Last weekend a ‘Street Dance’ troupe by the name of Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent, a television programme so determinedly witless it’s enough to make the lowest common denominator forswear television in favour of some more improving way of passing his time.
Given that, despite its lack of any demonstrable merit, the programme produced a winning act that confounded some of the tabloid press’s most dearly held misconceptions about young people, namely that they’re all binge drinking hooligans, everybody should be talking about the result, in fact almost nobody’s talking about it.
Nobody’s talking about who won Britain’s Got Talent because everybody’s talking about who didn’t win the contest, one Susan Boyle. A determinedly dumpy Scottish spinster with a remarkable singing voice, they’re talking about two things, the wonder of someone who looks like she thinks botox is a posh name for what you sit on being able to carry a tune and the speed with which her fifteen minutes of fame turned sour and ended with a trip to the Priory.
Boyle, it emerged in the copious media coverage of her fall from being a household name in somewhere other than her own house into the pit of celebrity martyrdom, has learning difficulties. That shouldn’t, of course, have prevented her from being allowed to take part in a televised talent contest, even a witless one referred to as BGT by the unfortunate souls who think it matters, if it had done there would have been a sick irony in choosing a winning act called diversity that I doubt anyone involved with making this programme would have been intelligent enough to recognise.
The fact that Boyle was a little more fragile than the majority of the hopefuls willing to trade their dignity for a few moments of screen time did mean that she needs to be handled with care. Someone should have taken the time to explain to her that, so far as the media is concerned, the spotlight around a celebrity is only there to help them take aim at his or her frailties.
This hasn’t been a good week for another Scot under stress, Gordon Brown. In the space of five days four cabinet ministers have resigned and the Guardian, a newspaper as famous for its loyalty to the Labour Party as its printing errors has turned its back on his floundering government.
Gordon Brown and Susan Boyle are united by more than their shared nationality and troubled relationship with the media, both are, in their way, talented people with an unfortunate inability to connect with the world around them. Both need someone on hand to offer advice about the pitfalls of a world that treats human frailty as a form of entertainment, what they’ve been given though is, respectively, a feuding government and a pack of TV executives on the make.
The advice, at least for Susan Boyle is simple, talent is seldom enough to carve out a career in the spotlight, it almost always has to be combined with the sort of thick skinned determination necessary to withstand death by a thousand pricks armed with telescopic lenses and tape recorders. Anyone who doesn’t have that, and the reason, perhaps, why the public took Boyle to its heart for a couple of weeks is that she demonstrably doesn’t, is best advised to recognise that fame without the robustness to stand up to its slings and arrows is seldom a game worth the candle.
For Gordon Brown things are much the same, twice, in the autumn of 2007 and during the phantom challenge to his leadership last summer he had the chance to prove his mettle by calling an election and chose not to. They’ve closed the bar in the last chance saloon and it is time for him to leave the stage for good.