Susan Boyle and the myth of ‘reality’ TV

So you all know who Susan Boyle is. Britain’s Got Talent‘s singing sensation now commands over 40 millions hits on You Tube less than a fortnight after her appearance on the show that had audience members weeping and judge Amanda Holden on her feet applauding. She probably cried a bit as well, she tends to cry a fair bit.

It was a performance that took the world by storm. Boyle has been on morning television in the United States, Larry King Live and is slated for an appearance on Oprah. It’s a real 21st century rags to riches story in that it has happened in a ridiculously short amount of time.

When Boyle was first introduced to us, you, like me and all my friends, no doubt thought that this dowdy looking, 47-year-old, Scottish virgin was a bit of a joke. Then she opened her mouth, sang beautiful things and we all felt a little crap for having pre judged her.

But at the same time we were uplifted by this small town girl who proved us and everyone else wrong. The scowls and derisive laughter turned to tears of joy and the smirking from Simon Cowell and his fellow judges turned to admiration and high praise.

There was only one problem with it all. It was fake, all so fake and that’s what bothers me. Once again reality TV failed to live up to its name. It was reality but with a caveat in that everyone on the production team at Britain’s Got Talent knew how good Boyle was but rather than present her as such they decided to trick us all into thinking she was crap then unleash this beautiful singing voice on us.

Great TV of course but my issue is with honesty and transparency and on the very shows where this should be most evident it is not. Instead we have pre packaged, pre determined and pre judged ‘talent’ forced upon us because this is how Simon Cowell says it should be.

I’ve been told more than once before that Cowell and his team are in total control of everything that happens on his extensive catalogue of ‘reality’ TV shows and that’s a dangerous trend to a genre that has dominated the screens for the last ten years. 

Susan Boyle is a fantastic singer and her story is a fantastic one. I wish her every success but I worry for her too in that the extent to which her short career has been managed so far will only increase over the coming weeks and months and she becomes no longer the modest, unglamorous small town girl we were initially presented with but yet another pre packaged, soulless, singing talent for Cowell to make obscene amounts of money from.

UPDATE: As if the media frenzy surrounding Susan Boyle wasn’t manic enough, she’s now even been mentioned on South Park of all places!

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