In last week’s “South Park” episode, flap-mouthed, Canadian-born kindergartener Ike Broflovski leaves behind a note explaining why he ran away to Somalia to become a pirate. Among his reasons: he’s tired hearing about the Susan Boyle video.
The jibe could be taken as mounting evidence of a backlash against the Scottish singer, who seemed to be competing a couple weeks ago with Somali pirate saga as the most talked-about story -- hey, “South Park” can be topical -- at a time when there’s a lot more important news to worry about.
There have been the inevitable stories about the inevitable pushback: unsubstantiated speculation Simon Cowell knew full well Boyle could sing like an angel before she awkwardly shuffled onto the “Britain’s Got Talent” stage; essays suggesting no one would have taken notice of her voice if she weren’t so plain looking; debates over whether her mini-makeover will destroy her career. She’s fallen off the list of Twitter trending topics (gasp!), and YouTube viewings of her singing “I Dreamed a Dream” are slowing down.
But that all misses the point about Susan Boyle, the dowdy 47-year-old spinster whose great appeal rests both with her voice and in that she is who she is. The “South Park” parody, a reaction to the pervasive power of the video, actually cemented Boyle's status as a pop-culture phenomenon.
Her viral video passed a pandemic 100 million online views last week, according to the Visible Measures tracking service -- and that doesn’t count the millions more who first watched her on “Britain’s Got Talent” and via the near-constant TV replays elsewhere since. The fervor may have ebbed, but it hardly seems people are tired of her voice. If nothing else, they want more.
Cowell concedes he misjudged Boyle – and now openly frets that worldwide acclaim could destroy her chances to win the British competition. Which sounds like a way to keep the publicity and drama going until she sings on his show again next month – giving the world another Internet clip to go gaga over.
Time and talent will out. We suspect Boyle will be fine, no matter what happens. But for now, the dream is far from over.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.