Sunday, April 19, 2009

Susan Boyle - A modern-day parable

The story of Susan Boyle has made headlines around the world; thanks to You Tube and other agencies of the WWW.
Susan's story and the amount of self-reflection it  has engendered delivers to us a modern-day parable worthy of a Dominical origin. It has nothing to do with  a rags-to-riches modern day fairy-tale or   a feel good story that warms our hearts, the reaction has little to do with what sort of life Susan might have in the future, it is about what it has done to us. Yes, Us!

I have heard the comments: "her voice isn't that good"; "it's just the contrast between her ugly face and her OK voice"; "there are hundreds like her - she just got lucky", but I have also seen grown men cry on seeing the Youtube video of her performance (men who have seen first-hand the horrors of the recent Bush Fires) and I have read some fine articles in the 'quality' newspapers. What the writers of these articles seem to  want to tell us is  that if we bother to look at this global reaction to the Susan Boyle episode and analyze why it has happened, it causes us to re-think the way we judge others.

Writing in The Observer Professor Patricia Williams recalls her own upbringing and the prejudice she encountered for being Black, intelligent and a Woman. On Boyle she says:
Boyle's lesson is not that she is a book whose "cover" deceived people. That's as crass as the supposedly well-meaning comments I sometimes heard growing up: that I might look black on the outside, but I was nice and white inside. Rather, the problem was the audience's self-deception. Dismissing her - or anyone - based on careless expectations about what age or lack of employment supposedly signify is the habit of mind common to all forms of prejudice.
Those who lead us to that understanding open our hearts to the most sublime sense of connection. It's why many of us didn't just cheer when Barack Obama was elected, but wept like babies. And when Boyle sang, we didn't just root for her, we wept for all the slights that ever were.
So Boyle should be able to wear what she wants, whether a canvas feedbag or an evening gown. 
The true measure of her success must be our gratitude for the mirror she held up to us.
Lisa Schwarzbaum,  a writer in the USA  for the magazine Entertainment Weekly which specializes in Celebrities, suggested in an article this week that Boyle's  performance was a powerful reality check. She said that of Boyle:
"She pierced my defences. She reordered the measure of beauty. And I had no idea until tears sprang how desperately I need that corrective."
Let's allow  Susan Boyle to  have the last word in this Post -  This is what she said in an interview with The Times last Tuesday:
 “Modern society is too quick to judge people on their appearances. There is not much you can do about it; it is the way they think; it is the way they are. But maybe this could teach them a lesson, or set an example.”
Her voice has not been wasted all these years, or unheard: She has been singing for God and his Angels.

No comments: