren’t The Peasants Funny, Nanny?” vibe to the whole thing.

    Definitely. I don’t/won’t watch it because of that. And I just hate anything where people are encouraged to make fools of themselves and/or ripped to shreds on national tv. It’s awful.

  101. “Paula, wow, I sure am convinced now that you wanted to contribute instead of being deliberately contentious!”

    Obviously I’m having trouble expressing myself well enough on this issue. :-( The feelings I wanted to convey in the first place were a bit unclear to start with, and I struggled with how to word them, English not being my first language. If I understand you correctly, you’re now saying that I just wanted to be nasty in my first comment. And I did not try to do that. I’m really sorry if it came across that way.

    In my second comment I was disappointed and a little hurt, I don’t deny that. I’ve been lurking for quite some time, wanting to comment, and now I finally did. And I did think it was strange how you seemed to dismiss my feelings on the performance, and similar feelings that some of us were having. I probably overreacted. And I’ll really stop commenting now – not because I want to be off in a huff, but because I can’t clearly get the right tone across and feel like I’m embarrassing myself.

  102. Under ordinary circumstances (a younger singer or a more sophisticated older woman with no resume), I can’t help thinking that at least Simon Cowell would have told her ‘look – – I’m not going to lie to you – – you have a tough row to hoe, but you could make something of this,’ and then he might have offered a couple of constructive comments.

    I think under ordinary circumstances, that would be true. But these aren’t ordinary circumstances. As Volcanista said, it’s all about raw talent — but even more importantly, it’s about the power of TV to make a star. Paul Potts, whom people keep mentioning, has apparently sold RIDICULOUS numbers of records since winning the first season — even though lots of people who know opera say he’s not actually all that (at least on the internet — I don’t personally know anyone who really knows opera).

    If Susan Boyle were trying to start a singing career at 47 via normal channels, I can’t imagine she’d find success, despite her gifts. I have a good friend who’s naturally very talented, but didn’t start to take her singing seriously until her mid-twenties — at which point she heard a LOT that she was really too old to start. But this particular path is perfect for Boyle — she instantly won over an enormous audience, which is all the producers there give a shit about. (The YouTube vid has been viewed almost 6 million times now. In 4 days.) I read some article where one of the BGT producers said he could see dollar signs in “Simon’s beady little eyes” while watching her. It’s not about training her to be the best possible singer she could be, it’s about capitalizing on the strong visceral reaction millions of people have had to her as-is. Most consumers aren’t going to know the difference between how she sounds and how someone with natural talent and decades of training sounds. But they are going to know she’s that charming woman who blew everyone away on BGT — and that’s all Cowell, et al, need to sell albums.

  103. Paula, I don’t think your original comment was the sole target of FJ’s complaint; of course everyone has his or her own opinion on the performance, the show, and the whole phenomenon. A lot of us, myself included, saw this as Boyle’s sheer talent breaking through and deconstructing the whole reality show framing of the thing, the manufactured drama that (as you note) provides the main narrative of this. Other people didn’t; that’s fine. What I personally am getting irked with is not coming from your opinion or even your comment, but from comments about how either a) she wasn’t THAT good, really (implication: we are all suckers for being brainwashed by the narrative constructed by the show), or b) well SOME people might not have expected her to sing like an angel, but *I* did (implication: because I’m so much less biased than the rest of you). I didn’t really get either of those things from your original comment, personally. Which is why your response of “Sorry for voicing an opinion that you did not like” is surprisingly passive-aggressive.

  104. I think under ordinary circumstances, that would be true. But these aren’t ordinary circumstances.

    This is exactly the point, from where I’m sitting. As a fat, white trash woman who has been training and/or working as a musician since I was a little kid, I can tell you that talent means pretty much FUCK ALL – it is all about opportunity (luck?). Most often, opportunity goes to the “pretty” people (some of whom are also talented) – and what makes this whole meshuggah noteworthy is that the opportunity is being offered to someone who, most likely, would never otherwise get it.

  105. This is exactly the point, from where I’m sitting.

    Ah, I get what you’re saying a lot more clearly now. I think there are (at least) two different threads going on here. 1) It fucking sucks that non-pretty people don’t get as many opportunities, while less-talented pretty people benefit from the halo effect. 2) What Susan Boyle did, in the context of reality TV, was pretty fucking cool. Probably because I have no talent for/interest in the music business, I can easily say, “Hey, could we set aside point 1 for a minute and focus on point 2? ‘Cause I’m really all about adoring this woman right now — and point 1 is part and parcel of the rage-making bullshit we talk about every OTHER day.” But if I identified with her as a musician and not just an awesome non-pretty person, I imagine it would be a lot harder to temporarily set aside being totally fucking furious about point 1.

    comments about how either a) she wasn’t THAT good, really (implication: we are all suckers for being brainwashed by the narrative constructed by the show), or b) well SOME people might not have expected her to sing like an angel, but *I* did (implication: because I’m so much less biased than the rest of you).

    THIS. Well said, SM. I’m not irritated by people having different opinions. I’m irritated by opinions that come with a subtext of, “Therefore, you’re an idiot/jerk.”

  106. I was trying to think of some large “in your face” thing I do and get a shock reaction from people but after a bit of thinking I’ve realized there is really no ONE thing that stands out as an “Oh no way, YOU do that” thing that I do.

    I don’t think I have any, either. I don’t think people expect me to be particularly incompetent, so any competence I do show doesn’t particularly shock them. ;)

    I do tend to find that there are things about me that surprise people, but that’s just how people are. I tend to come across as a very nice, gentle person (and I’d like to think I am!) so people are always surprised to learn that if I’m given my choice of movies to watch, I’ll pick the most horrible, gory horror movie I can find. I’m politically progressive and teach at a university, so people are surprised to find out that I’m a Christian. I’ve been married since I was 22, stay at home with my son most of the time, would like to have a few more kids, and quite enjoying doing housework and cooking, so people are often surprised that I’m a feminist with a degree in women’s studies. I’m a kind-of-prissy, not-at-all-tough white girl, so it always surprises people that I live right in the inner city of Detroit.

    But people are just like that. People are blowing my assumptions out of the water all the time. Every time I get to know somebody beyond the superficial level, it happens. One of my favorite things about teaching composition courses is that I get this little window into the lives of people I’d otherwise NEVER get to know, through their writing, and I learn all the time that people are never who I would assume they are.

  107. But if I identified with her as a musician and not just an awesome non-pretty person, I imagine it would be a lot harder to temporarily set aside being totally fucking furious about point 1.

