Twitter and Facebook were bulging at their seams with links to the thing everyone had to watch, and I was racing to YouTube to find out what was setting the Internet ablaze. It was that seminal video – which we all have seen by now – that performance of a lifetime: Susan Boyle’s “unexpected” and amazing singing on the reality TV show “Britain’s Got Talent.” What isn’t widely known is that Susan Boyle, although gifted in singing, isn’t the underdog we all wish she was after all. In fact, she is more than that: she is a money-making scheme set up by Simon Cowell. In other words (I know I am going to be hated for this): a fraud.
Over 100 million of us have seen it by now and can recall the details. Out walks a frumpy older lady with thick, unruly eyebrows, muddled hair, and a sagging chin. We find out through later interviews that she is a Scottish Catholic woman who has admittedly “never been kissed” and who a lives lonely existence at home with her cat. We are led to believe that the poor woman just never had a chance. Susan is the true underdog, who has wowed the crowd and given everyone hope with her near-perfect singing of ” I Dreamed a Dream.” The judges were shocked: they had never seen anything like it.
We all know the truth of the situation – reality shows are hardly ever real, and things on TV are not to be taken at face value. But many times we want things to be true so much that we suspend our disbelief and completely buy into what they are selling us. Believing in what you see on TV is always the wrong idea. Each of us knows that talent-searching reality shows make you try out before they put you on. They knew Susan Boyle was coming.
We must be skeptical of her background and appearance as well. It has come out in the last couple of weeks that she has been kissed. She has had professional training and even appeared on a charity album in 2000. Her frumpy hair has been traded in for a more normal look. In fact, I feel that the shows producers might have dressed her down on purpose.
As for the production of the clip, things went all too perfectly, much unlike reality. How was the show able to obtain so much footage of her waiting in line with the hundreds of other contestants? Were there really a hundred camera crews? No, the show’s producers carefully watched her. How did the judges time their perfect responses? They knew what they were about to see.
Though she is very talented, this is simple marketing. Our love for the underdog is such a natural and compelling response that we leave behind simple rationality in awe of the story the producers push on us. Simon Cowell should evermore be respected for the business genius that he is. He has crafted the perfect underdog, a women with no training who has, thanks to Simon Cowell, finally made it.
Susan Boyle glorifies all that we want to believe. We all want to know that it is never too late and that people who have such enormous gifts may just go unnoticed because as a society we are unable to look deeper than mere appearances. Give our society more credit, so that when you go out to buy her new album — as millions of you will—buy it because of her years of hard work and beautiful voice, not because of her fabricated story.