Britain’s Got Talent Potts-Boyler Narrative

If Susan Boyle doesn’t win Britain’s Got Talent 2009 I will eat my hat.  Click the pic for some unfettered joy:

susan

It will have escaped no-one’s notice that the narrative of Susan Boyle is very similar to that of Paul Potts: the undiscovered talent, sitting dormant until middle-age.  Both tell stories of a mundane life, and both defy the judges’ expectations in the most satisfying manner.  Simon Cowell is the wicked-witch and faery Godmother, rolled into one: he is the cynic to be flummoxed, and also the bestower of fame.

Its a double-delight to watch Susan and Paul ‘turn’ the crowd in the process.  Unlike the cool kidz and the prettyboys who expect the mobb’s support (until the proven otherwise), Boyle and Potts have to win over a crushing cynicism.  And it is that sweet, sweet triumph which makes these clips so throatblockingly beautiful.

A third delight is the fact that these performances emerge from a TV format that, elsewhere, depends on precisely the cynical, sing-by-the-numbers yawnery that usually serves to suppress people like Susan and Paul.  This is clearly a feature of the auditioning process, which takes place with a live audience in situ.  Contrast this with the X-Factor, which is auditioned in lonely, acoustic-poor conference rooms.  With just Simon, Louis, Sharon and Dannicherylpaula in attendance, there is little to rein in the instinct to follow the tested formula, and the whole ungodly affair is quickly homogenized.  While token fat and/or middle-agers do get through to the second round, its generally a highly conventional face-voice combination that will win X-Factor.  The opposite seems to be true with BGT, which strikes me as much more interesting and obviously better.

Also, expect to see a Paul Potts/Susan Boyle duet album and co-tour, sometime in 2009/10. They complement each other in appearance and demeanor, and as an added bonus, their surnames could not be better suited.  Their story could be a great little Potts Boyler.  If I was a more cynical I person I might even hint at a Chart Throb/Wag The Dog style conspiracy… but watching that clip of Susan, again, drains me of all such heresy.

2 Replies to “Britain’s Got Talent Potts-Boyler Narrative”

  1. I hadn’t seen this before, Rob, I’m really glad you posted it.

    I think “cynicism” is too nice a word though. It’s prejudice pure and simple. The only reason anyone was surprised was because they had pre-judged her very negatively on the basis of her appearance. I found it disturbing that those two male judges weren’t even ashamed of themselves. Like they haven’t realised that their shock says something pretty horrible about them.

    I think this is just an example of how the majority of people think it’s ok to treat people who don’t fit into the narrowly-prescribed vision of an acceptable appearance. Depressing. But like you say, it’s also uplifting, because the more Potts and Boyles that get onto our screens, the weaker the perceived correlation becomes between appearance and value, and the less shallow we are forced to become.

    The less of a strangle-hold that middle-aged male-gaze gate-keepers have on who gets onto the stage, the better it will be for everyone. What is heart-warming is seeing that self-perpetuating strangle-hold of shallowness shown up for what it is.

  2. I agree with Claire and was so pleased to be prompted to watch this. Like Claire I was a bit surprised to hear Piers say how surprised he was and as Claire says why would he be so surprised unlsss he had made some prejudgement and that could only be on the basis of her appearance. But there is something so uplifting lovely in seeing her truimph. It made me cry.

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