Sunday, 6 November 2011

Kudos to Susan Boyle..

.. She seems to have got herself sorted.

I remember crying me eyes out at her audition, and following her story with mixed feelings.

I was truly worried for her - she seemed such a fragile person, vulnerable and so exposed. People jumped at the chance to take the piss out of her obvious difficulties in behaving appropriately in the limelight, or her total lack of self awareness, or her less than attractive appearance, or her mental weaknesses and temperament.

She was such an easy target, but perhaps that worked both positively and negatively for her. On the one hand, she was ripped apart without mercy by comedians and commentators, who took advantage of the fact that people really didn't 'get' her and were therefore very ready to laugh at her rather than with. On the other hand, that meant she was always in the news and her name was everywhere. It made her "fame" implode, really, so that whatever you thought about her, you certainly knew her name.

Susan was just strange enough to be held up for ridicule, but not so obviously disabled that it would be seen as inappropriate. But should it have been? Would people have been so ready to take the piss if she had been blind, like Andrea Botecelli? or if she had a more visible problem, like having Downs Syndrome? The trouble with Susan was that her difficulties, though absolutely obvious, weren't pinned down to anything that people would feel meant you shouldn't take the piss. So despite it being really obvious that she had learning difficulties and some odd behaviours, and that she struggled with her mental wellbeing, she came in for some horrendous media bullying.

Hearing more about her life just made alarm bells ring even louder. All her life she had been bullied. She had struggled with friendships and relationships, she had relied on and been supported by her parents, and therefore was completely at sea when they were no longer there. Was our hunger for reality TV now going to chew her up and leave her to perish?

Well, it seems not, and I am really heartened by that. I'm heartened that, for whatever reason, people all over the world chose to take her onboard despite all the name calling. They decided to buy her records. They decided to hold her up as a symbol of their dreams. They decided to support her regardless of her weirdness, because that's what they would want people to do for them. And it seems there were bloody loads of people who took this "do as you would be done by" attitude. Loads and Loads of people who were themselves challenged in some borderline way that made them the butt of easy jokes, targets for bullying, vulnerable to the harshness of critics who jump on the slightest imperfections. Loads and loads of people who saw something in Susan and the reactions she got and decided it wasn't fair, and it wasn't how they would behave.

That's got to be a hopeful thing in this day and age. That people will make someone like Susan Boyle their superstar - spend their money on her records instead of some of the other cynical money grabbing pop products on the market.

But I still had niggles - for all that fame, pressure and change, what was SHE getting out of it. From what I'd read and seen, she didn't give a toss for the money. Watching the documentary tonight about how she was coping with the changes, I got a better idea. Seems that the biggest thing she is getting is company. Knowing that there are people out there - Loads and Loads of them as I said earlier - who actually don't think she's a bit weird, who don't see her as ugly, odd, old, fat, thick, different, but instead see her as JUST LIKE THEM!! So, like she said on the doc, the biggest thing she has now, in spades, is kinship. To feel that she's the same, not different. To no longer feel lonely.

Anyway, screw the money she has made, the fact that people around her have made it possible for her to perform, make records, travel, make appearances etc with as little stress and worry for her as possible is a good thing. The fact that its still doable to be a megastar despite having issues like those that have held you back for so long, that is a good good thing.

So, good on you Susan. Here's to you, and those around you supporting and enabling. And here's to a world that buys your records and says "Yes you can" to your dreams. I like it.

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