Susan Boyle’s Got Balls
April 20, 2009 1 Comment
Tonight I give you the contrarian Snuggie of blanket statements, so general it comes with sleeves:
Men are better at demanding an audience. BUT—if an audience is supplied (in teaching, say)—women go to greater lengths to please.
That is to say, I think you (and the MLA) are onto something: it’s easier to respond to a concrete demand—wash a dish, make a lesson plan, grade a paper—than it is to generate and honor extra demands of one’s own.
To write a novel is to demand an audience. To write the Great American Novel is to demand that the audience you’re about to create ex nihilo hail you as the greatest. That takes balls.
Take Milton, who (in turn) takes as his subject the Fall of Man, the Second Coming and the Last Judgment. And crams it all—all space and all time—into the first five lines of Paradise Lost. Says he’ll justify the ways of God to men. Announces his project of molding you—fallen twit that you are—into a “fit reader” of his poem.
He was an arrogant mo-fo.
This doesn’t come easily to those who are easily deterred, or who too eagerly welcome an escape from their own private hells into someone else’s vision.
Whether by training or instinct, I think women are pretty well-equipped to seduce and placate an cater to audiences. It is, after all, women’s traditional mission to be desirable. (I don’t offer this as a good or bad thing; just as a matter of historical fact.) Culturally, we’re understood to be the beings who adapt—who wax and tweeze and diet and curl. Biologically we expand with babies and deflate and swell and bleed and stop depending on the women around us. Obviously our system of reward revolves around external demand and validation. And good qualities are associated with this: charity, generosity, nurturance, even intelligence and talent.
This is why I find Susan Boyle so fascinating. For so many years she DIDN’T perform to an audience. Nor did she demand one. Think about the difference between her virtually anonymous recording from 1999, and compare that to this guy:
Look at him. He’s her equivalent in many senses, but he’s creating an audience right there—the picture of post-indie self-effacement and he manages to plug his album four times.
And yet—just now, all at once—Boyle has received an audience ready-made, voracious to see her made-over and redone. It’s slavering for her to finish the story they want for her. Talk shows. Makeovers. A boyfriend. An onscreen kiss. It’s hollering demands.
Will she listen? Or will she remain unresponsive to the thousand distractions that threaten to eat her up and do her thing—sing? It’s an interesting experiment. Let’s put off our personal projects and watch.