erik lundegaard

Goldstein Disappoints on Susan Boyle

I tend to like Patrick Goldstein’s posts for “The Big Picture” blog on the L.A. Times site. He has a matter-of-factness that’s refreshing in this noisy online world. He’s got a good recent take on journalists in cinema, for example, and gets quickly to the heart of what’s wrong with “State of Play”:
The film makes a halting attempt to introduce a contemporary storyline -- his paper has an annoying young blogger on the same story -- but instead of pursuing the tension in that relationship, the film simply turns the character (played by Rachel McAdams) into a perky gofer for Crowe's big-shot journalist.
Why it was disappointing to read his take on Susan Boyle, whose soaring breakthrough on “Britain’s Got Talent” is currently not just the most-seen video on YouTube this month, but, because of various copycat uploaders, it's the three-most-seen videos on YouTube this month — with 37 million views, 10 million views and 7 million views respectively. And counting. Other videos of her occupy, currently, 6th, 7th, 10, 11th and 12th places as well.

Everyone has an opinion on this phenomenon — including, yes, me — but Goldstein’s seems odd. For one thing he repeats an offer from a pornographic site not worth repeating. But he also writes this:
What has made her sudden celebrity so fascinating -- and disturbing -- is that it seems thoroughly intertwined with the notion that, to be blunt about it, an ugly woman can have a beautiful voice.
If a petite, pretty in pink 20-year-old had done a marvelous job of warbling the song, would anyone have made such a big fuss about it? Clearly not. Would the Web be so full of wonder if the singer were a chubby guy who hadn't had a date in a decade? In a word: No. So for all our delight in Boyle's triumph, isn't the fuss over her a compelling example of our society's rampant sexism?

First, I’m not sure why her sudden celebrity is particularly disturbing. I would assume the success of all of those pretty women who can’t sing — and we know who they are — is even more disturbing, yes?

As for the sexism issue: Hasn’t Mr. Goldstein heard of Paul Potts, who won “Britain’s Got Talent” two years ago, and whose initial appearance on the show — shy and dentally challenged but then busting out into a beautiful operatic voice — is, at the moment, still ahead of Ms. Boyle’s on YouTube, with 47 million views? (For the record, neither his nor her video is in YouTube’s all-time top 25, and both are far, far away from the most viewed video: Avril Levigne’s “Girlfriend,” with 118 million hits. At least she can sing...ish.)

A more intriguing area of inquiry into the phenomenon may be the set-up itself: an individual standing before three often bored or jaded judges, who are either slowly or quickly bowled over by the talents of that individual, who is a stand-in for all of us. Who knew, in other words, that “Flashdance” would be so influential for something other than torn sweatshirts and legwarmers?


Posted at 07:08 PM on Tue. Apr 21, 2009 in category Culture  
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Mister B wrote:

Who's Susan Boyle?
Comment posted on Wed. Apr 22, 2009 at 09:59 AM

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