Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Disaster Culture and Our Beloved Ugly Ducklings

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Disaster Culture and Our Beloved Ugly Ducklings

Article excerpt

IT WAS THE MOST compelling television moment since Jack Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald, except that this time, nobody died. Quite the opposite, in fact: a star was born.


When frumpy Susan Boyle told the judges at Britain's Got Talent reality show that she wanted to be a singer, the audience behaved exactly as they have been programmed to behave. They were not merely surprised and amused; they were disgusted; they rolled their eyes and steeled themselves, waiting for her moment in the spotlight to be over. They might have stoned Edith Piaf.

This woman so clearly had nothing to offer. She lacked Madonna's bullet breasts, Diana Krall's legs, Britanny Spear's grinding ass and Avril Lavigne's heroin eyes. Yet the old fool was asking for their approval.

Who did she think she was?

Ironically, her audience would not recognize themselves in the song Boyle chose to sing, words describing brutish predators and originally written for the scorned Fantine in Les Miserables.

. ...but the tigers come at night/with their voices soft as thunder/and they tear your hope apart/and they turn your dream to shame ...

The lyrics described them, of course, but never mind. After Susan's song, they rose to their feet in adoration. Judges and audience members alike could hardly speak, shell shocked "that someone who looked like that could sing like that."

It was more than an Ugly Duckling Becomes a Swan, or even a Don't Judge a Book by its Cover moment. It was a moment in which disaster culture, a partner of disaster capitalism was laid bare for all to see.

Since then, more than one hundred million people have watched the middle-aged Scot sing on YouTube. In just two weeks, she blew away every video record in web history, pulling in more than five times the viewers of Barak Obama's Inauguration Speech. …

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