Friday, January 19, 2007

Mean Idol

Is American Idol a mean show, or what? I watched it for the first time this week (Todd and I have managed to miss entire seasons of iconic television shows because the early end of prime time is the get-little-kids-ready-for-bed push.) So, forgive me for sounding like I just fell off a turnip truck here. But I was jarred by the very premise of this show.

While there were moments of good fun, on balance, it struck me as the modern equivalent of a gladiator event. Tapping into a darker ignoble vein. The part deep within that sighs relief when it’s someone other than us who’s getting bullied or sacked.

You could argue that those contestants get what they deserve. If you can’t sing, why are you auditioning in a singing contest? But can anyone deny there are some who seem, well, somehow disadvantaged? Even perhaps set up by “friends” who encourage them to try out knowing they will miserably fail?

I wondered after watching television this week what it would be like if God ruled like an American Idol judge. If our eternal destiny was tethered to how well we performed. What if we were cold-heartedly judged then surgically cut loose if we failed to dazzle?

If you don’t have a reason to smile today, let me give you three:

1. God is just. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
2. God is good. (Habakkuk 1:13)
3. God is merciful. (John 3:16)

(Photo by carlota; see for restrictions.)

Blaring on my I-Pod: "Until the World," by The Afters


Jamey said...

Ok - watch out here comes shallow friend.......


Take Idol for what it is...a tv show!..of course some of these folks are set up and many are just being goofy to be on tv. And you are right - If you are crazy enough to sit in line for 2-3 days to audition (knowing full well you can't sing)you probably aren't in your right mind! You have obviously missed out on the guy who made a fool of himself auditioning and then went on to "famousdom" and riches by being horrible (music video, today show, Leno, David Letterman, album, ring tones, etc., etc.)

In full disclousure (sp?) I have to say my family watches it together and enjoys a good laugh and by the end of the season have our favorites and even CALL IN TO VOTE!

It won't surprise you that each of us even has our own Idol Audition song picked out(and sometimes we sing them during commercials)!!

Lauren Grace's is Silver Wings (country - you wouldn't know it); Mackenzie's is Jesus Take the Wheel (a song from a previous Idol winner). Mine changes depending on my mood and Brian won't commit.

Come on - you know you've thought about it - what is your Idol Audition song???

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Jamey, I know you just want to revive our singing thing. Do you think we'd stand a better chance if we auditioned together?? Maybe we could sing one of those "truck's in the driveway" songs. I'm slowly coming around to country, you know.

Yes, I know I'm like the only person on the planet over the age of 5 who is new to American Idol. But, honestly, Jamey, my heart just broke for some of those people. Todd was saying, yea, but if you had a bunch of nice judges up there no one would watch it. That's really true. (And what does that say?) I don't know, I'm sad for anyone who gets lampooned in front of millions of people... especially those who really and truly don't even see it coming.

I'm also not sure it's good for the kids if the take-away is it's cool to be mean. (I know many will totally disagree with that, including Todd who thinks a dose of reality--such as it is--is good for them).

So... still think it's mean. But do see your point. In terms of you and me... can we compromise and maybe find a nice pumpkin festival to sing at, instead?

Nancy said...

The first five seasons of Idol were not mean like the first two shows of season six. Sure, there was some harsh (but necessary) criticism, but most of the bad auditions were entertaining and not heartbreaking. Simon's mother must never have told him, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." So, he tends to say -- crudely -- what a lot of people are thinking but would never dare say out loud. Last week's shows were not typical. I could come up with numerous reasons why the producers might have edited and aired the shows as they did. But I won't try to justify the cruelty that was shown to tens of millions of Americans. Idol is a serious competition, but it's also a huge money-making form of entertainment. I hope you watched tonight, because it wasn't as heartless as you saw last week. Perhaps the producers caught a lot of flack from the public and have vowed to mend their ways. One can only hope!

BTW, I'll sing with you anytime!!! Just, please, no country! Do you know what a native Brooklynite sounds like singing country?!?! Neither do I, and I don't plan to find out! Is there really such a thing as a pumpkin festival?

8:49 PM

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Hi Nancy! (Or should I say Yo!) After Jamey's comments, I had to watch it again to see if my assessment had been too harsh. For whatever reason... whether it was this round of contestants or the demeanor of the judges... it did seem less mean this week. I wonder how far in advance the shows are taped. Would be great if the producers did respond to the criticism.

OK. You are a woman of many talents and abilities. But, I have to agree, country would not be your thing. Classic rock... yes. Folk... maybe. Country? Uh-uh. Do they even have a country music station in Brooklyn?

Love, Sarah

Nancy said...

Not in my day, but I think you can find a country station or two there now. It must be a Jersey influence or something!

Sarah Onderdonk said...

actually... Jamey knows this song about a truck in the driveway... it's a real tear jerker as i recall... Nancy, I think maybe you could pull it off. you might just take it to the next level...

Sarah Onderdonk said... headline this morning re. last night's Idol:

"Memphis Idols Lack Looks, But Not Talent"


Nancy said...

As far as our kids are concerned, we parents need to make sure that our kids understand that the show is supposed to be entertaining, again good or bad. They should also understand what's appropriate and what's not so that when they see something that's inappropriate, they recognize it for what it is and not want to emulate it.