    Yeah, sorry. :o\

  108. I didn’t mean there was anything wrong with that, Tari — just that I was honestly not getting it before. I think it’s the difference I mentioned way above between “Why would anyone be surprised?” and “Why should anyone be surprised? GRRRRR!” I kept hearing the former when people were actually meaning the latter — so I was just like, “Seriously? You don’t get that people are judged on their appearance?”

  109. what makes this whole meshuggah noteworthy is that the opportunity is being offered to someone who, most likely, would never otherwise get it.

    Ideally, though, that should be what competitions like this are about. And, in some ways, while I don’t keep up with American Idol and similar shows, it kind of has happened. The primary not-particularly-slender popular singers I can think of come from American Idol. These are women who probably would be told if they were getting into the business another way that they needed to lose X pounds to get on a major label, or would be resigned to never being a major pop star because they don’t fit the image. (Because, obviously, not all singers are gorgeous or thin or young. My taste runs to folk music and I listen to plenty of music by people who make their living making music but are none of the above. They just aren’t going to be making tons of money or playing packed stadiums.)

    But the point of all of these reality shows that plan on making people famous seems to be that opportunities will be extended to people who would otherwise not have them. I don’t watch enough of the shows to know if it actually works out that way in practice, but in theory that’s the whole reason people are tuning in, and I would have to imagine that’s why they are so compelling to people.

  110. she wasn’t THAT good, really (implication: we are all suckers for being brainwashed by the narrative constructed by the show)

    I think I’m being a slowpoke today- how does the former imply the latter? I guess I’m just confused because Kate referred to opera experts saying Paul Potts wasn’t that great, without suggesting that they were disrespectful to say such a thing. Is the issue that discussing her technique isn’t on topic for this particular thread?

  111. I know it’s gone all over the place, but I think this thread has turned out to be pretty damn amazing. Of course, the original post’s awesomeness had a lot to do with that ;-)

  112. Ideally, though, that should be what competitions like this are about.

    I could easily derail into a whole ranty thing about the music business and whether reality TV stars actually get “famous”….but I won’t (phew!). Suffice to say that I essentially agree with this point, but find that the reality isn’t quite the ideal. Which, again, is what makes this particular instance compelling to me.

    And, yeah, Kate, this is pretty much the same ol’ shit as every other day….just hit my particular buttons extra hard. Stupid buttons.

  113. I think I’m being a slowpoke today- how does the former imply the latter?

    It doesn’t, strictly speaking. Tone does. I’ve seen comments both here and elsewhere that were like, “Technically, if you’ve been trained, you can tell she’s untrained — but wow, what an accomplishment.” That doesn’t bother me a bit. What bothers me is, “If you’ve been trained, you can tell she’s untrained — so all the fuss over what she did is ridiculous/manufactured/boring, since she’s not even that good.” That suggests that those of us who are impressed only are because we’re ignorant/naive about reality TV.

  114. This is what the story has been telling me: We (the general “we”) don’t sing with our neighbors anymore–or dance, or make art, or even read aloud. So we’re completely unprepared for the possibility that our neighbors–perfectly ordinary looking people of all ages and shapes and backgrounds–CAN sing and dance and make art and speak wonderfully. That’s something famous people do, not us. What a waste!

    If you want to celebrate the Susan Boyles in your midst, go find them–go to a neighborhood karaoke night, join a community art project, attend a local choir concert or open-mike night. Invite your friends and neighbors to come along. Organize somethingfun and creative to do with the people around you. And watch–I’m convinced that there are a lot of talented artists in *every* zipcode.

  115. Thanks, iheartchocolat. Something about offering as its only alternative an absence of the beauty specific to me made me cry and cry the first time I read it.

    We (the general “we”) don’t sing with our neighbors anymore–or dance, or make art, or even read aloud. So we’re completely unprepared for the possibility that our neighbors–perfectly ordinary looking people of all ages and shapes and backgrounds–CAN sing and dance and make art and speak wonderfully. That’s something famous people do, not us. What a waste!

    That is amazingly true, THANK YOU for pointing it out. I will be over here pondering that for quite some time.

    I feel like my whole damn body is covered in buttons, these days!

    *nods*

  116. And I did think it was strange how you seemed to dismiss my feelings on the performance, and similar feelings that some of us were having. I probably overreacted.

    Yeah, you did. There’s over 100 comments on this thread; I had to look up your original one to find out what you were on about in the first place. Not always about you, folks. Not always about you.

  117. So we’re completely unprepared for the possibility that our neighbors–perfectly ordinary looking people of all ages and shapes and backgrounds–CAN sing and dance and make art and speak wonderfully.

    Totally agree with this point, in general.

    But actually, one of the things I love about Boyle’s story is that I’ve seen several articles where they interview the owner of her local pub, who talks about how she sings karaoke there, and everyone in town knows she can sing like an angel, so they were all gathered around to watch her on the show last weekend. Most of us may be doing it wrong, but at least the folks in her town weren’t. :)

    And on the other hand, one of the things I hate about the story, going back to how much reality TV sucks… I read one article that talked about how they went to her hometown to film footage for future eps, and said pub was all ready for the cameras — but a producer said her hometown/the pub were such shitholes, he moved it all over to a neighboring town that was cuter.

  118. We (the general “we”) don’t sing with our neighbors anymore–or dance, or make art, or even read aloud. So we’re completely unprepared for the possibility that our neighbors–perfectly ordinary looking people of all ages and shapes and backgrounds–CAN sing and dance and make art and speak wonderfully.

    Um. I love what you’re saying here, but there are lots of people already out there doing this stuff. I’m biased toward coffeeshop singer-songwriters (ahem), but there’s tons of small theater and dance troupes (hello, Big Moves!) and artists and writers (wonder where we might find some of those!) who are making amazing works already, and struggling against Hollywood and mass media and industrialized creativity in all its various forms. I’m all for people getting out and being creative….but I’d also love it if all the struggling artists who don’t have a slot on a TV show could get some love, too.

  119. Penny, that is such an awesome point, and so true. I think we have lost the sense that “ordinary” people can be really talented, but they are! I’m always amazed by how well some of the people in my church can sing, or how well my upstairs neighbor plays the banjo, or what an amazing painter a friend of mine is. I had an acquaintance in grad school who I hadn’t seen in years, who I wasn’t even aware sang, and then I heard her performing a song she’d written on a local folk show, and she was great. There really are plenty of talented people in every community, performing and showing their work locally.

