Toby Young: The harsh reality of letting Susan Boyle sing
Sunday 07 June 2009
As someone who has served as a judge on various reality-TV shows (including BBC2's Eating with the Enemy and ITV's Hell's Kitchen), I followed the story of Susan Boyle's admission to the Priory clinic with a good deal of interest. Were Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden – the judges on Britain's Got Talent – in some way culpable?
The short answer is no. All reality- show judges worry that a failed contestant will suffer some sort of breakdown after being eliminated and that they will then be held responsible for causing him or her psychological harm. But that wasn't what happened here. Susan Boyle was never eliminated from Britain's Got Talent. She came second and that was a decision made by the public, not the judges. In their comments on her performance in the final, they were typically effusive, not saying anything that might have conceivably upset her.
The question arises, then, whether Susan Boyle should have been allowed to appear on the programme in the first place. Deprived of oxygen as a baby, she was, as a result, diagnosed as having learning difficulties. So the real issue here is whether it can ever be right to feature people like Boyle on reality shows.
My view is that it turns on the degree of mental impairment. Should Susan Boyle, who volunteered to appear on the show, have been ruled out by the series' producers on the grounds that she was not capable of making an informed decision about the costs and benefits of taking part in the show?
The problem with that criterion is that it would rule out 95 per cent of the contestants on reality shows. Surely, if someone is capable of looking after themselves – is allowed to vote, get married, drink alcohol, and so forth – then they should be allowed to compete on a reality show.
To deny Boyle that chance would be to say that she isn't allowed to participate in certain activities in virtue of her mental disability.
We wouldn't want Susan Boyle to be prevented from having children. So why should she be prevented from appearing on Britain's Got Talent?
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Ferguson protests: 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein ‘arrested’ by police during St Louis demonstrations
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head