April 19, 2009
Reflections on Susan Boyle
Posted by Gordon Smith

Susan Boyle has tied the world in knots. While some shrug, others seeks for a ... ahem ... deeper understanding of the Susan Boyle phenomenon. Take Rod Dreher (please):

Spare a moment to think about the lives of Marilyn Chambers, who had everything, and Susan Boyle, who had nothing – and what they did with what they were given. Chambers, who died at 56 of undetermined causes, was one of the most famous and successful porn actresses of all time.

Then there is Mitch Albom, who compared Susan Boyle to William Hung!

Of course, many commentators are preoccupied with the possibility of a makeover. Amy Wilentz speaks for many:

But instead of changing us, Susan Boyle's explosion into fame is much more likely to change her. Already she has appeared on Scottish television with her hair seemingly darkened and somehow forced into submission. Please please please, Susan! The vintage women of the world beg you: Don't lose a pound. Don't buy a new wardrobe. No highlights! No Botox! Don't touch chin one, or chin two.

Question for those, like Amy, who want Susan to stay just the way she is: did you listen to the words Susan was singing? As you read them below, you should consider that when asked about her choice of song, Susan Boyle said that it expressed the way she was feeling about her life. Here are the lyrics we get in the YouTube clip:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high and life, worth living.
I dreamed that love would never die,
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.
Then I was young and unafraid,
And dreams were made and used and wasted.
There was no ransom to be paid,
No song unsung, no wine, untasted.

But the tigers come at night,
With their voices soft as thunder,
As they tear your hope apart,
And they turn your dream to shame.

And still I dream he'll come to me,
That we will live [our lives] together,
But there are dreams that cannot be,
And there are storms we cannot weather!

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living,
So different now from what it seemed...
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed...

After reading those lyrics, I wonder if those who are calling for Susan not to change aren't being more than a bit selfish. Whose dream would Susan be preserving by staying exactly as we first saw her on that stage?

Same goes for those who ask, "Is that really worth all the fuss?" Worth it to whom?

From the lyrics and the various interviews with Susan over the past week, it appears to me that she is realizing a dream she may have thought was dead. I couldn't be happier for her, and I hope she does whatever she wants with her fame and soon-to-come fortune, paying no more attention to us who are writing about her than she did to the scoffing audience in Scotland.

P.S. In light of the lyrics, Simon's comment afterwards -- "Susan, you are a little tiger, aren't you?" -- couldn't have been more inapt. More like, "Tiger slayer"!

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