hal tweets ·11:28 AM

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Susan Boyle’s Got Peep

Posted by Hal

So what’s the one thing we know about overnight Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle? What’s the one fact that resonates with all of us? Answer: It’s that she’s NEVER BEEN KISSED. This is the source of our fascination with her. We relate to this, it makes us feel better about ourselves - if she can make it, anyone can make it! The fact that she is homely just makes the story - her story - even better. If she was pretty, she’d be just another performer. The back story of her personal life would be typical and un-exciting. But here’s a person who is plain in every way, a person so plain she’s NEVER BEEN KISSED and yet now the whole world knows her name. That’s what we like about her, and that’s why she is really a great peep (as opposed to pop) culture figure.


Consider this piece in the Washington Post, one of many running all over the world. The piece goes out of its way to keep the myth alive. It paints a nice caricature of a lonely lovely lady – a Hollywood caricature in every possible way – except that it happens to be true. Boyle really is the youngest of nine children, she really is a 47 year-old unemployed, slightly chubby woman who’s never dated and never married and never been kissed, who lives alone with her cat, who, until recently, was the subject of mockery by the village youth.

Who is Susan Boyle and what goes on her mind and how is her insta-fame going to help or hinder her in the coming days and years? On that, the piece gives us nothing. But on the cliche of Susan Boyle, anti-celebrity celebrity for the Peep age, the article is resplendent with quote after quote from the towns people, all too willing to weigh in: “We’re all tired of 23-year-old models trying to sing on TV. Susan is a 47-year-old spinster who, by God, can sing,” Michael Nicolson, 64, the bingo caller at the community center where Boyle volunteers, tells us.  “She’s an ordinary, run-of-the-mill lady,” says Joe Stronach, the bowling club office (whatever the hell a bowling club officer is). “She doesn’t have great looks, but God gave her a wonderful voice.” Susan Boyle’s Got PEEP baby! Boy does she ever.

The move from pop culture to peep culture opens the door to all kinds of insta-celebrity random moments. When you are deriving your entertainment from the lives of other ‘ordinary’ people, it doesn’t really matter what their talent necessarily is, what matters is that there’s a peep back story we can all buy into. In the case of the Spinster Songster, it’s not the song and the singing that interests and amuses us, it’s the folksy story, it’s the life that seems tailor made for reality tv and its many peep spin offs. They set her up to be a loser but she proved them wrong. And now the pudgy village spinster with the learning disability is crazy famous. She’s like a movie, only she’s real.



There are -7- Comments.

1 count

But is she really real? Am I alone in not believing in so-called reality TV? There’s nothing about any of it that feels unscripted, uncontrived. I don’t have/watch TV, which may be my problem. So when I see it, the reality stuff feels as staged as acting conventions from the 40’s. I believe in Captain Adama from BSG more than in Susan Boyle. I’m not saying her story ain’t sweet. It is. But REAL?

2 count

natalie! maybe my ironic conclusion to the post didn’t come through…i was trying to say that susan boyle is many things, but the one thing she definitely isn’t is “real”. in fact, the world of peep is the ultimate postmodern breakdown of reality - we’re barely real even to ourselves, let alone to those who view us through a mass media that shapes stories and ideologies. susan boyle isn’t real, not even to herself, not even to those who have known her all her life, and that is why peep is so dangerous - the possibility of instantaneous transformation, constant shape-shifting, it’s addictive and utterly fake - until it becomes, as in susan boyle’s case, utterly real (in the fakest way possible, if you get my meaning).

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3 count

Who’s Natalie?

4 count

uh, hi liz, for some reason i thought you were natalie. strange. but there are stranger things in life, like the rise of susan boyle!

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5 count

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The Bloggist

Hey, I’m Hal Niedzviecki. I’m a writer/thinker who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my wife and daughter. Up till now I’ve always considered myself a private person. But at the same time I’m fascinated by people who effortlessly open themselves up to the whole world. So I’ve… more...



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