  120. “Most of us may be doing it wrong, but at least the folks in her town weren’t. :)”

    Yeah! And I suspect that’s no coincidence. She’s had a chance to develop her performance skills, to learn her own strengths, in a supportive place; we need more supportive communities like that, shithole pubs and all.

  121. I’m taking this post to my recovery group at the local women’s prison. They may not be able to see the clip, but they sure do need to read those words.

  122. Since the halo effect got mentioned, thought I’d give an itty-bitty shout-out to that recent “30 Rock” plotline about it. I’m not a huge 30 Rock fan but I’ve watched a few, and I definitely tuned in when “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm was a guest star as a love interest for the main character, played by Tina Fey. He’s a hottie, yet he was really bad at all these activities that people praised him to high heaven for–from tennis to cooking. I still don’t like that Tina Fey is supposed to be this total FOIL for Hamm, as if she’s so incredibly not-conforming-to-beauty-standards, but it’s still hilarious.

  123. there are lots of people already out there doing this stuff. I’m biased toward coffeeshop singer-songwriters (ahem), but there’s tons of small theater and dance troupes (hello, Big Moves!) and artists and writers (wonder where we might find some of those!) who are making amazing works already, and struggling against Hollywood and mass media and industrialized creativity in all its various forms.

    Tari, I thought that was actually Penny’s point — those of us who aren’t already out there making and supporting local art ought to be, ’cause it’s already there, and it’s terrific.

  124. *unlurking*

    the perfect song to sing as well, since she likely knew they would be cynical and disparaging toward her before she opened her mouth, but, herself, hasn’t given up. That was marvelously uplifting. *blub*

  125. Sweet Machine, thank you.

    I feel it’s important to realise that sometimes your personal successes and accomplishments won’t necessarily correspond with your social and political beliefs very well. As a women in academia I think I know a thing or two about playing somebody else’s game. While I for one agree that academia (at least humanities and the social sciences, where I belong) have a harmful way of socialising students and upholds a ridiculous myth about ‘the lone scholar’ with all his (definitely his!) mighty intellect, i would hate to have someone else deprive me my individuel academic accomplishment with basis in this kind of critique.

    Maybe a but vague, but that it something I struggle with in my life and I think these kinds of convsersations are a great help on a more abstract level. Thank you for that.

    On a second note, fillyjonk, I just remembered that I totally have a ‘in your face!’ moment in my life. As a child I was (incorrectly) diagnosed with dyscalculia, or math disabillities. I din’t receive much help and went through public school with a self-perception of being, well, dense. Until suddenly in high school I realised that ‘holy s*** i totally know how to do integral calculus!’ and recived top grade by a teacher who had a hard time believing I wasn’t a natural-born math nerd. That was incredibly satisfying.

    That memory just totally made my day :)

  126. Oh, also, my in-your-face moment… I’ve been out of the regular office-job world for a long time, trying to build a writing career for myself. First it was grad school, then I prioritized working on my (neverending) novel for a while, and then I decided to get serious about blogging and see if I could make something of it.

    LOTS of people were skeptical, and I always fucking hated answering “What do you do?” b/c it was like, “Well, I’m a writer, but I make practically no money at it and am not publishing anything you might have seen at the moment.” That tends to make people either go, “Yeah, right you’re a writer” (though they usually don’t say it out loud — you just see it on their faces), or “Oh, you know, I’ve always wanted to write a book! I just don’t have the time!” Which is just… grrrrrrr. Maybe you do, in fact, have a fabulous book in you, but I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life studying the craft, working in publishing to learn the ropes, editing other people’s books, and working my ass off to get somewhere/be the best writer I can be — it’s really not just a matter of having the spare time to sit down and type.

    One person in particular used to get under my skin like mad, because he was obviously so completely convinced the whole “working on building a writing career” thing was utter bullshit, and that I sat around eating bonbons all day. The look on that guy’s face when I told him I got a book contract was definitely one of my favorite moments ever.

    And just in general, now being able to answer “What do you write?” with, “Oh, my first book’s about to come out, and I write for Salon.com 2 days a week” is ALWAYS a joy — and that much more so when people obviously weren’t expecting it. Better still, the few people who bother to ask who the publisher is are almost always expecting not to have heard of them (and in some cases, clearly trying to diminish the impact of hearing that there’s a book), so watching their eyebrows fly up when I say “Penguin” is the cherry on top. (Note: I say that as someone who worked in small press for years, loves small press books, and has some huge problems with big publishing. I don’t think having a big name publisher in any way makes our book superior to what’s coming out of small presses. But boy, it’s fun to play that card when people are being jerky.)

  127. I competed for Junior Miss and failed to place. However, I made the audience laugh and say, “Awwwww” with the funny/sad song I sang for my talent portion (“Barbie” by Meryn Cadell). The superintendent of the district, who was on the judges’ panel, liked me so much that he made it so the program didn’t have to pay rent for using school facilities. It’s an ill wind that blows no good, I guess. I did harbor daydreams of winning the whole thing and blowing the conventionally pretty girls away, but it was not to be.

  128. Fillyjonk, I’m sure you meant well, but “abled or not” is not a happy way of putting things (pussyfooting around with euphemisms does sometimes make things worse; “able-bodied or disabled” is better), and “low class” is actually quite offensive. It’s a fairly standard working-class Scots accent, one I hear all the time (I’m a Londoner living in Edinburgh), and not one that I’ve heard mocked. I wouldn’t call it “low class”, just as I wouldn’t call a woman who’s wearing a nice dress she bought for a wedding “ungroomed”. (Also I’d get shot, my partner’s working-class Scots, and he has a lovely accent, thank you very much.) It’s largely the context that makes her fit oddly, where even the men paint an inch thick and everyone is meant to look young, thin and fashionable. She’d look perfectly normal in her usual context. The “sorry we laughed at you, it’s not allowed since you do turn out to be talented after all, contrary to appearances” attitude was fairly vile, but to be expected, I suppose. As for her outfit, I think it was a matter of context again. It was a perfectly nice dress. It would have looked nice in the usual contexts for such dresses, but it didn’t look so good under the harsh lighting of reality TV, and for the next round they’ll probably find her something more flattering.

    I’m a classical music bod and I’ve never liked musicals, so from my point of view she had a nice voice which is certainly worthy of attention. But I did notice that she was strained on the top notes, disappearing on the bottom notes, and ahead of the beat, plus as someone else has remarked, she was belting it out rather than performing it with emotion. All of which should be fixable with training, I’d imagine, so it’ll be nice to see her dream coming true. It doesn’t stop the problem that this is reality TV, and she’s being a celebrity for defying expectations. The initial reaction to her in the studio was disgust, and now everyone’s being terribly condescending instead.

