The Beautiful Susan Boyle

by Elaine BealeEU BRITAIN SINGING SENSATIONIt’s a funny world we live in.  A chubby forty-seven-year-old woman who lives alone with her cat and admits she’s never been kissed stands on a stage and proves that she can sing—beautifully. And she becomes an overnight worldwide sensation.  If you haven’t heard about Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent by now, you’re not living on planet earth.But why all the attention?I’m not asking this question because I doubt the possibility of a middle-aged woman who doesn’t fit our contemporary notions of attractiveness actually having a gorgeous singing voice.  I’m asking it because I wonder, why the hell is everyone so amazed?Oh, right, I remember.  We live in a culture that defines women by their appearance.  A culture that, while it has kidded itself that we’ve got gender equality, that women have been “liberated,” deeply believes that a wide-hipped, double-chinned, middle-aged woman could not possibly impress anyone.  Did you see those rolled eyes, hear the sniggers, watch Simon Cowell’s even-more-contemptuous-than-usual sneer as Susan Boyle stepped onto the stage?  Of course she was going to make a fool of herself, everyone thought.  And isn’t that a huge part of the entertainment of these godawful shows?  Being able to laugh at the “old” and the “ugly” who have the audacity to think that they might actually have talent?But Susan Boyle did have that audacity.  She also has incredible talent.  We watch that video of her and we are shocked.  Because, after all, how could an “ugly” middle-aged woman have something to offer the world?  Wow, how cynical are we?Or is it that we’re also feeling validated? Energized? Loving the way that Susan Boyle is saying a big “fuck you!” to this culture that requires women entertainers, actors, performers to adhere to a ridiculously narrow (actually impossible) set of standards in order to have success?I have every expectation that this lovely media/entertainment/body fascist industry will ingest and reshape her (literally and figuratively).  But I also hope with an enormous passion that they won’t.I’m almost the same age as Susan Boyle.  I’m turning 47 this year. And I am so freaking tired of being bombarded day in, day out by media images of women who look nothing like my ordinary-looking self.  I’m sick of being fed impossible botoxed, plastic-surgeryed, airbrushed, photoshopped pictures of women on billboards, in magazines, on television and in movies.  I’m sick of seeing middle-aged women on talk shows praised for “how good” they look (i.e. how effectively they’re battling the aging process) while their real talents and accomplishments play second fiddle.I, for one, want to see all the Susan Boyle’s of the world get onstage and sing their little hearts out.Elaine's blog: