The dynamic is a simple one; line up the freaks and crush their hopes and dreams. This is by no means a new theory, ask any bearded lady you can find. The sad part is the utter obviousness of it, the crushing weight of the “American Idol” freight train. We the viewer are presented with three choices for each singer we see. The contestant is either:
- Fantastically talented and clearly a shoe-in to go to Hollywood (and if said singer has twelve children or is a fireman all the better).
- Somewhat talented with one of the aforementioned stories but not good enough to secure the two votes needed to get through to the next round.
- A complete freak show with props, mental illness, strange vocal aberrations, and/or tremendous mean spirited attitudes.
- people clearly trying to get on TV for the ten seconds of fame that couldn’t care less what verbal barbs they are subjected to OR…
- delusional screwed up folks who don’t see the laser target on their forehead.
It’s this third group of people I truly hurt for. These people say things like “I quit my job to come on” or “this is my dream” right before the axe is dropped. They often ask to try again before being summarily dismissed. They then shuffle off stage left towards whatever fate the real world has in store for them. This brings me to an awful emotional conundrum about this show; if hopes and dreams are the basis; if hopes and dreams are the focus, then why do the unattractive and delusional folk’s dreams not matter? Why are they treated with such ridiculous and pointless derision?
The answer is clear. People love a car wreck. The more weirdos thrown to the wolves the more entertaining the show becomes. It’s a classic set-up. It also makes me wonder how far away we are from a Running Man type of future. Hey, why not watch someone who’s been convicted of a crime get whacked on TV? Let’s see what happens if maybe we have him fight a grizzly bear. Yeah, that’s taking it to an extreme but after watching enough people sing and dance for the man only to be destroyed it doesn’t feel too far off. These people are held valueless by “American Idol” and by us as a viewing audience. Couldn’t criminals deserve even worse than them?
In no way am I saying “American Idol” isn’t a fair competition. Clearly some people can’t sing and I’m not saying people who can’t sing should become stars. My issue is only the presentation. The fact that the poor singers must make it through a myriad of auditions only to be chewed up and spit out is preposterous and in no way germane to the competition itself. Why can’t “American Idol” go the opposite direction, pit people of talent against each other and let’s see who wins. I’m talking about something closer to the final stages where it’s a pretty subjective thing, you might like the Alto from Duluth while I favor the Tenor from Tulsa but we can respect both as performers.
There has already been a William Hung, someone who took the crap heaped at him and made crap-aide. My question is what’s going to happen when one of these kids takes their own life after such a savage emotional beating? Will we still want to see the spectacle? Will the blood still interest us? I hope so because it’s the culture we’re all creating, it’s the show we’re rewarding with our time. Somewhere in the equation of watching so many dreams die we’ve all got a choice to make. Keep watching the car wreck or cast our vote with lesser ratings. I guess we’ve all got a question to ask… what inspires us? Wolves or dreams?