    It’s odd that so many people are assuming that singers should be thin. There’s a long tradition of classical singers being on the heavy side, and I remember reading an article by my former singing teacher, talking about how that bit of extra weight actually improves the quality of the voice. From what I’ve heard, the ideal is probably to be a bit overweight but very fit with it, which would fit well with the “Healthy At Every Size” motto used here at Shapely Prose. Unfortunately for Boyle, this attitude is more typical of classical music than musicals, but hopefully the celebrity push she’s getting from this show will help get her past that, and may indeed do some useful barrier-breaking in the process.

    While we’re on the subject of fuller-figured women on BGT, what did you make of Fabia Cerra, who caused controversy by doing a striptease for her act and being a size 20 at that?

  129. This nit is itching me, and I must pick it: It’s quite possible that many of us (myself included) are really not remarkable in any way, and that’s perfectly okay.

    Why do we define ourselves by the ways in which we are better than everyone else? It’s fine, but it’s not the only way to do it. I know I try not to have my self-worth determined by things like talents or accomplishments, since those are things that I have imperfect to no control over (and I also don’t have many of them). I take pride in the fact that I try to be a good person, that I care about other people, that I work hard for worthwhile causes etc., since I do have control over these things. However, these things are incredibly ordinary. They are not talents, and they are never going to suprise anyone.

    Susan Boyle is truly an inspiration. But, it’s not necessary to have an incredible talent (or even a humble talent) to make someone a worthy human being.

  130. Elletaria, I’m not sure I agree on the abled/disabled terminology; “low-class” vs. “working class” is an interesting distinction and you’re probably right. I really don’t understand why everyone seems to think I said anything about her dress. If you’re going to be semantically picky, “grooming” and “dress” are not the same thing.

    AntiLoquax, also on a semantic note, it’s interesting to me that you conflated “remarkable” with “better than everyone else.” I wonder why you did that.

  131. Taking the idea of singing and dancing within the community one step further – finding hidden talent is great but maybe we should be doing it just because it’s fun! I have come across lots of people (not here!) who think it’s rude to sing/dance in public if you’re bad at it. I *hate* that attitude. We aren’t all Susans behind the mic but that’s no reason not to just do it and enjoy it, kwim?

  132. This nit is itching me, and I must pick it: It’s quite possible that many of us (myself included) are really not remarkable in any way, and that’s perfectly okay.

    This. Particularly – and I know nobody here is trying to claim this, but I still feel the need to stress it, just for emphasis – nobody needs to have a remarkable talent in order to merit basic human respect. I can’t quite get away from the idea that we’re supposed to see that the judges and audience have been made to look like fools because their treatment of Boyle turned out to be unwarranted – hey, surprise, she wasn’t an untalented loser after all! – rather than because their behaviour was juvenile and objectionable to begin with.

    Although it’s possible that me looking for respect for others and basic human decency on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ is something of a fool’s errand in itself…

  133. If you’re going to be semantically picky, “grooming” and “dress” are not the same thing.

    Yeah, and as SM said upthread, for those of us who know you, it was obvious you meant “not waxed, plucked, buffed and made up within an inch of her life,” as opposed to, “not clean and presentable.” I can see how the wording could cause confusion, though.

  134. I thought her performance was amazing and I hope she gets a gig out of it. <3 Obviously she has a lot of things that could be smoothed over, but those’ll come with a little training, or even just spending time working with people who have that training.

    Has she said anything about why she started walking off the stage as soon as she was done?

    OT: I’m not sure what to think of this. Gah.

  135. AntiLoquax, I’ve been trying to compose a similar response all day. Thank you!

    Fillyjonk, the upgrading from remarkable to “better than everyone” almost certainly comes from the oft repeated “you may suck at _______, but there’s something you’re better at than anyone.” I have the same pet peeve with the “everyone is beautiful!” meme. Well, no, actually, we’re not. We may disagree on who *is* beautiful, but some people are more attractive than others, and there’s no shame in owning ugliness. If you’re someone who is society generally agrees is non-attractive, *that’s okay, too*. And if you can’t sing, paint, dance, wrap a present in an attractive manner or lie convincingly about how smart your boss is, *that’s okay, too*.

    And yay for Susan. I hope this works out for her.

  136. “Taking the idea of singing and dancing within the community one step further – finding hidden talent is great but maybe we should be doing it just because it’s fun!”

    TOTALLY agree! We should sing and dance together in communities because it feels good–because sometimes it’s great fun, and because sometimes it’s deeply consoling, and either way it’s something too many of us are missing.

  137. Fillyjonk, the upgrading from remarkable to “better than everyone” almost certainly comes from the oft repeated “you may suck at _______, but there’s something you’re better at than anyone.” I have the same pet peeve with the “everyone is beautiful!”

    Oh, that’s a theory… I assumed it was coming from a sort of compulsive self-comparison, like you don’t count as good at something unless you’re better than everyone else. But I was probably just projecting, since that’s what I do.

    I posted this already upthread, but… April D. gets it.

  138. “Ungroomed” means “without any signs of being groomed”, rather than “perfectly well turned out but not up to the highly exacting standards of artificial beauty on television”. I realise it was a misunderstanding, but I do feel that your portrait of how Boyle looked and spoke ran her down a little more than was necessary. I think it’s great that someone who doesn’t look like the conventional ideal is getting a chance, but I’m detecting a slight vein (not necessarily from you, from the whole phenomenon) of making her into a heroine *because* she’s overweight/frumpy/what-have-you, and that disturbs me,

    “Abled/not” feels like it’s going out of its way to avoid saying “disabled”, which makes me think of that ghastly phrase, “differently abled” (which is only ever used, condescendingly, by people who aren’t disabled themselves; check out some disability activism websites if you don’t believe me). It’s an area where terminology is still settling down and in many ways absent (there’s no well-accepted term that’s the equivalent of racism or homophobia for hatred of/discrimination against people with disabilities, for instance), so I do appreciate that it’s not easy to use the right words all the time. “Disabled” is the word in most common use, and the word chosen by people to whom it applies. Avoiding it like that sits oddly.

  139. Ego, that article is appalling. What ridiculous fat shaming. Also, did I miss the memo about how epilepsy is related to weight?

    On topic, I thought that video was the best thing I’ve seen all week, and I’ll admit, I’ve been feeling somewhat defensive about people saying she wasn’t that good after all (the Sociological Images Blog post on this was the biggie for me).

