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Posts Tagged ‘why’

Oy, the pop psychologists and media sociologists are out in full force on the latest pop culture sensation, Susan Boyle.

Read all the theories in those links.

  • don’t judge a book by its cover
  • ordinary people do extraordinary things
  • it’s a disney movie
  • we all have hidden desires for the same thing as Boyle
  • etc.

Blah! Blargh!

Try an experiment.  Only listen to her singing.  Do not listen to the audience or the commentary.  You will not have the same reaction – the crying, the emotion, the anger at the judges…  This is an actual experiment we could do.  Take 2 groups who have not seen the video or know about the story and have them watch different contextual versions of the performance.

We are conditioned by the entire context.  If the audience and judges aren’t laughing at her and giving standing Os, the performance is ordinary and our reaction will likely not be the one that drives a YouTube sensation.  When others around us are laughing, crying, making fun… we get into that action.  When the context then shows surprise and amazement we do too.   This is less about Susan Boyle’s surprise talent than it is about the surprise of the audience.

No doubt she can sing, but millions of people can sing.  No doubt she’s not going to win a beauty contest, millions of people won’t and can still sing.  The situation is not uncommon, nor is our reaction.

Combine the context with our own  behavioral histories… we have been conditioned to have reactions like we do to this (but when others are having the same reaction!).  Cheer for the underdog, laugh at the ugly person and slap her back when she crushes it, gossip about a celebrity’s troubles but cheer her return,  damaged goods done good, hooray!, ugly duckings/swan thang.  This is the most common human story ever told and we tell it to our children from the day they are born.  The thing is, the reaction of that audience is still the key to having our histories ignited.  If the audience sorta half likes it and the judges have poker faces and say “cliche song”, Susan Boyle is still the ugly duckly.   Most everyone needs to see the swan, for it to be a swan to us.

The success of Boyle is not a mystery.  It’s not a phenomenon.  It’s your run of the mill context meets shared histories often makes a wave….

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