Thoughts on the Susan Boyle phenomenon

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I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon the Susan Boyle video – was it Twitter, Google or some RSS feed? But I am glad that I saw it. In case you’ve not heard of it, here goes: a week ago Susan Boyle was an unemployed 47-year-old, single, cat owner who had never been kissed. Living in Blackburn in western Scotland, this volunteer church worker is not your stereotypical talent show participant.

EU BRITAIN SINGING SENSATION Then a video clip of her performance on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ makes its way to YouTube. Within a week, it got over 2.5 million views and she is the talk of microblogs, blogs, news sites and talk shows. Check out the video, if you haven’t already – its worth every minute.

‘Goose flesh stuff’ and ‘made me misty-eyed’ are common reactions to the video. Ditto for me. What makes this such a wonderful, feel good moment?

1. Firstly, everyone loves an underdog. In countless movies, what gets the audience going is when the unlikely hero gives it back to the bad guys. Even in sport, India’s 1983 World Cup victory was doubly sweet because we weren’t even considered contenders for the title. And Susan Boyle was the underdog simply because she didn’t fit into the pre-conceived notions of a talent show participant.

2. The magic of a reality show. Forget the staged drama and fake tears of reality shows for a moment. The sniggering audience, rolling of eyes, the condescending tone of the judges are all perfect set ups for what is to come. And watching those very people stand up and applaud made it great television.

3. The power of simplicity: maybe that’s too simplistic a word. The unassuming self-confidence, the obvious talent, the courage, her joyful attitude – all of it came through shining. No wonder it touched hearts and moved millions. Maybe it was her selfless attitude to life, being a church volunteer – that gives her this amazing attitude.

What was that about first impressions and lasting impressions? And not judging a book by it’s cover? It reminded us all that we are prisoners of our own pre-conceived notions about the ‘others’. About how only a certain kind is fit to do certain job. Us and them.

What did you make of it all?


It also makes us realize the power of new media – which can turn an obscure, everyday person into a worldwide sensation in a matter of days. Also good to know that there’s no attempt to give Susan a makeover and let her identity be.

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    • Thanks for dropping by Viren. As I said, I don’t know if it was a link from Twitter or some random RSS feed.

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