    I’ve been trying to think of good kick sand in their face moments. The best one that comes to mind was how, during my third year of law school, I ran into someone I went to high school with who was visiting a friend I went to school with and who had always been arrogant in the extreme. When he saw me, his jaw dropped and he said “YOU go to XXXX Law School??” Delightful.

  140. Oh, and even if you buy into the article’s premise, it’s patently ridiculous because only the parents are on disability – the older daughter is apparently looking for a job and therefore gets a “jobseeker’s allowance” which I imagine anyone whose unemployed would get and the younger daughter is a student and gets money given to low-income students. So yeah, apalling.

  141. I was going to write a blog about Susan but you beat me to it and you did it better than I would have.
    I have watched this thing 5 times so far and it just gets better. She must have heard the sniggers at the beginning and yet at the end she blew them all a kiss. A class act all the way.
    I want to see her on Broadway!
    Yours Truly,
    Steve MacGregor

  142. “However, anytime I describe what I do and have done in my average day/week I tend to get disbelief so maybe that counts. Or when I mention that I play jazz trumpet or belly dance?”

    April D, I sort of relate to that – I bellydance (when I can), I love to sing, I love to play drums in Rock Band, I read (compulsively), I have qualifications in Countryside Management, a degree in English, I recently took up glass painting and I did a day’s course in butchery for my birthday because it interests me – but mention this to most folk and they seem a bit confused that someone can have a wide range of interests. Who said we have to have a narrow focus?

  143. “Abled/not” feels like it’s going out of its way to avoid saying “disabled”

    This falls under “please read at least a few posts on the blog before complaining that every post does not contain everything we’ve ever written.” This is not a fractal blog. Sometimes we do disability issues in one post, YouTube vids in another.

    I do feel that your portrait of how Boyle looked and spoke ran her down a little more than was necessary.

    I thought it was fairly clear that I was talking about her perception by the audience and the judges. The fact that people are getting stroppy with me for saying that only skinny people can sing would make me worry I hadn’t made myself understandable, but frankly I’ve been doing this too long for that.

    In short, if you think I turn my phrases awkwardly, you’re welcome to skip my posts, but do read one or two others by other people.

  144. “Abled/not” feels like it’s going out of its way to avoid saying “disabled”

    I do not understand this at all. The sentence at hand uses a set of parallel binaries: “Fat or thin, pretty or plain, butch or femme, old or young, abled or not.” If it had read “able-bodied or not,” would you also think that was “going out of its way” not to say “disabled”? We talk about disability here. We are not afraid of saying disability-related words; this one sentence just uses shorthand for a term that, as you yourself admit, is not set in stone.

    “Ungroomed” means “without any signs of being groomed”, rather than “perfectly well turned out but not up to the highly exacting standards of artificial beauty on television”

    Since you have clearly declared yourself this blog’s lexicographer, please expect us to run all drafts by you before publishing them, so you can tell us exact definitions for all words regardless of context.

  145. The initial reaction to her in the studio was disgust, and now everyone’s being terribly condescending instead.

    See, several people have said this, and I’m just not sure I agree. The praise afterwards did sound genuine to me. It’s not that I think the judges are nice people or that their earlier (or even overall) attitudes were decent (they definitely weren’t), but I really heard praise, not condescension. I can understand the urge to hate everything the judges say and do because they’re such judgmental assholes, but I dunno. Didn’t sense meanness in the praise (or the tearing-up), and Susan deserved it so it made me happy she got it.

    As to the “remarkable” discussion… I DO think everyone has something about them that is remarkable. And not because it’s “better” than other people, just because it’s remarkable. I also do tend to find that remarkability “beautiful,” and it’s not because I’m being condescending to everyone who doesn’t fit the conventional beauty ideal. So I disagree that those statements are wrong. Each person does have something remarkable and beautiful about them, and it’s not something they have to measure up to – it’s just innate. Not being self-aware enough to notice isn’t failure, either. Finding worth in other human beings isn’t a contest.

    (Everyone also has some ugliness. I mean, I’m not all unicorns farting rainbows. I also agree that it’s inconsequential when it comes to whether or not a person deserves basic respect. But I fundamentally believe that people who think they have no worth are wrong, and I don’t think insisting on that is infringing on a basic human right to be worthless.)

    Elettaria, I don’t regularly read disability blogs and forums, but I have heard disabled people use “differently abled.” I don’t say the term, but I think even in that case disabled people are not monolithic. I also didn’t hear FJ as avoiding the use of the word “disabled,” since she uses it sometimes right here on this site, but i can see how it could come across that way. I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, thanks.

    I’m kind of waiting for a high school reunion where I can kick people’s faces in with my PhD, but I suspect they won’t actually care all that much. And my friends already know. So, yeah, so much for that one.

  146. My favorite “in your face” moments came when I was teaching women’s self defense classes. One of the first things I would say to any group was “I know what you’re thinking: what can this OLD, FAT woman teach me about self defense?” There would be gasps and giggles of shocked recognition that I did, indeed, know what they were thinking…and then I’d teach them how to kick ass, and by the end of the classes many would tell me that they didn’t think I could do that stuff but were very impressed. They often didn’t think they could do it either (thinking they were too old, slow, short, weak, fat, whatever) and when they learned how to kick ass too–we were AWESOME!

  147. Blog scientist has to report to lexicographer if she’s going to publish, BUT lexicographer has to report to blog scientist for double-checks on specialized terminology.

    Also worth noting that blog scientist is both honorary and voluntary whereas lexicographer is a conscripted position awarded to people who get on our tits.

  148. Just a propos the size/amazing voice thing, there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that when Maria Callas, who had probably one of the most amazing voices ever, lost a lot of weight because she basically wanted to be “thin and beautiful”, her voice lost a great deal of it’s richness. And there’s a reason Wagnerian singers are usually big, because smaller singers don’t always have the necessary support to sound loud enough (I say this as a skinny singer:-)).
    And as a singer, I thought she sounded spectacular, full stop.

  149. I spit on your spit! I shit on your spit! I fart on your shit! I laugh at your fart! We are friends again, HEY!

  150. That just sounds like we’re doing a can-can line, which would be *awesome* and we should totally do that when you’ve (we’ve?) restored the thin facade of friendship and feel obligated to prove it.*

    Until then, I suggest group hair waxing. And if you’re not hirsute, we can rip strips of duct tape off you.

    * Suggestion for how to handle that:
    “It was all a social experiment!”
    “You can learn not to hate people by reading my book!”

