The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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

April 17, 2009 |  5:21 pm

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,, 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