Why Susan Boyle Makes Us Cry

I’ve seen some great pieces on the Susan Boyle phenomenon and all make sense. (If you don’t know who Susan Boyle is, go here first). This one by Letti Cottin Pogrebin suggests that Susan makes middle-aged women cry because she represents a triumph over ageism.

I wonder about this – like many people, I’ve watched the video a time or 10, and I’ve teared up every single time. Is it because I am glad Susan is triumphing over the bias against middle-aged women? (a bias I might add, that is one of the last prejudices you can express out loud without expecting any objection).

But I don’t think that’s it for me. I think I get weepy because of the way the audience and the judges move so quickly from ugly disdain to love and admiration. To me this shows how much we all want to accept each other – how much, as humans, we want to root for another’s success. I said this on Twitter last night, and someone pointed out that the initial disdain was upsetting. Why were people so quick to dismiss the hopes and dreams of another? So ready to laugh at a fellow human being?

I think fear is the answer. I think we all fear making fools of ourselves to some extent or another. I think we all dread not having the approval of others. By putting herself out there like that with her ill-fitting dress and bushy eyebrows, Susan was bringing all those fears to the surface and so we laughed. The audience, the judges, the public watching at home — everyone laughed.

But all it took was one honest, pure, heartfelt line of that song and everyone changed their minds. They wanted her to be good. They desperately wanted her to succeed. Even crusty old Simon Cowell was beaming with genuine joy at the audience’s reaction. So I think that when we watch Susan Boyle sing that song, we feel encouraged that maybe the world isn’t as cold and scary as it can sometimes seem and that if we just put ourselves out there – authentically and honestly – people will see the best in us.

And that’s enough to make anyone weep tears of joy.

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