Sunday, April 26, 2009

The First Few Notes of a Song

In recent days I, like so many others, have struggled to hold back tears as I sat in front of my computer screen mesmerized by the video of Scotland’s Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. An ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift, she accomplished a feat I would not have dreamed possible. In the first few notes of a song, her lovely voice effectively silenced the snarky, arrogant attitude that seems to permeate the culture of fame. In the first few notes of a song, she drew a technicolour line between talent and celebrity, placing both in sharp contrast and illustrating clearly how rarely the two intersect. Just why was everyone in that audience so certain this woman was incapable of such a performance?
Simple answer, really. She didn’t look the part.

So often these days it seems appearance trumps everything else. In Hollywood, apparently, there is such a sparse folder of acceptable definitions for beauty that people are willing to do just about anything to make certain their visage falls within the corporately validated range. True individuality, and the courage to retain it, seems rather thin on the ground at the moment. A naturally aging face or a bit of a crooked nose, both of which I happily own, are often difficult to find in the halls of celebrity.

Perhaps this is part of the reason that dear Susan Boyle has so transfixed the world. She has challenged the current, paperthin definition of beauty and has, just perhaps, made us wonder how many others just like her are out there in the crowd. How many talented, brilliant, remarkable souls are casually dismissed for appearance sake, and just how much wonder has our culture been denied as a result? I have often heard it said that Abraham Lincoln could never have been elected president in this media driven day. He just would not look the part.
A shudder worthy thought, to be sure.

It is quite impossible to fathom the white hot glare of the lights now focused on Ms. Boyle or what effect that glare will have. Indeed, I have recently read that she has undergone a makeover of sorts.
I do hope those blazing lights do her no harm.
And I hope she gets to sing for the Queen.

Painting above: The Mirror of Venus by Edward Burne-Jones