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Susan Boyle and people’s prejudices

April 22, 2009

Hi, mates,


I’ve chosen this article about Susan Boyle as my assignment. If you still don’t know who she is, you can read the article Susan Boyle: a dream come true, also on The Guardian . And if you want to see her singing, you can join her admirers and see her performance on YouTube ; by the way, I’ve prepared an interactive cloze-exercise

with the lyrics of the song . So, my proposal for this week is:

read the article below

watch the video (see below, Marisa’s post) and do my interactive cloze test with the lyrics of the song (click on image):



These are some questions I’d like to ask you:


1) Why do you think  she has become so famous?

2) Do you agree with the author’s assessment about the different way the  media treat men and women? As a comparison, you can see the first performance of another supposed underdog, Paul Potts, on YouTube too




3) Do you know Risto Mejide, from OT? Why do you think cynical presenters are so popular? Let’s see it this way: if she hadn’t got a beautiful voice, would it have been fair laughing at her?

4) What do you think about her future?

It wasn’t singer Susan Boyle who was ugly on Britain’s Got Talent so much as our reaction to her

Tanya Gold

The Guardian, Thursday 16 April 2009

Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we? On Saturday night she stood on the stage in Britain’s Got Talent; small and rather chubby, with a squashed face, unruly teeth and unkempt hair. She wore a gold lace dress, which made her look like a piece of pork sitting on a doily. Interviewed by Ant and Dec beforehand, she told them that she is unemployed, single, lives with a cat called Pebbles and has never been kissed. Susan then walked out to chatter, giggling, and a long and unpleasant wolf whistle.

Why are we so shocked when “ugly” women can do things, rather than sitting at home weeping and wishing they were somebody else? Men are allowed to be ugly and talented. Alan Sugar looks like a burst bag of flour. Gordon Ramsay has a dried-up riverbed for a face. Justin Lee Collins looks like Cousin It from The Addams Family. Graham Norton is a baboon in mascara. I could go on. But a woman has to have the bright, empty beauty of a toy – or get off the screen. We don’t want to look at you. Except on the news, where you can weep because some awful personal tragedy has befallen you.

Simon Cowell, now buffed to the sheen of an ornamental pebble, asked this strange creature, this alien, how old she was. “I’m nearly 47,” she said. Simon rolled his eyes until they threatened to roll out of his head, down the aisle and out into street. “But that’s only one side of me,” Susan added, and wiggled her hips. The camera cut to the other male judge, Piers Morgan, who winced. Didn’t Susan know she was not supposed to be sexual? The audience’s reaction was equally disgusting. They giggled with embarrassment, and when Susan said she wanted to be a professional singer, the camera spun to a young girl, who seemed to be at least half mascara.

She gave an “As if!” squeak and smirked. Amanda Holden, the female judge, a woman with improbably raised eyebrows and snail trails of Botox over her perfectly smooth face, chose neutrality. And then Susan sang. She stood with her feet apart, like a Scottish Edith Piaf, and very slowly began to sing Les Miserables’ I Dreamed A Dream. It was wonderful.

The judges were astonished. They gasped, they gaped, they clapped. They looked almost ashamed. I was briefly worried that Simon might stab himself with a pencil, and mutter, “Et tu, Piers, for we have wronged Susan in thinking that because she is a munter, she is entirely useless.” How could they have misjudged her, they gesticulated. But how could they not? No makeup? Bad teeth? Funny hair? Is she insane, this sad little Scottish spinster, beloved only of Pebbles the Cat?

When Susan had finished singing, and Piers had finished gasping, he said this. It was a comment of incredible spite. “When you stood there with that cheeky grin and said, ‘I want to be like Elaine Paige’, everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now.” And it was over to Amanda Holden, a woman most notable for playing a psychotic hairdresser in the Manchester hair-extensions saga Cutting It. “I am so thrilled,” said Amanda, “because I know that everybody was against you.” “Everybody was against you,” she said, as if Susan might have been hanged for her presumption. Why? Can’t “ugly” people dream, you flat-packed, hair-ironed, over-plucked monstrous fool?

I know what you will say. You will say that Paul Potts, the fat opera singer with the equally squashed face who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2007, had just as hard a time at his first audition. I looked it up on YouTube. He did not. “I wasn’t expecting that,” said Simon to Paul. “Neither was I,” said Amanda. “You have an incredible voice,” said Piers. And that was it. No laughter, or invitations to paranoia, or mocking wolf-whistles, or smirking, or derision.

We see this all the time in popular culture. Do you ever stare at the TV and wonder where the next generation of Judi Denchs and Juliet Stevensons have gone? Have they fallen down a Rada wormhole? Yes. They’re not there, because they aren’t pretty enough to get airtime. This lust for homogeneity in female beauty means that when someone who doesn’t resemble a diagram in a plastic surgeon’s office steps up to the microphone, people fall about and treat us to despicable sub-John Gielgud gestures of amazement.

Susan will probably win Britain’s Got Talent. She will be the little munter that could sing, served up for the British public every Saturday night. Look! It’s “ugly”! It sings! And I know that we think that this will make us better people. But Susan Boyle will be the freakish exception that makes the rule. By raising this Susan up, we will forgive ourselves for grinding every other Susan into the dust. It will be a very partial and poisoned redemption. Because Britain’s Got Malice. Sing, Susan, sing – to an ugly crowd that doesn’t deserve you.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2009 6:29 pm

    Whoa, for an article decrying prejudice that reporter only proves she’s is far worse than those people in the audience.
    Even if it was unfair to doubt that she could sing as well as Elaine Page, it would be anybody’s reaction and nobody would have anticipated she could be better.
    And talk about exaggerating the facts about the judges looking ashamed to have presumed another failed wannabe. How many people must they have seen without a singing talent like that.
    ‘The biggest shock ever’ Piers Morgan said, why should we think he wasn’t being honest.
    Good luck with the assignment Jejim, I just hope you can give a more rounded assessment than Tanya Gold.