If we raise our kids with confidence and good self-esteem, they'll work with what they've been given and not wish they were something they're not. And shame on the parents who don't steer their kids in a direction where they'll most likely be successful. Some people are meant to be superstars. Some are meant to be doctors and lawyers. Some are meant to work in retail or fast food. Sure, encourage kids to reach for the stars, but have a good understanding of which galaxy their star is in. Don't let them think that they could be the next American Idol if they're tone deaf. That's setting them up for failure and that's more cruel than Simon Cowell telling them that there's nothing about them that says "American Idol."

Jamey said...

I can't believe that I missed Idol last night!!! Too much 4th grade math and language homework.

I am sure that the talent that came out of Memphis was country. Wasn't it???

BTW, the truck in the drive song goes something like this (close your eyes and I think that you will be able to hear me singing)...

That ain't my truck in her drive
Oh, this don't look good tonight
I think I'm out of time and out of luck

That ain't my shadow on the wall
No this don't look good at all

Thats my girl, my whole world
But that ain't my truck......

Carrie, I know that you are out there and have an Idol audition song. Come on...what is it???

Nancy said...

Actually, there was a lot more blues than country. The couple of good people they showed had unique voices and styles. And the bad auditions were a lot more humorous than heartbreaking. I'm looking forward to the NYC auditions tonight. Now, if only I were 16 in reality and not just in my head, I might be one of those audition hopefuls!

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Jamey... I don't need to close my eyes for that memory... i will long remember the experience of you and that song. (If you do ever audition... you might want to leave the mike that doesn't get plugged in at home.)

Nancy... something occurred to me re. your aversion to country & your accent. Didn't you sing Ava Maria for the Pope? What did you do with your accent then? Can't you kind of adopt and lose accents when you sing?

Goodness what musical genius we have on the board today!

Nancy said...

Sarah, I can turn off the Brooklynese, but I can't turn on the country! After 20+ years in Virginia, people still look at me like I'm from another planet when I open my mouth to speak!

I wish I could sing the "Ave Maria," at least in a manner that would bring tears to your eyes! I actually sang "Slow Down" by Chuck Girard when Pope John Paul II visited Madison Square Garden in 1979. If you have a minute, check out Chuck Girard's website "Slow Down" is a very slow, meditative song with a very powerful message.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

will check it out here shortly!

i did want to say something about one of your posts yesterday regarding our children and steering them properly within their "galaxy." it's an important point you make that gets very little attention.

our generation is well versed in the psychological downside of failing to nurture our children. while we aren't always "on" in terms of our execution... most of us are well aware, at least, that the nurturing aspect of raising kids is crucial to healthy development in physical/mental/emotional/spiritual

but, as you suggest, there's a role of "realism" that shouldn't be ignored. while we never want to steal a dream, we're doing our kids a huge disservice, i believe, when we artificially build them up so high that it's a long, hard tumble down.

i'm reminded of an acquaintance from many years ago who told the story of being raised by parents who praised beyond measure every little thing. this woman and her brother were left with the sense they were superior to their peers in every way. they were told they were "gorgeous." the woman said she went to school with a little tilt in her head because she was surely the most "gorgeous"... but when she found out that she was, in truth, a little less gorgeous... her world rocked! mercifully for her, this became a story to laugh about at family reunions. but you don't have to think too long and hard about other, sadder scenarios that could potentially play out here...

i do think it's possible to "over-nurture" our children with respect to how they perceive themselves in the world. We don't want our children to become adults who have a spirit of entitlement and self-centeredness.

so... striking a balance between nurturing and growing healthy self-esteem versus misguiding... a fine line we walk, huh?

Nancy said...

When I was a teenager in the late 70s, I decided that I didn't need to go to college because I was going to be a rock star! Since I actually had musical talent -- singing and playing guitar, keyboards, and percussion -- being a rock star wasn't necessarily a pipedream. My mother was supportive, but she never overly encouraged or discouraged me. What she told me, however, was that the music industry was a tough business, so I should learn how to type so that I would always have something to fall back on if I wasn't going to go to college and my music didn't provide enough financial support. Of course, being the "smart" teenager that I was, I did one better and learned shorthand, too! (Remember, this was the 70s!!!)

Did I become a rock star? Certainly not in the Billboard Chart sense of the word! I sang/played with bands for a few years and I had a great time doing it. But it wasn't a lifestyle that I could continue to live when I decided to get married and start a family. It's a good thing my mother gave me the advice that she gave me and that I listened to her!

Two of my teenaged children are very interested in the fine arts -- one a musician, the other an actor and both very talented. However, they understand that not everyone gets to be a superstar. So, while they are studying and honing their crafts, they also understand the importance of a higher education and have plans to pursue degrees in psychology and business, respectively. That way, if they don't find themselves in first chair of a symphony orchestra or lead actor in a Broadway musical, they'll (hopefully) have good paying jobs and careers outside the entertainment industry that they will enjoy nonetheless.

I think that's representative of just some of the realism you talked about.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

yes, nancy... that seems to get to the heart of the matter.

your children are blessed to reap the benefits of your experience and wisdom (not to mention your rocking good taste in music :)