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Revenge of the Underdog

So this week, everyone is talking about that audition video of “47-year-old spinster” Susan Boyle for Britain’s Got Talent. The video has been seen by about 12 gazillion people. If you’re one of the few who has not yet seen it, Google her name and watch the YouTube video right now (I won’t post a link because a) I’m not sure it’s legal and b) I don’t know how).

I’ll wait.

*sound of foot tapping patiently*

Have you seen it now? Good. I have to admit I’ve watched it at least five times, and I’ve yet to get all the way through it without having to wipe tears from my cheeks.

Someone on facebook asked in bewilderment why this video is so popular. I think I can answer that question.

For one thing, that clip is one of the most brilliantly edited five minutes I’ve ever seen. It’s a mini movie, as stirring as any high-school-nerd-makes-good film ever made. It could have been directed by John Hughes in the ’80s.

Think about it: dowdy, but plucky heroine takes the stage. I believe I read that she’s the youngest of a litter of siblings who stayed home to take care of her mother, watching her dreams slip past with the years. What better backstory for a book or movie? She is mocked by everyone around her (the “cool crowd” in the high school films — notice Little Miss Something in the video rolling her eyes and jeering). At the cool table sit the popular jock (Simon), the beautiful blond and another popular guy. They make fun of her, too. She holds her chin up and keeps fighting. There’s an initial stumble — the unfortunate hip roll that only gives the bullies more ammunition to use against her. But then she begins to sing.

The crowd gasps in reaction. They jump to their feet cheering. The jock falls in love with her (look at Simon’s adorable sigh and besotted smile about four minutes into the video). The random popular guy admits he was wrong about her all along. The beautiful blond gives us the moral of the story: We are all too cynical, and we shouldn’t be that way. The plucky little underdog (with whom everyone who has ever been mocked or bullied can identify) is carried off the field – figuratively – with a standing ovation while the absolutely perfectly chosen music swells.


It’s a tried-and-true formula in fiction. Our hero/heroine succeeds against all odds. Courage and talent are rewarded, cynicism and cruelty are defeated. When it happens in real life, we can’t help but cheer.

We want to believe in happy endings. We want to believe that good things happen to good people. That there’s always a chance our own dreams will come true, if only we have the courage and persistence to pursue them. I met a woman recently who is writing her first book at the age of seventy-five. She’s always dreamed of writing and publishing a romance novel, but life kept interfering. Now she’s taking that chance. Maybe her book will be published, and maybe it won’t. I hope so. But I can’t help but believe her life is better just for the trying, for the dreaming, for the aspiring.

Good on you, Susan Boyle. Enjoy your time in the spotlight. Don’t let the madness overwhelm you. And be grateful for that amazingly beautiful, God-given voice. As the pretty blond judge said, we are all privileged to have heard it.



Award-winning, best-selling author of women's romance fiction.

One thought on “Revenge of the Underdog

  1. Living over here in the UK, we have been inundated with the clips of Ms Boyle. Unfortunately, I had missed watching the show so had to revert to watching YouTube.

    I was blown away. I have told everyone to watch it if they can, and have urged them to watch with tissues: I’ve watched it several times, and like you have been overcome each time.

    And it made me realise how much I judge others by their appearance. How shallow I really am!

    I think this is one of those times that God is teaching us all a lesson. And I can only marvel that it has now gone global!

    I hope she doesn’t change – I hope she stays the same down-to-earth woman.

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