This clip has been popping up all over the blogosphere.
Now there is a voice in my head saying "shut up, Aric!" and usually when that voice gets going I ignore it and then I regret ignoring it in short order. So I will issue a couple disclaimers before going on to ignore that voice...
The basic storyline most people are taking from this televised incident, that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover etc... etc... is a good one. If people are uplifted and challenged to be more compassionate, less judgmental people, then that is an unqualified good thing. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade.
To paraphrase the Princess Bride, "I don't think this clip means what you think it means." I mean, it's not particularly subtle is it? Is no one else out there cynical enough to suspect that this was staged? It's not even necessary to assume that it was a conspiracy that Ms. Boyle was in on, but merely to point out that this show (just like American Idol) is way over-produced. The cameras, judges, audience, etc... it is all coordinated and conducted like a symphony orchestra. How much do the judges have to ham it up, and how selective does the editing of crowd shots have to be before you begin to suspect that it wasn't quite the feel-good story you suppose?
There is a deeper problem as well, besides the slick marketing and presentation at work - which is that the show, far from subverting our stereotypes, actually reinforces them and plays upon them. I mean, why should we be surprised about her vocal skill at all? What is the elephant in the room here? What aren't people saying out loud about Ms. Boyle that would lead basically everyone to assume that she was going to humiliate herself? Could it be that she is stereotypically unattractive, even sort of Downs Syndrome-y looking, and dressed auspiciously frumpy?
Please understand - this is not at all a criticism of Ms. Boyle, but rather of the exploitative platform which intentionally used her to get ratings by knowingly playing on our crass aesthetic judgments and then expertly triggering our sympathies. It is a feel good story written at the expense of her humanity, because we have to first stereotype her before, predictably, having our stereotype upset.
I really do hope that she rides this to achieve what she desires and that she goes as far as she can with the vocal talent and discipline she can muster. Even more so I hope that she doesn't ever feel she has to sacrifice a part of herself in order to live up to the role that has been thrust upon her, of everyone's favorite talented ugly woman.