  151. Er . . . Sniper’s suggestion of group kicking sounds like can-canning. Fillyjonk’s proposal sounds . . . different.

  152. She has an amazing voice – I hope she does get the chance to take it to the next level.

    But speaking of buttons, it just seems to me that in many of the articles they make it sound like she’s SO OLD. She’s only 47! Ok, she’s older than the usual 21 year old pop sensations, but it seems to me that many singers of past eras had careers that lasted well beyond that age.

    It’s a button for me because she’s only two years older than I am, and it just reinforces how the world sees me vs. how I see me. Oh well, just one more way for them to underestimate me, which I can often turn to my advantage.

  153. She has grit, guts and a great voice. Like Paul Potts (who found fame on the same show) she deserves to win.

  154. This comment is the one that’s killing me.

    “Be Susan”. I’m going to be thinking that on and off when it gets difficult to be brave and awesome. What Would Susan Do?

  155. Re: the ‘ungroomed’ thing, it’s probably a cultural difference. We Brits don’t tend to do the whole ‘polishing’ thing to the same level as people in the US – I don’t know anyone who has their eyebrows waxed; in fact I don’t think I know anyone who has their legs waxed. Fillyjonk’s perception of Susan is from a US perspective where such things are perhaps much more commonly done.

    It’s a cultural thing. :) I find it interesting.

  156. @Penny: Your comment made me think of a fabulous line from a Moxy Früvous song: “Everyone’s a novelist / and everyone can sing / but no one talks when the TV’s on”.

  157. In short, if you think I turn my phrases awkwardly, you’re welcome to skip my posts

    I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE READING THEM BEFORE? SHIT.

    Re: the ‘ungroomed’ thing, it’s probably a cultural difference. We Brits don’t tend to do the whole ‘polishing’ thing to the same level as people in the US – I don’t know anyone who has their eyebrows waxed; in fact I don’t think I know anyone who has their legs waxed. Fillyjonk’s perception of Susan is from a US perspective where such things are perhaps much more commonly done.

    Knithappy, I think this is probably true about the population as a whole, but I suspect there are very few British people who appear regularly on television or have made it big in the music business who aren’t getting their eyebrows waxed, etc. As someone who lives in Scotland, my intial reaction to her (undyed salt-and-pepper hair, big eyebrows, no makeup) was definitely that she was “ungroomed” compared to the general population. (Which is a whole other societal-conditioning thing I wish didn’t happen, but I’m working on it!)

  158. “I posted this already upthread, but… April D. gets it.”

    Hey thanks! :)

    Halla glass painting sounds amazingly fun. And perhaps a reason folks think it isn’t possible to have so many varied interests is that as Fat persons we’re supposed to just be counting calories all day and obsessing about what we can or can’t eat so how could there possibly be TIME to think of anything else? Just my theory!

  159. (undyed salt-and-pepper hair, big eyebrows, no makeup)

    It strikes me now that part of what makes this, as FJ says, part of “a cheat sheet for “don’t take me seriously” signifiers” is that Boyle’s not *trying* to look younger. It’s a bit like how people always tell fat people what clothes are “slimming.” Yes, you’re fat, but this will signify that you at least know you’re not supposed to be. Yes, you’re middle-aged, but if you put some makeup on everyone will know you *know* you’re middle-aged. Maybe you don’t get your brows done or your hair dyed for your everyday life, but if you know you’re going to be on TV, well…

    This is why her look is so refreshingly different on TV. I’m betting she didn’t look out of place at all at her nephew’s wedding, but on TV she’s a reminder of how done up everyone else onscreen is.

  160. my intial reaction to her (undyed salt-and-pepper hair, big eyebrows, no makeup) was definitely that she was “ungroomed” compared to the general population. (Which is a whole other societal-conditioning thing I wish didn’t happen, but I’m working on it!)

    It’s also interesting how much the idea of Boyle as ‘ungroomed’ speaks to the extra effort that women are supposed to go to in order to appear ‘acceptable’ (or not display the ‘don’t take me seriously’ signifiers, which I think is a fantastic, if somewhat depressingly revealing, way of putting it!). It’s a very good illustration of the fact that, platitudes to the contrary, for a large section of the population it’s *not good enough* for a woman just to be dressed in clothes that are clean and neat, hair brushed, appropriate shoes and stockings, etc. No, because her hair isn’t dyed or straightened, she hasn’t pulled her eyebrows out by the roots (and as an adult-life-long eyebrow waxer, whose brows would probably be about the same size and shape Boyle’s are if I didn’t spend a lot of time and effort on them, let me tell you that shit hurts), she hasn’t gone to the expense, time and effort of acquiring and applying elaborate makeup, she wasn’t considered to be deserving of basic respect and courtesy by the judges and the audience.

    And I’m aware that I sound like I’m high-horsing, so I should probably point out that like Caitlin above, this is also the initial reaction that I had, and I also really wish that I didn’t!

    For what it’s worth, to my eyes it actually looked as though she’d gone to about the same level of self-presentation as the two male judges on the show (clean, pressed, fairly-appropriate clothes, brushed hair), but no further, and I think it’s interesting that I parse this look as ‘normal presentaiton’ on a man, but ‘ungroomed’ on a woman (particularly a woman with thick eyebrows and curly hair).

  161. Sweet Machine, I love your comment about how it’s marginally more okay to be unacceptable in some way if you telegraph that you’re aware of how unacceptable it is. It makes me wonder how we read people who don’t make any efforts to hide those traits–do we read them as accepting themselves as they are? As too lazy to make the effort? Or as too clueless even to realize that they’re transgressing against society’s beauty standards? I suspect there was a ton of the third one going on in Susan Boyle’s case. Especially given that these shows see a lot of people (or at least a few people, who are then played up for the cameras) who really are a bit deluded about their ability to sing. I’m guessing people saw her and thought, wow, she doesn’t even know you’re supposed to pluck your eyebrows to look acceptable for a TV camera? How could she have any realistic idea of her own talent??

    Of course, the cluelessness assumption is basically ridiculous. There are a ton of reasons why people go out “ungroomed”–lack of time, lack of caring what others think, hopelessness that they’ll ever manage to come close to socity’s beauty standards, intention to make a statement. But I think there’s always an impulse to read into such behavior, “Wow, how can they not realize…? They must be so dense.” Which of course makes it that much harder to make a silent statement about how it’s okay to accept yourself as you are without uber-grooming. Aaand now I’m depressing myself, so I’m going to stop talking about it. :)

    Meryt Bast, I love that happily ever after quote! (The one from hours and hours up-post, that is.) I’m thinking it’s not Lewis, since I know all his fiction embarrassingly well, but I’d love to know where it’s from, if anyone can track it down!

