I’m still stuck on Susan Boyle, and still weeping. I suppose that’s so 24 hours ago, and I should be thinking instead about how Mel Gibson’s divorce might affect his box-office cred with conservative Catholics. Instead, I play the YouTube clip over and over of Boyle, the frumpy, middle-aged British lady who marched out on the stage of the national TV show Britain’s Got Talent this past weekend. She bided her time through the judgmental hoots and snickers of the studio audience and judges (headed by international snickerer-in-chief Simon Cowell). She sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. And she brought a worldwide audience to their feet — to her feet — with the grandeur of her voice.
I’ll get back to pondering how Vin Diesel’s future might change with the success of Fast & Furious soon enough, but right now I’m pondering why the experience of watching and listening to Ms. Boyle makes so many viewers cry, me among them. And I think I’ve got a simple answer, at least for me: In our pop-minded culture so slavishly obsessed with packaging — the right face, the right clothes, the right attitudes, the right Facebook posts — the unpackaged artistic power of the unstyled, un-hip, un-kissed Ms. Boyle let me feel, for the duration of one blazing showstopping ballad, the meaning of human grace. She pierced my defenses. She reordered the measure of beauty. And I had no idea until tears sprang how desperately I need that corrective from time to time.
Yep. Simple as that. That’s why I weep. What’s your excuse?