Everywhere I look this week, all I hear about is Susan Boyle, the British woman who wowed the judges of "Britian's Got Talent" with her performance of "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables. She's got a great voice, a nice story and a wonderfully pleasant, funny personality.
But that's not why we're talking about her. There are lots of great singers with great stories on these sorts of shows. No, we're talking about her because her performance revealed our prejudice, namely that ordinary or unattractive people have nothing to offer. Ms. Boyle, as we all know by know, is not your normal talent/reality show contestant; she's not 20 with pre-whitened teeth, porcelain skin and perfect hair. She is 47 and very ordinary -- like most of us, really. And when we first saw her we assumed she was a joke.
Since then it seems the whole Western world has gotten swept up over her performance. Commentators everywhere are swooning over what Ms. Boyle's performance can teach us. Generally, these musings wander through the innocuous life-affirming daisies of how we're all beautiful and loved by God, we all have gifts, we are all Susan Boyle, etc. All nice, all good.
But most of which avoids the dark and important underbelly of the whole thing: that we consciously or unconsciously conflate value with ability. People are worthy of my attention insofar as they are attractive; otherwise they aren't even on my radar, or they're a set-up for a joke. And rather than challenge that notion, the way Ms. Boyle's performance is being presented actually reinforces it. Why are we paying attention to her, after all? Because she, too, has a talent. She can sing.
I admit, I'm the wet blanket at this post-resurrection sunshine picnic beach party. I just think it's important to see, the story here is not just about Susan Boyle or God or whomever else we might want to use to whitewash things; it's about us. And it's not a pretty picture.
But seeing that is the only way to change.