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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 20, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    Britain’s Got Talent, says Britain

    Fiona McCann

    I’m not saying Susan Boyle hasn’t got talent – she clearly has, in spades, and those kind judges so keen to remind her how unimpressed they were when she walked on stage have generously conceded the dangers of such preconceptions. But there’s something so crassly manipulative about this over-edited version of eyes rolling, raised eyebrows and grimaces, followed by awe! hands over mouth! surprise! applause! dewy eyes! that is far too directive to allow for any natural response. This whole episode tells us just how we’re supposed to react, and even when, though the audience is screaming and shreaking so much and Ant and Dec are so busy being loudly gobsmacked from the wings that you can barely hear the singing. Which is what we’re all supposed to be so moved by. Look, it’s clear Susan Boyle has a great voice, and did a smashing, shattering job on a moving song. I just would have liked to have decided all that for myself.

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    • Quint says:

      Great post and absolutely spot on. My thoughts exactly. This show is probably the most heavily edited, unethical and emotionally manipulative I’ve ever seen. Many of the contestants in the initial rounds are borderline mentally ill and/or suffer from delusional behaviour and are there simply for the judges and Ant and Dec to sneer at and for the audience to boo and berate. It’s all very dubious ‘entertainment’. Take Susan Boyle, for instance. She was perfect for the opening rounds – a virginal, middle-aged spinster who also happens to have mild learning difficulties. We were all expecting the usual eye-rolling and cruel jibes from the talentless, multi-millionaire judges and the sniggers from Ant and Dec as this makes great TV but she turned out to be really good. But as you said, the viewer is not allowed to react naturally – it’s forced upon them by them by the shots of Cowell’s jaw-dropping, Amanda’s obligatory tears, Morgan left ‘speechless’ and the sweeping shots and close-ups of the shrieking audience who are shocked that a person like that could actually possess any sort of talent.

    • Niall says:

      Yup, it’s manipulative, but then again, it’s supposed to be. Shows like BGT or X-Factor are aren’t like the talent shows of distant memory. Like most reality tv shows, it’s all about the manipulating video so as to create some sort of narrative. Apparently, that’s show business.

    • Fergal says:

      The video is sickening, though not through any fault of Ms. Boyle. It actually deadens the impact by overdoing everything, so you can’t even trust your own, quite genuine, emotions. But they had a big viral hit last year with that Nessun Dorma guy (where is he now, one wonders), so they probably had this nice lady marked down as a sequel from the day she walked into the auditions.

    • Kynos says:

      Feckit I just wrote a load of posts on Bryan’s blog which would pretty much say (in way too many words which is why I asked him to spike them) what I’d say to this too. Each of us gets our fifteen minutes of fame. So that the media can manipulate our fragmented inner selves for their own agenda. No offence Fiona of course I ain’t talking about the Irish Times oh no not at all. Yes. I mean No. :) There’s a reason I don’t watch generally TV asides from that I think it’s a waste of time and life just passively receiving whatever the programmers want to ram into your brain by way of ready made assumptions. I lived in China. They do it more crudely there but it’s a great way to discern and begin to understand the whole subtle architecture of crowd control.

    • Niall says:

      the harsh truth is that this type of television prospers because its what the public want to see. you’re complaining about it but you still watch it and its your eyeballs that are being sold to the advertisers. as Paul Weller said, the public wants what the public gets, but then he wouldn’t have lasted pi**ing time in the X factor.

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      Manipulative …………….slumdog millionaire ?……………..The Reader?…………Doubt ?…………..

      A related point. Ms. Boyle has become famous by being what she does’nt appear to be. Is she not being manipulative? No, we believe her motives are pristine pure. But not anybody elses.

      Ultimately you get what you ask for. This television programme is a good example.

      It takes two to tango. For something to be manipulative somebody has to be maniputable. Work on the latter.


    • Annie says:

      I was totally brainwashed, because I was watching it thinking: um, she’s not that great is she? But YAY ANYWAY! *sob*

    • Fionnmccool says:

      Paul Potts (BGT winner 2007) seems to be taking Europe by storm and is currently presenting telly in Australia, oh, and appearing in a Japanese TV ad for throat medecine. Thank you Wikipedia!
      And, yes, BGT is massively over-produced, over-edited and more manipulative than your average Irish mother. But (and this is not the case with The Mammy) at least you can switch it off!

    • clom says:

      portrait of boyle in one of scotland’s sunday papers.


      what’s most interesting is the stuff about how young people treat her. previously she was victimised for her learning difficulties but is now lionised among her former tormentors.

      So the young people have learnt an important lesson, but ultimately, it was only learned because it was through the “democratic” medium of reality tv. the notion that the likes of BGT or Xfactor or whatever is our cultures epitome of democratic credibility is enough to make me want to go and live in a damp, dank cave and pray for death.

    • Gerry Mac Donagh says:

      In the old days talent meant people writing their own songs and playing real guitars,now talent means singing pub karoeke in front of an audience of puberty afflicted children and three rich people who know less about music than a traffic cone.Musical talent is Boyzone,pretty guys in tuxedos miming to slush,pretty girls in lingerie mimicing sexual arousal while pretending to sing,Its like the fifties,what happened to a thing called Rock? WHAT is this shit?An old Leonard Cohen song covered by three or four people one of whom is dead?WHAT IS THIS CRAP,? and the few really ceative ones,?at least they try to be original but the songs sound the same,the same guys whinging to three chords in that awfull americanised mumbling desperetley searching for a melody ,but slowly starting to James blunt direction with HALLEHLUAHHHHH and old cohen direction again.These people are detested by Shane Mc Gowan who called these whinging songsters “The bland Brigade” and he was so painfully right,Rock and roll is dead and Bono is a pompous business man

    • Kynos says:

      I think she looks like a really nice person. Expect she’ll make a packet out of the 2012 Olympics. Can see her done up as Britannia belting out the old British national anthem that’ll get the Torygraph and Daily Wail readers rattling their jewellry (pardon John Lennon). Hope she doesn’t get exploited used up and discarded by the ravenous industry she’s about to enter. Might be better off sticking with the bell-ringing and church warding.

    • Kynos says:

      Suppose apropos your comments about the editing and the hyper-cynical social programming it implies, been a long time since society could rely on the super-ego constraining the id. Instant gratification, the dropping of social constraints, the me me me culture all accompanied by constant marketing, the hawking of paradise lost. We – and by that I mean the impressionable young and the unreflective not-so-young – are subject to a cloud of data, forming our perceptions of reality in ways that those who benefit from such formed impressions consider best. Nothing new under the sun. We’ve always been more fascinated by the shadows on the wall of Plato’s Cave than by the exit.

    • Kynos says:

      Stock aiken & Waterman have a lot to answer for Gerry McDonagh. Them and their dopplegangers (hello Louis). Rock & Roll had to sell out. Every rebel has their price.

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