Deep Down, Are We Pretty Shallow? Lessons Learned from the Susan Boyle phenomenon — or not…

BACKGROUND

Susan Boyle might put me out of a job – and I couldn’t be more delighted.

In case you were in a coma, Susan Boyle is an unprepossessing Scottish woman with a voice so beautiful it will literally make you weep — and she’s become the biggest thing since sliced bread via YouTube over the past five days. Her glorious performance of  the tremendously challenging ballad “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables on an episode of  Britain’s Got Talent has amassed nearly 13 million hits.

Back the 21st Century P.T. (that’s Pre-Twitter), it would have been the job of a professional communicator, likely of the publicist variety, to hype this woman — to remake her as a more suitable brand by spiffing up her image and promoting her to any and all media outlets.

Instead, one of the things remarkably talented woman has demonstrated — again– the power of social media and how effective the public itself can be in terms of calling attention to something or someone in whom they are interested. Instead via YouTube as well as discussion on Facebook, Twittter and FriendFeed, the woman has – via viral marketing that she herself did not set into motion – become a superstar.

Heck, she’s even generating press for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher because they tweeted about HER performance.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

What it is about her that appeals is that she is (or at least seems) genuine. In this era of people who are Photoshopped and Botoxed to the point of near waxworkdom, this woman looks like an honest-to-goodness 47 -year-old lady. So strong is the expectation that our female talents now must be young, size two lovelies that one wonders if Janis Joplin— an off-kilter beauty with a killer voice — would be able to have a career today.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Perhaps the scariest thing of all is that she has revealed the ugliness in our society’s current attitudes about beauty and talent. Screen goddess Ava Gardner once joked “Deep down, I’m pretty shallow” – what a pity that this may have been revealed as the current dominant mindset for humanity.

Watching the audience’s initial mocking reaction to her demonstrates that. And it makes her victory all the more powerful in this era of narcissistic twit(terer)s.

And it makes me particularly worried about the world my daughter will inherit –  if the response of MTV’s bloggers can be taken as typical- that they could react to her talent in the following callow manner:

It wasn’t until this morning that I got wind of the Susan Boyle craze. Along with the rest of you cynics out there, I have to admit that I was too quick to judge and giggle before she opened her mouth. Not to follow the crowd, but she seriously gave me goose bumps and watery eyes. (I discovered that closing your eyes to her bushy brows and just allowing yourself to hear her voice is the trick.)Her talent is undeniable, regardless of her cat collection and homely frock.

Perhaps there is a future in public relations: Teaching narrow-minded narcissists how to relate as people. Perhaps?

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4 comments so far

  1. wiredinontario on

    Someone asked me when I said she (Susan Boyle) was viral – positive or negative, as if she was sick. Early adopters knew from the day of the performance that this was it. She was the shit.

    People slow to adopt will be molded by our views as PR gurus.

    I’d say to keep the head held high and we’ll make ourselves known and we’ll shape the world the way we want it to be done (positively)!

    Keep up the good thoughts, Abbs…

  2. abbymartin on

    Paul:

    So lovely to see you posting here! Thank you for your comment and your wonderful, positive attitude. If we can make a small corner of the world a more positive place through our work, that would be awesome.

    Be well & happy.

    AM

  3. Ironic on

    Sorry, sis, but I disagree.
    What’s the hot news now? Look at her makeover.

    As I told you before, I really wouldn’t be surprised if we’re all being had. We’ll make this woman look hideous… then “clean her up” and everyone will watch and talk about her. And then…to help American Idol’s ratings which are slipping, we’ll put her on. Bingo, bango, bongo…everyone makes money.

    Maybe I’m a cynic, but I’m not hearing anything about the idea of it’s ok for her to look like this. Hence the makeover. Welcome to the new millenium.

    • abbymartin on

      Alas, I think you may be right. [And, if so, whoever set this up is pretty savvy.]

      I’d like to think this is not the case, but we know I can be a tad naive.

      At least her make-over so far is just having had her hair dyed and her eyebrows trimmed. If she suddenly gets botoxed, spray-tanned and tummy tucked, I may give up on humanity completely.

      So it goes….


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