Apr 16, 2009

What if Susan Boyle Couldn't Sing?

CBS has this interview with Susan Boyle:

Watch CBS Videos Online

And from the Huffington Post, a better question asked by writer Dennis Palumbo: What if Susan Boyle couldn't sing?

What would the judges and the audience have thought, and said, had her voice been a creaky rasp, or an out-of-tune shriek? Would she still possess that "inner beauty?" Would we still acknowledge that the derisive treatment she received before performing was callous, insensitive and cruel?

The unspoken message of this whole episode is that, since Susan Boyle has a wonderful talent, we were wrong to judge her based on her looks and demeanor. Meaning what? That if she couldn't sing so well, we were correct to judge her on that basis? That demeaning someone whose looks don't match our impossible, media-reinforced standards of beauty is perfectly okay, unless some mitigating circumstance makes us re-think our opinion?

Personally, I'm gratified that her voice inspires so many, and reminds us of our tendency to judge and criticize based on shallow externals of beauty. What I mean is, I'm glad for her.

But I have no doubt that, had she performed poorly, Simon Cowell would be rolling his eyes still. And the audience would have hooted and booed with the relish of Roman spectators at the Colosseum. And that Susan Boyle's appearance on the show would still be on YouTube, but as an object of derision and ridicule.

Indeed. Someone I know had the audacity to accuse her of lipsynching. I even found myself asking if she could sing anything else. Another friend said that if she wants to win the whole thing they'll have to "clean her up a bit." The world is still a tough audience even after a spectacular performance. And what of the dozens of people who take their turn on the stage and make complete fools of themselves? The issue at hand is not their foolishness but rather their desperation to be noticed. We crave that as humans and some go to unreasonable lengths to get it.

Society does indeed place people in the categories of being "cool" or "uncool" and Susan's dowdy matronly demeanor qualifies her only to the latter status even with her amazing voice and not despite it. It's almost as if we are saying that she's better sing well because she's got nothing else going for her.

Truth be told, Susan had the deep love in her heart that cared for her sick mother for years and has tons of friends at her local pub where her voice often sang karaoke--when she wasn't lulling her mother to sleep with it. Her obvious kindness and friendship seems to surpass most people's. Her mother's death even seemed to throw her into a depression which stilled her voice for some time, but also has now propelled her into stardom.

These are indeed the people that Jesus warns the Pharisees about. He was careful to remind them that while they were people of the law that they had also forgot about the people who society had cast to the sidelines. The poor, the ignored, the lepers and those who had betrayed them like the hated tax collectors were all victims of derision. If Susan Boyle had been part of this society would Jesus have shamed the Pharisees by having her intone just one note?

The point that we need to see is not that Susan is wonderful because she sings, but that Susan is wonderful because she is Susan. She is one of us--a child of God in all her frump and dowdiness. Her voice betrays that to be sure--but our lesson is that we should've seen her worth long before her song.


St Edwards Blog said...

While I think her voice has lovely beyond lovely, I think her real gift is a tremendous amount of dignity.


EL said...

It's a big lesson in humility. It couldn't have come at a better time - the world we live in needed an inspiration.

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