Over the course of a couple days, we've been treated to two very different cautionary tales of fame in a reality-TV age where the definition of celebrity gets changed as often as the Suleman Octuplets’ diapers.
Boyle's singing voice is ethereal, but it's a good bet the sound of her cursing like a sailor is hardly music to the ears. Maybe there’s more to the backstory of her Scottish Cinderella saga than we know, though few could seamlessly handle the pressure of instantaneous, Internet-driven worldwide scrutiny.
While Boyle possesses a wonderful gift worth sharing, Suleman's talent rests in self-delusion – and self-promotion. Her deal reportedly calls for a show that will focus on her brood of 14 during family “events” – all but guaranteeing a distortion of any semblance of day-to-day life.
Suleman’s show, her lawyer promises, will be nothing like “Jon and Kate Plus 8,” where the parents’ quarreling may or may not be a (very effective) rating stunt.
While Suleman is trying to distinguish herself from Jon and Kate Gosselin, the real issue is why are these folks on TV at all. Suleman is a creature of a pop culture that all too often rewards irresponsible behavior and mistakes oddity for talent.
Boyle, on the other hand, is a clear talent who went unheralded for years, likely because of the very factor that’s driving her unlikely narrative: her frumpy appearance.
It’s bizarre that Boyle’s weekend ended in misery after her reprise of “I Dreamed a Dream,” while Suleman’s apparent dream of milking her 15 minutes got a big boost.
So we’re left hoping that no network picks up Suleman’s show, that she fades away and her 14 children somehow get the upbringing they deserve, far from the cameras.
We’re also left hoping that Boyle gets the break she needs, manages to pull her act together and quickly rediscovers the joy of performing, whether it’s for her church or the multitudes.
Some dreams deserve to come true.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.