  162. Great points, SM and Scarlett! Fodder for a much smarter blog post than I had the resources to write. :)

  163. I’m guessing people saw her and thought, wow, she doesn’t even know you’re supposed to pluck your eyebrows to look acceptable for a TV camera? How could she have any realistic idea of her own talent??

    YES. Much like how people think fat people just don’t realize they’re fat.

  164. Thanks! *blushes*

    Also, I think the quote is from Lord of the Rings. It’s quite near the start, in Rivendell:

    “…What about helping me with my book, and making a start on the next? Have you thought of an ending?”

    “Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant,” said Frodo.

    “Oh, that won’t do!” said Bilbo. “Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?”

    “It will do well, if it ever comes to that,” said Frodo.

    “Ah!” said Sam. “And where will they live? That’s what I often wonder.”

  165. De-lurking for a first comment …

    What struck me about this (and why I loved it) wasn’t the judges’ and audience reaction. It wasn’t about the smackdown for me.

    Rather, it was about her coming to the realization that, although I’m sure she appreciated the applause and positive comments, she didn’t need those things. It was about the current of quiet self-confidence that came through her performance and presence. She decided to go for it, because she felt she had something of value to offer, no matter how it might be received.

    Or, as someone else said more eloquently earlier:

    She reached right inside Piers’ heart — and mine, too — and called us to love our lives no matter how many thousands of ways we are “inadequate.”

    I am grateful. So are those judges.

  166. I gotta agree with Holly, in that I don’t think it was about kicking their faces in. I’ve done that thing where you stand up in front of a lot of people and do something – and it all works (comedy, in my case) and the crowd – it’s not like you’re even wowing them – it’s more like, for that space of time, you bring them with you. You sing, and they fall into the song and they live there in that song with you for the time you are singing it – or you just talk, and the words you say hit them in that spot where they want to come along with you – they almost know what you are going to say before you say it. (If you’ve set the joke up right, they know what that final punchline will be – it’s as inevitable as the moon spinning around thte planet.

    Susan Boyle didn’t kick my face in – she took me with her.

  167. As far as I am aware there is a “pre-screening” of people – if this is true they already knew she had a great voice, and were being disparaging purely so that the “high” would be even greater

  168. I cry at practically nothing (unless it’s one of my kids ill or hurt), but this, this made me weep like a baby. I was so happy for her! At the same time I was wondering, were the idiots around her, all her life, bloody deaf??? I sang in choir for years, and had a good voice too (till a horrid bout of laryngitis killed it), but there were others with the voice of angels and sirens. You were mesmerized when they opened their mouths. *shakes head* We talk about preconceived notions of people, and yes, it’s there, sadly. I think why we all enjoyed this so much is that it was a ‘Wonderful’ surprise! Yes, like those happy Disney movies we all grew up with. So what if the villian is dead beautiful. Anyone can get that by starving themselves, plastic surgery, etc., but a voice like that? You HAVE to be born with it. So, it’s a somewhat in-your-face to all those ‘perfect by society standards’ people. The underdog wins again.

    I also loved watching the reactions of the audience and the judges–as they were reminded that one cannot judge a book by it’s cover. I was reminded immediately of two others who were misjudged thusly–Clay Aiken and Jim Nabors. Both men came across as far from the ideal, but when they opened their mouths and began to sing… Merlin! It was Nirvana!!

    I don’t think that audition was staged at all. If you watch the video someone made of just Simon’s reactions. The man is mesmerized, he even sighs in total contentment, before being taken on a journey of enjoyment by Susan’s beautiful voice. Sure he can be an arse, but, he can be gobsmacked just like the rest of us. Don’t you think, it is few and far between, the voices he hears like hers? A case in point; all the bad acts on American Idol, only a few of which we are subjected to ( I keep the mute button under my thumb). I’m appalled by the way the show exploits and lets these people embarrass themselves. I’m sure they all have far better talents in other areas. Either everyone around them is deaf or they just want the national attention, no matter the cost to their reputation or dignity (I won’t even go into the tantrum-throwers).

    I have a feeling that even with a new do, eyebrow waxing, new wardrobe, etc., Ms. Boyle will retain her feisty personality–and more power to her! I am looking forward to hearing more of that glorious voice, and wouldn’t be surprised to see her on the theatre stage in the near future!

    My daughter, who inherited her voice from both myself and her father (who sang even better than myself), wants to sing professionally. She works hard at it and has been chosen for many solos. I showed her the video and she just kept saying how beautiful Ms. Boyle’s voice is and how happy she was for her. Even if my daughter never becomes a professional singer, I will encourage her to continue to exersize her ‘instrument’ and sing just for her enjoyment and for those around her. It is a gift after all.

    Hmmm… She’d be perfect for a duet with Andrea Bocelli… (another favorite of mine.) I may just go watch her video again, just to relive the warm fuzzies it gave me…

  169. Susan Boyle’s performance has reached the media in my country now. Nearly all of the articles I’ve read focuses not only on her looks, but especially her virginity (no links, because I am arrogantly presuming no one here understands Danish) . The worst of them has a headline that reads: ‘The Virgin Susan Boyle wants to get laid with a guy’. In the bottom of the article, it’s mentioned that she has been asked to appear on Oprah and that Simon Powell wants to publish a record with her.

    Go figure :s

  170. I was thinking of writing about Susan Boyle on my weekend blogpost, but you have stated my thoughts perfectly:
    “Folks, we are all Susan Boyle. Fat or thin, pretty or plain, butch or femme, old or young, abled or not: people will judge us and find us wanting.”
    The endless slapdown, from childhood onward, always and forever the same, judging a book by its cover, whatever that cover may be.
    ( I teach high school and it is incredibly painful to watch this perpetual drama played out year after year!)
    “What makes people stop laughing — or at least, what makes you stop caring if they do? The discovery that something about you is utterly remarkable. Because it is. It might not be an angelic voice or some other showy talent. It might be humble, even difficult for others to notice.”
    That is the core truth of all self-worth. be true to your humble/remarkable self. ignore the laughter, in fact don’t even hear it.
    How much we must all feel the same judgement, when 6 million of us (myself and my cynical husband included), spontaneously applaud and cry at her talent, and maybe even feel a little ashamed ourselves for judging a book by its cover.
    well spoken fillyjonk.

