Saturday, May 30, 2009

We Should All Trust

I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust too.
-John Masefield, English Poet Laureate

This is a political/social blog. Therefore it should come as no surprise to anyone that all this time I've effortlessly avoided mentioning Susan Boyle, the singing sensation from the UK's Britain's Got Talent. Every other day for countless weeks, Susan Boyle's frightening puss would be the lead story on my Yahoo index page and the more that was written about her the less I wanted I read about her or hear her sing.

Then I read tonight that she'd lost after the world entertainment press had been fawning over her as if she had already won Britain's Got Talent, American Idol and the Nobel Peace Prize at the same time and I was surprised to read that Boyle had lost. Well, now that the show's finale is a matter of historical record, I took a look at her debut on the show.

I have to admit, I was floored by her voice. For the judges and audience alike, it was an object lesson as to the danger of cynicism, a cynicism that hadn't been so effectively thrown out of the theater since the audition of Clay Aiken. Hearing Susan Boyle's voice was akin to seeing beautiful, perfect cherubs flying unscathed and unharmed from a horrendous wreck.

How could such a voice come out of such a puss, from a woman with all the muliebrity of an Albanian truck driver? It was the mismatch of the ages. Beautiful voices are supposed to come from beautiful people like Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey and Rihanna, not from frumpy 47 year-old single, unemployed women with cats. Susan Boyle, after her ambitions to make it big were met with mirth, was supposed to sing offkey and be booed off the stage in her 15 seconds of infamy.

She's not supposed to make us cry. She certainly wasn't engineered by nature to inspire yet that's exactly what she did.

So I'm writing about Susan Boyle tonight and her courageous bid for the biggest prize on Britain's Got Talent. The press hasn't always been nice to her. She'd had her share of critics and scandalous headlines even after she'd proven her chops and earned her right to stay on that show from the second she first opened up her mouth in song.

Susan Boyle proved to be an inspiration to people who don't fit the mold, don't look, act or play the part, a latter-day Ugly Duckling turned into a somewhat more aesthetically-pleasing if not beautiful Swan with the magic of a makeover. On a deep, psychological level, her homeliness and its improbable marriage to an amazing voice gave a weekly lesson to those who couldn't help but tune in that many of our preconceptions are wrong, that the public is almost always, if not always, in the wrong.

That sometimes the ugly and the weird do bring more to the table than the beautiful people, the 2009 Miss Californias of the world, that sometimes we have to rethink our notions of what ought to succeed in life.

Susan Boyle brought millions to tears perhaps because they saw in her their own failed aspirations, those who were convinced to give up because they didn't fit prefab molds made by cosmetics conglomerates, public image consultants and our own largely superficial and idiotic notions of what perfection and desirability is. Susan Boyle had gone much farther than nature had originally intended and didn't listen to those who said "You're too ugly", "You're too ungainly" or "You're not our type."

Boyle had been under tremendous pressure and almost walked off the show because of our stubborn stupidity as a species even when her talent was undeniable. But through it all, she'd met adversity with good humor, grace and aplomb, as should we all, and ultimately gave her critics the finger. By doing so, she gave many of us who'd despaired of finding love, success or just a baseline of acceptance of our idiosyncratic weirdness the chance to draw one more firm breath and hope that we, too, will buck the odds.


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