  2. almanusa permalink
    April 23, 2009 6:58 pm

    Lately there are many complaints about the tendency to avoid people that we can see as a marvelous sing star, or actor/actress, fashion model or cover girl, … These are the stereotypes our society has created. So, when a person like Susan Boyle or Paul Potts try to show their musical skills they use to have more problems than if they were talls, attractive/handsome, …. because it is better for the record company to sell cd’s, dvd’s, all the tickets in a concert, …

    On the other hand, this stereotypes carry another terrible situacion which is the one of everybody who is ill of bulimia and anorexia. Today there is a news in the paper Las Provincias which says that there have been an increase of the cases of both illnesses at early ages, mainly between nine and ten, and all of this because children wants to be a top model, an important football player, a cover girl, ….

    The media has a great deal of blame. Everyday we can see adverts and commercials on magazines, papers and TV with a huge quantity of sexual contents and young rich people. Children only wants to be as this destructive publicity says that we should be, as our society wants.

  3. María del Campo permalink
    May 4, 2009 1:51 pm

    Thanks Jesus for this interesting topic for us to discuss.

    1.-Why do you think she has become so famous?

    As far as I am concerned I think Susan Boyle has become so famous not only because she has a wonderful voice, but also because nobody expected it at the beginning of her performance.
    As the author says, nowadays people aren’t used to hear good singers if they aren’t beautiful or handsome. It seems to me that we have forgotten how to listen to the music and we pay more attention to the physical appearance of the singers instead the quality of their voices. Perhaps if Susan Boyle had been a pretty and young girl, we wouldn’t have watched her at news as we did.

    2.-Do you agree with the author’s assessment about the different way the media treat men and women? As a comparison, you can see the first performance of another supposed underdog, Paul Potts, on You Tube too.

    I don’t agree with the author. In my opinion I don’t think there’s a difference between the treatment men and women are given by the media. I have watched Paul Potts performance on You Tube and I think his behaviour before singing was more serious than Susan’s was and probably this explains the reaction of the people. Needless to say that sometimes we watched in this shows that everybody is allowed to sing and sometimes it can be comical.

    3.-Do you know Risto Mejide, from OT? Why do you think cynical presenters are so popular? Let’s see in this way: if she hadn’t a beautiful voice, would it have been fair laughing at her?

    As far as I am concerned I think cynical presenters are popular because there are people who wouldn’t see OT if Risto hadn’t been at, but they watch because they expect he will say something to the participants that they think too but they don’t have the possibility to tell them and if we would have the chance perhaps we wouldn’t say because it isn’t politically correct. What is more I think TV channels know people hate or love Risto and it’s a very easy way of going up the share.
    In my opinion if she hadn’t a beautiful voice, it wouldn’t have been fair laughing at her, we shouldn’t laugh at anybody because we don’t like when someone laughs at us.

    4.-What do you think about her future?

    In my opinion she will probably record a LP or she will work in a musical as `Les Miserables’ or `The Phantom of the opera’. To sum up whatever she will do she will succeed, take it for granted.

  4. janea08 permalink
    May 11, 2009 8:29 pm

    Susan Boyle

    Having some of my readings comments waiting to be written this weekend I listened this morning in the radio (Sunday) something about the fake of Susan Boyle performance in Britain TV program two weeks ago. I must confess that I was a bit uncomfortable with the subject because when I saw her for the first time in TV news I thought she was behaving in such a strange way I couldn’t believe it isn’t all made up. I noticed some imposture in what she did and said, and honestly I didn’t find her voice so special. And finally this morning I found the explanation.

    Apparently managers of TV wanted to repeat the Paul Potts success with Susan, having her been told about how to face the performance. Then with him it seems everything happened were spontaneous and amazing. Even the voice was so extraordinary that all became a blockbuster. Different than now when it was all carefully calculated, since the song, to the woman. And the most terrible of it is that she was chosen precisely for her ugly appearance, being emphasised it with all the elements for her transforming in a ridiculous one, for making her performance in a polemic one.

    All was done with the purpose of makings a fairy tale for the audience. And the more ridiculous and unbelievable was the performer the most successful would be the fairy tale. Unfortunately those days most programs’ managers are working only with that purpose. Specially talking about all this competition programs with a jury. If all this would be true I feel very sorry for Susan decision. From my point of view this kind of choice is not going to help Susan in any way.

    About the questions, I want to point that in general media don’t treat the same way men and women, but usually respects people who try to be honest, and don’t trade with their dignity. Just think about celebrities, local or international, there are people that are always around the media, and others who don’t. Concerning this competition programs with a jury or realities I don’t like it at all. I appreciate very much privacy and I don’t interested in knowing about the details of people life I don’t know.

    Finally I would like recommending to you a Bertrand Tavernier film that in 1980 already explained the way the society would become in a voyeurism society. Besides “La mort in direct” is a beautiful film with a nice performance by a young Harvey Keitel and a mature Romy Schneider.

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