What do you make of the world's most famous late bloomer? I'm speaking, of course, of Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old unemployed spinster (self-described as "short and plump"), whose performance on "Britain's Got Talent" enabled her to become a media darling without making a sex tape, delivering octuplets, or living in O.J. Simpson's guest house.
The down-to-earth Boyle's operatic performance of "I Dreamed A Dream" from Broadway's "Les Miserables" stunned judges and audience alike. She could scarcely have done better with her original plan of stunning judges and audience alike with her operatic performance of "Do The Funky Chicken."
Time magazine described the Boyle hysteria as bigger than the Super Bowl, since the video on the YouTube website has received something like 100 million "hits." To be fair, not all of these are unique viewings. One person may watch repeatedly. In fact, 95 percent of the viewings have been traced to a Mr. Bill Clinton. ("Maybe she'll wear a beret the next time!")
Much of Boyle's charm comes from the fact that she has never been kissed. My friend Bubba takes some of the charm out of it when he feels obligated to point out that it's hard to get a good game of "Spin the Bottle" going when you look like you could bite the lid off the soda bottle and use the bottle's jagged edges for crowd control.
Boyle's tenacious determination to appear on "Britain's Got Talent" was part of a promise to her late "mum" to "do something" with her life. If only her mother could see this culmination of her 35-year quest to be a professional singer. She would probably get all teary-eyed and murmur, "I MEANT do something with your life that DOESN'T put even more money in the pocket of that cretin Simon Cowell!"
It's good that Boyle's breakthrough performance shattered entertainment industry prejudices about beauty and age ("What do you mean Mother Teresa didn't wear fishnet stockings and lip gloss? Who's directing this movie -- me or you?"), but I think the whole Boyle phenomenon has been overanalyzed by media watchers, anthropologists and the like.
Isn't it enough to revel in the neatness of this global sharing of a surprise performance, without enduring psychobabble like "As Kierkegaard would say, the archetypes are tantamount to having the bourgeoisie zeitgeist sublimated by post-modern sangfroid with a dollop of ollyollyoxenfree thrown in for a good measure?" (And that's just an analysis of the hairball Boyle's cat Pebbles coughed up.)
Even Boyle's biggest fans are adept at condescension and backhanded compliments, praising her voice in spite of comments such as "frumpy," "dowdy," and "several double chins." Be glad your own job evaluations aren't so demeaning. ("You did an amazing job of performing an emergency quadruple bypass, considering that Medicare is holding up reimbursement because of that bushy nose hair.")
The Boyle craze presents many lessons, but appreciation of them may be a generational thing. Sure, there's the platitude "You can't judge a book by its cover," but that elicits the youthful response, "Kewl! What's a book???"
I just hope that success doesn't go to the head of the gutsy lady from Scotland. I would hate for her ego to go wild and produce declarations such as "I've been deprived long enough. Let's throw caution to the wind. I'm SUPER-SIZING the sheep intestines! Top of the world, Ma!"
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