Is YouTube fame ruining Susan Boyle?

In the couple of weeks since Susan Boyle has risen to the attention of the world (even of U.N, Secretary General Kofi Annan), she has been blinded by attention. Has she had enough?

There are not many stars who have had the good fortune to have their toenails inspected by the media. Yet such an honor was bestowed this week on Susan Boyle.

Yes, she came to the door of her house in her dressing gown and the media had her at hello. With one lens focused on her outgrowing toenails, a story was born.

Yet this was merely the latest in a veritable joyride of coverage that might, perhaps, make Ms. Boyle wish that YouTube had taken its YouBiquity and shoved it.

Cybersquatters have leaped on her digital back in an attempt to find their fortunes, or, at least, their four cents' worth.

Simon Cowell, a man who has created his own form of transatlantic ubiquity, has, with no hint of irony, said that he fears she may already be too famous for her own good.

"Choose the right song, focus yourself, shut your front door, maybe take a holiday and come back to the person you want to be and not as the person you think you should be," were his kind words at a media conference.

And there was her brother Gerard. Gerard seems to be a nice and thoughtful man. His view is that Susan is already "too big" for a mere British talent show. She is also, he said, not being protected by the "Britain's Got Talent" producers, shattered and in desperate need of rest.

Oh, and he also seems to think that she should dump the show, release a record and amass a vast amount of liquid capital before her emotional capital shows any signs of dwindling.

Even former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made his first question at a recent meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown: "So, tell me about Susan Boyle." As if Mr. Brown would have had any inside information because, well, he's Scottish too.

So, while I ponder her little makeover (yes, she's touched up the gray hair and got herself a nice leather jacket), and the vast makeover that YouTube has wrought, I say to myself: "Does the huge reach of YouTube fame inevitably ruin those involved?"

Shortly followed by: "Where are those digital bean counters at Visible Measures when I need them"?

Well, the chaps at Visible Measures have helped me with some numbers, delving into their records as never before, and concluding that only four viral videos have ever had more views than Ms. Boyle's almost 190 million.

The most viewed of all time was Soulja Boy's "Crank That." Followed by the movie trailer for "Twilight." Then comes Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" and Jeff Dunham's "Achmed the Dead Terrorist."

Of these, only the dead terrorist, a ventriloquist's puppet, can truly claim to have survived the vast fame bestowed upon him.

Soulja Boy and Mariah Carey seem to have drifted into something of an ethereal wasteland. Soulja Boy was, last year, robbed and assaulted at his home. While Mariah Carey seems to be attempting to occupy the space that Barbra Streisand might one day leave behind. But not with anything that might be described as success.

"Twilight" is a movie which, I am told by several thirty-somethings who are obsessed with the books on which it was based, is but a thin parody of the literature.

Indeed, you might think that "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson felt such a vast need to shed his character in the movie that in his latest, an opus called "Little Ashes," he plays Salvador Dali and sheds his clothes.

If an event or a person creates an emotional effect on others, the Internet can magnify that effect, seemingly beyond all imagination and control. And certainly beyond the total control of the person featured.

One can only wish that Susan Boyle will be able somehow to cope with the footprint YouTube has, by its mere existence, created for her.

But she will surely find it hard to refuse to be the star of her own personal "Truwoman Show," a program over which she may have less say than she would wish.

In the interview with Larry King that I have embedded here, when asked how all of the fame will change her, Ms. Boyle replies: "Well, I certainly won't be lonely anymore."

I wonder if she knows what that means. I wonder if anyone does.

Which is why I have also embedded new video of a 22-year-old Susan Boyle singing "The Way We Were." She looked very different then, didn't she? That's shattered pictures for you.

 

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