Quick, which mega-selling pop star consistently has the most drama in his or her life? Kanye? Britney? Eminem? Try Susan Boyle. You can Google her name just about any time and you'll always be sure to turn up a treasure trove of mind-bogglingly weird news items. When she's not suffering from exhaustion or having a full-on mental breakdown, she's being stalked to the point where her brother fears she'll end up like John Lennon or being saved from choking on a pineapple by a complete stranger. I get that Boyle never set out to be the supernova she's become, and that there's ample evidence of her being an entirely exploited and victimized Patient Zero in the world's current obsession with viral phenomena, but at some point she'll need to buck up and deal with the fame that's been foisted upon her. Once you willingly perform for the Pope, you've pretty much embraced your new standing in the world. Regardless, Boyle's next album is due out in November and, word has it, it will likely own the holiday season, thanks largely to her mammoth, big box discount store fan base -- which makes this as good a time as any to bring back this little piece from late last year. Lord, the hostile reaction I got to this sucker when it was first posted over at HuffPo. For the record, this piece was never really about Susan Boyle -- it was about hypocrisy.
"The Ugly Truth" (Originally Published, 11.13.09)
I'll try hard to make this quick for two reasons: One, because I've done my best to avoid writing about either of these people for a long time and so far have been mercifully successful, and two, I kind of feel like the point I'll make is so obvious it almost goes without saying.
The whole Controversy over Sharon Osbourne calling Susan Boyle a "hairy arsehole" who looks like she's been beaten with an "ugly stick" is completely fucking ridiculous.
Yesterday, in a move that had been predestined since about three seconds after the offending comment, Osbourne apologized to Boyle -- and by proxy everyone else on the planet, all of whom had taken it upon themselves to demand repentance -- for being so callous and insensitive during an appearance on Opie and Anthony (a radio show that's raised callous-and-insensitive to an art form). In the week since Osbourne made the on-air crack, you honestly would've thought that she'd driven her Bentley to Susan Boyle's house and taken a crap on her front lawn; the amount of contrived outrage from both the slavish celebrity media and the lifeless dolts who eat that kind of nonsense up has been hilariously deafening.
It really should go without saying, first and foremost, that Opie and Anthony do a comedy show; if you've never listened to it, trust me when I tell you that somebody calling somebody else a hairy asshole is probably the least offensive thing you'll hear on that show on any given day. The fact that people can't take a joke, a rude one, sure, but still a joke -- and most poignantly, one that wasn't really aimed at their tender ears in the first place and was only brought to their attention by a mass media machine that makes its living off of those who are constantly on the lookout for something to be outraged over -- is a hell of a lot more offensive in my mind than the joke itself.
But beyond that, the outpouring of indignation -- the shock and anger over a comment from a woman who's not exactly known for being classy or tactful, directed at a supposedly defenseless wallflower -- isn't just absurd, it's disingenuous. The reality is that Susan Boyle is unattractive. She's really unattractive. And guess what? The event that catapulted her to stardom in the first place capitalized on the fact that just about anyone who sees her believes this. When Susan Boyle stepped out onto the stage on Britain's Got Talent, you were supposed to think that she was an ugly, overweight frump who was doomed to embarrass herself in spectacular fashion the minute she opened her mouth. For God's sake, they practically played the Baby Elephant Walk from Hatari as her intro music. That moment, which became a cultural phenomenon, was all about the juxtaposition of her very impressive voice with her anything-but-impressive looks; the show's producers engineered it to shame the audience they knew would make an instant assumption: that somebody who looked like that couldn't possibly be talented -- not somebody that ugly.
People don't respond well to being forced to face the rottenest parts of their character -- like, say, the part that snickered when it first saw dowdy, awkward Susan Boyle and heard that she had dreams of being a successful singer -- and they usually respond by overcompensating in the opposite direction. Hence, you get thousands of people commenting on celebrity news websites or penning impassioned diatribes calling Sharon Osbourne "the one who's TRULY ugly" and making the obligatory knee-jerk demand that she be fired (from what exactly? Britain's Got Talent? America's Got Talent? Her job as Ozzy's manager?). Or how about this -- to really prove to themselves that they're good people, enlightened beings above petty prejudices, 68% percent of those who took part in a poll earlier this week by Access Hollywood engaged in the pop culture equivalent of voting for the handicapped kid for prom king: They proudly declared that when compared with Sharon Osbourne, Susan Boyle had more "sex appeal."
Think about that for a minute.
68% of those who watch Access Hollywood -- a show hosted by a couple of living Barbie and Ken dolls with hardly a brain cell between them, a show that traffics in gossip about the lives of the most gorgeous people in the world -- believe that Susan Boyle has more sex appeal than Sharon Osbourne.
What does that poll really tell us? It tells us that it's not even that so many in this country can't take a goddamned joke, it's that so many would rather lie, even to themselves, than admit that they're nowhere near as evolved as they pretend to be. That although she may have been crude about it, Sharon Osbourne wasn't saying anything the rest of us weren't already thinking.