Insight article

Boylemania: Britain loves an underdog

Unless you’ve been living on planet Zog, you can’t have failed to notice the huge publicity Susan Boyle, contestant on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent, has attracted.  Famed for her bushy eyebrows and the voice of an angel, the singer is tipped to win the competition.  But what if she had been an investment banker, or a politician? Would Britain be behind her in quite the same way?  What has touched the hearts of the nation?  Is it her looks?  Is it her voice?  Or is it her personal story which has propelled her into stardom?


Last year’s winner Paul Potts went on a similar journey.  These are ordinary, unglamorous yet highly talented people, living in very ordinary places and with ordinary jobs, often carrying a surprising lack of self-confidence.  Sometimes the idea of sending them back into obscurity makes us feel almost guilty.  Take Andy Abraham, runner-up from the X-Factor, who pleaded and sang his way out of a future working as a dustman for a local authority and is now making a successful career from his talent (apart from Eurovision, obviously).

We empathise with these people because we can relate to them.  Their ordinaryness makes us warm to them, want them to succeed.  Susan’s story, which is peppered with emotional strings (eg she has allegedly never been kissed … this support has made her feel like a worthwhile person etc ), has clearly resonated with the British public.  Britain loves an underdog.  Their physical appearance and talent aside, their personal story has as much to do with their success as anything else.  I can’t help feeling that if Hazel Blears or Sir Fred Goodwin stood up and sang – even if he was a match for Frank Sinatra – they just wouldn’t quite have the same effect.

Nailia Tasseel