  171. I have to agree with Scarlett that it shouldn’t require remarkable talent in order to merit basic human respect — or rather, that if you’re not conventionally attractive, you have to be remarkable to get respect while beautiful people will just automatically be handed not only respect, but love and admiration as well (although of course for women beauty can backfire in all sorts of fun ways, like being assumed to have reached a certain level only through looks, etc). It’s also interesting if you watch some of the other Britain’s Got Talent videos how no other act (at least that I found) was treated so badly right off the bat — there was even a 60-year-old man who was treated very well until he actually started his supposed dance performance and then just basically swayed and waved his arms around. It did seem pretty staged, though, but it was interesting how nobody in the audience laughed at him when he got up on stage.

    But speaking of buttons, it just seems to me that in many of the articles they make it sound like she’s SO OLD. She’s only 47!

    That’s a good point — she’s actually only a little older than Janet Jackson, if you think about it.

    (The YouTube vid has been viewed almost 6 million times now. In 4 days.)

    It’s more than that now! 27 million on the main one, with a few other more or less identical ones that have a few million hits each.

    This was actually my first time seeing Simon Cowell in action, and even though I’m sure he was much nicer here than he usually is, I can’t believe how much I hated him. The other two judges didn’t seem so bad, but he managed to be a condescending assknob even when he was dispensing praise. Did anybody notice that when Susan started to leave the stage and the other two judges were calling her back, he was motioning for her to come back? Hey dumbshit, if somebody’s back is turned to you, that means they can’t see you. Get it?

  172. I have a related story.

    Early this semester, I was cast in a lead role in a musical at my college – that of Nadia in “bare: a pop opera.” Nadia is a fatty, who sings about how much people are assholes in a spirited song (“plain jane fatass / guilty of swallowing Jenny Craig whole / plain jane fatass / keeping society so ill at ease and loving her role”) – and also about how lonely she is in a sad song (“a quiet night at home / play my siren song / attracting none, my ship just won’t come in”). She provides much of the comic relief but she’s got some very vulnerable moments too. Basically, the best role a fat young actress/singer could ask for, and one that I was able to do a lot with. I’m not angry like Nadia but sometimes I’d like to act out like her when it gets so hard to be fat in a thin world (especially here at a college full of really fit students) – and I got to do that with this role.

    In the days after (the production opened and closed this past weekend), countless strangers have come up to me to say how much they loved the play and my performance, that I stole the show — which has been really gratifying. But I had a really good moment today. I went to yoga class for the first time, in a room full of skinny people and mirrors, and was feeling lumpy and awkward in my tank top (I don’t usually wear them).

    These two girls are looking at me and one of them opens her mouth and says, “Hey, were you in that play this weekend?” And I’m like “Yeah,” and she’s like “You were so awesome! You were incredible! I loved it!” etc. It’s something I’ve been told a lot this week but it was such a good moment to get that compliment — right when I’d been actively feeling down on my body and hating being fat and worrying about people judging me, this girl was so excited about a performance I could never have given if I weren’t exactly the person I am.

    So I’ve been feeling a little like Susan Boyle lately.

  173. I get that it feels like a triumph. It’s the Romy and Michelle triumph or the triumph of the geeky computer kid who grows up to be Bill Gates. It feels good to take someone’s misconceptions and stereotypes and completely turn them on their head. But I don’t think Susan Boyle went on that stage intending to do that. She went onstage to be recognized for her talent, not recognized in SPITE of her appearance.

    Aren’t WE also promulgating a stereotype when we say, “Hey, look! This fat, dowdy, poor lady really showed them! If only we could show the world our secret, inner talents and finally get the respect we deserve!”

    It’s not about having a fantastic singing talent or the ability to make tons of money with your intelligence or “showing them”. It’s about realizing that EVERY person is worthy. Whether they’re fat or thin or short or tall or rich or poor. Every person is worthy and deserving of love and recognition and respect.

    There is far too much emphasis currently on “outward appearance” and far too little on the things that matter – a person’s spirit, a person’s soul, a person’s inner strength – the essential human qualities we all share. If Susan Boyle should be respected for anything, it’s that. And if people like Simon Cowell and whoever else can’t recognize the value of each and every person, talented or not, attractive or not, that’s their prerogative.

  174. So, this is an oldish thread and I don’t know if anyone will spot this comment anyway… but I just saw a segment on ‘Alan Carr Chatty Man’ (UK chat show thingy) where he interviewed Amanda Holden (on of the Britain’s Got Talent judges – also one of the ones who got interviewed on American TV and gushed on about how Susan shouldn’t change and is brilliant). I don’t normally watch it but was having a very late dinner at home on my own and switched on the goggle box. Anyway, so, I kind of suspected AH’s gushing was a front in a bid to get more media coverage herself, etc. This was massively proven just now where they spent almost the entire interview mocking Susan Boyle (or ‘SuBo’ as the called her). Did anyone else see this? I’m going to look for a clip of it online but imagine it won’t be up yet as it was only just on TV.

    They made fun of her having struggled to cope with the ridiculous amount of fame and pressure that was put upon her, made fun of her mental health issues that resulted (including insinuating she was mad and then AH contradicted this by declaring she only thought Susan went into the Priory for ‘a holiday’). They made fun of her accent, they made fun of her dress sense, they made fun of her whole entire appearance and capped it all off by ‘dressing up as her’ to sing a duet of I Dreamed Dream. This involved them sticking fake monobrows on (only AH stuck hers t her upper lip because ‘SuBo had trouble in that area too’), putting on gold dresses, and wigs. There was even more that was objectionable in it. The only reason I watched the whole segment is that I decided immediately I want to write a complaint about it, and needed to see all of it to do so.

    It was just so fucking cruel, and to me, the very fact this was on TV and the audience were laughing their heads off shows how much pretence (maybe fear?) that there was around ‘wishing her well’ when she blew them all away. Like, the people laughing and jibing at her couldn’t cope with someone as wonderful as Susan who wasn’t a 19 year old model… so they mocked her, ridiculed her, and hounded her. All that, and the rest of the media attention (which here at least turned pretty nasty) which was really intense, until she had a collapse. And then as if that wasn’t enough ‘punishment’ she is apparently ‘fair game’ for this kind of cruelty on TV. I’m fucking livid, and so, so sad. Did anyone else see it?

  175. Ok so apparently I am behind with the news… what I just saw was a repeat from Sunday. The only link I can find with a picture is from The Sunx — hardly a ‘quality’ newspaper, but it actually seems to take a pretty critical stance to AH.

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