A bit late to the party, but Clive James has added another dimension to debate on the Susan Boyle phenomenon. If you are one of the 3 people in the world who missed her performance, you can view it here (tho embedding on all clips has been disabled on Youtube).
His argument is that our interest in people like Susan is less to do with talent - as he says, there will be many, maybe even more talented singers hidden away in the choruses of operas and musicals, who will never get a sniff of fame (and as some comments add, in am-dram groups up and down the country as well) - and more to do with looks.
We live in a culture that expects (because that's what we've been fed by the media) talent, even average talent, to be attractive (something we apply to all works of life, not just singing). If a beautiful women had got to the stage and sung, we wouldn't have batted an eyelid. Because that's what we expect beautiful people to do and/or what we expect talented people to look like.
With Susan (and Paul Potts before her) looks said we were in for some car crash TV (as is the case with 90% of the acts on Britain's Got Talent), an instinctive expectation that was confounded by her voice.
And the interest this generated lies in its culturally conditioned incongruity - come see the ugly lady sing. Which even if we are rooting for her is a bit of a sad reflection on us. Because BGT is only a few steps up from the old freak shows after all.
It's also ironic, as she will undoubtedly become a star, whilst many better but not exceptional professional singers will continue to slave away in poverty - if only they had been less attractive they could have gone on BGT as well!
We all do it...most of the time, but what a better place the world would be if we could see past the superficial to the person within, and value them for who they are…talented or otherwise.