Calling her "the troll with the voice of an angel," Bill Maher took on the Susan Boyle phenomenon, imagining what her celebrity trajectory will be, now that she's an internet sensation. How true is it?
While Maher is clearly just poking fun at the entire situation, there is a bit of sad truth involved when it comes to the rise and fall of our most beloved pop-stars. Will Boyle end up in a night vision sex tape? All signs point to no. But she will have to deal with the pressure of retaining the love of millions of fans, who cling to her not only because she represents everyone who desperately wants to be an artist but was never given the chance, but because she seems so "normal," "average," and "ordinary."
Boyle is already facing a slight backlash due to a makeover of sorts she's received since she hit the big time. Her hair has been tamed and colored, her eyebrows plucked and shaped, and she's been spotted in a very Clinton and Stacy-esque wardrobe as of late, clothes that make her appear much more put together than she did on her star-making performance. She's in an incredibly weird position: at this point, sticking to her notoriously "frumpy" appearance might appear to be a weak attempt to retain public sympathy and admiration; changing her look too drastically might turn off fans who feel so drawn to her because she doesn't look like your typical Hollywood celebrity. It doesn't take much of a switch to turn fans off; anyone who remembers the OMG Keri Russell cut her hair! fiasco can tell you that.
David Berreby, an author whose book, Us And Them, explores how people make snap judgments of each other, tells the New York Times that Boyle's initial attempt to fit in, shaking her hips and acting sassy in front of the judges, bombed spectacularly because she didn't fit the public's idea of that "sexy" is supposed to be: "She tried to be chipper, and when they asked her age, she did this little shimmy," Berreby says, "you're supposed to be kind of sexy and personable, and she got it wrong. Nothing sort of triggers our contempt more than something trying to be acceptable and then failing."
It was when Boyle began singing her song—a song, mind you, about lost dreams and missed opportunities—that the audience suddenly fell for her. No longer was she an outsider who was failing to fit in, but an outsider with a special gift that made everyone else feel stupid for underestimating her. Psychologist John F. Davidio tells the Times that in such cases, people "find a way to make the world make sense again, even if the way we do it is to say, ‘This is an exceptional situation.' It's easier for me to keep the same categories in my mind and come up with an explanation for the things that are discrepant."
So what will become of Susan Boyle? It's hard to say at this point. Maher's bleak view, at least in this instance, is way off, but the celebrity machine and all of its weird effects will inevitably touch Boyle and force her to make decisions that may drive some of her fans away. She has the whole world looking at her; how they'll continue to actually see her is another story entirely.
Earlier: Does Susan Boyle Need A Makeover?