The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Susan Boyle gets a $1-million 'Indecent Proposal'

OK, if you're reading this blog, you surely are up to date on the saga of Susan Boyle, the homely, "never been kissed" 47-year-old Scottish songstress who became an instant YouTube sensation after wowing the judges on the English show "Britain's Got Talent" with her knockout rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables."

Susanboyle 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? If there were any doubt, it was erased by the press release I saw today from Kick Ass Pictures, an L.A.-based adult entertainment company that is offering Boyle $1 million to lose her virginity on camera.

The company has already set up a website, SusanBoyleXXX.com, where fans can vote for various possible movie titles. If Boyle were to accept the offer, the firm would fly her out to Los Angeles on -- natch -- Virgin Airlines. There's only one hitch -- the offer only lasts for a week. As company President Mark Kulkis so delicately put it: "We want to get this movie shot and out while Susan has the world's attention. Besides, after 47 years of virginity, I'm sure Susan is also anxious to get something cracking as soon as possible." 

Somehow that seems to say it all about the less-than-heartwarming reaction to Boyle's overnight fame. I'm beginning to feel queasy about the whole circus-like atmosphere (and that's even before Boyle is subjected to an interview with CNN's famous sideshow ringmaster, Larry King), but it seems only fair to give the last word to someone closer to Boyle's home. So I leave it to the Guardian's Tanya Gold to make the case for rising up in outrage in a post that began: "Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we?"

She took particular exception to the reaction Boyle got from "Got Talent" judge Amanda Holden, a quasi-actress whom Gold described as having "snail trails of Botox over her perfectly smooth face." Holden applauded Boyle's performance, saying with faux-concern: "I am so thrilled because I know everybody was against you," prompting Gold to snort: " '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?"

Gold concludes that Boyle will probably win "Got Talent," but it won't be a victory for the people who treated her like a freak in a carnival show. "I know that we think that this will make us feel like better people.... But 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."

Boyle does deserve to be heard. Here she is showing off her great pipes, crooning "Cry Me a River."


Photo of Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" from the BBC

 
Comments () | Archives (6)

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This lady should be treated with delicacy. Don't let the media ruin her innocence and I hope she will get an agent who will keep her sensitively and kindly on track. That she should fly to the US and lose her virginity for a million is an obscene offer. I hope she doesn't become corrupted by the fame she now has, as so many others before her have been. She is a sharp reminder of how pathetically obsessed with surface beauty we have all become.
I was saddened to read about Amanda Holdens over botoxing. I notice that she looked more beautiful than ever and if it's cosmetically done then she has gone down in my estimation. Good luck to Susan Boyle and please media don't try and make lots of money out of her and ruin her life rather than make her dreams come true

This lady should be treated with delicacy. Don't let the media ruin her innocence and I hope she will get an agent who will keep her sensitively and kindly on track. That she should fly to the US and lose her virginity for a million is an obscene offer. I hope she doesn't become corrupted by the fame she now has, as so many others before her have been. She is a sharp reminder of how pathetically obsessed with surface beauty we have all become.
I was saddened to read about Amanda Holdens over botoxing. I notice that she looked more beautiful than ever and if it's cosmetically done then she has gone down in my estimation. Good luck to Susan Boyle and please media don't try and make lots of money out of her and ruin her life rather than make her dreams come true

This lady should be treated with delicacy. Don't let the media ruin her innocence and I hope she will get an agent who will keep her sensitively and kindly on track. That she should fly to the US and lose her virginity for a million is an obscene offer. I hope she doesn't become corrupted by the fame she now has, as so many others before her have been. She is a sharp reminder of how pathetically obsessed with surface beauty we have all become.
I was saddened to read about Amanda Holdens over botoxing. I notice that she looked more beautiful than ever and if it's cosmetically done then she has gone down in my estimation. Good luck to Susan Boyle and please media don't try and make lots of money out of her and ruin her life rather than make her dreams come true

Why would you describe her as 'homely'? She's average, normal, an everywoman. She's not homely -- that's harsh. She's a church lady; you'd see her at the bingo hall minding the brownie table and guarding the petty cash box. I see you've bought into this myth of MILFs and cougars promulgated by the networks, gossip magazines, and the porn industry. Shame on you for being unrealistic and judgmental!

Interesting article. I agree if it was a 90210-style good bod good teeth perfect hair girl we wouldn't have been as impressed. Perhaps we're mistaking surprise for impressed.

But it's not called sexism. That would be being surprised because she was a woman. It's more elitism. Perhaps 90210ism.

While I agree with the truth in most of what you've written, I don't agree with the sentiment. It's true--the only reason Boyle has been catapulted to fame is because she's an unattractive woman with an angelic voice and the viewers are captivated by this apparent juxtaposition after being fed lies about complete perfection from the media.

But it isn't necessary to harangue on the bad morals of the audience--people are just enjoying the underdog story, and there's nothing wrong with that. The audience of Britain's Got Talent was also wooed by 6-year-old (and adorable) Connie Talbot and large, plain Paul Potts. Neither of these two were an ugly female, but both were underdogs through age and weight/attractiveness.

And what's wrong with an audience showing appreciation for something that breaks the perfection mold? We should encourage this reaction, not question its selfishness; questioning the secret gratification in every decision would turn up a depressing world indeed.


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