American Idol: The Post MortumBy David K. / Friday, May 13th, 2005
“I’ve never watched it…The word ‘mainstream’ comes to mind.”
— Courtney Love outside the Kodak Theater with her small daughter,
who wanted to see the American Idol finale.
Last night the 12-year-old girl that lives inside me was murdered. Like Sally Field in Sybil, I always knew the inevitable moment would arrive when I would need to split from that naive little personality. That moment came last night.
Idol‘s finale was mean-spirited and barbaric. Instead of a fun-loving victory celebration, I got two hours worth of Fox ringing up sales on a cash register. In their lust for ratings and dollars, Fox’s top-rated talent show morphed into a freaky sideshow.
Rather than carry this pain alone, I’ve invited Nightcharm’s editor John Calendo to bitch and moan alongside me. John?
John Calendo: I’m not as disappointed as you, David. I never mistook this show for the light-hearted talent competition it pretends to be. I see it in the darker context of the Reality Show. In reality shows, the winner is not what keeps us coming back each week. It’s the relentless attrition, the blunt humiliation of the losers. A recent example of this was last week’s results show, when Ryan told the remaining three that tonight one of them would get a one-way coach ticket home while the others would go for joy rides on private jets.
David K.: I never ever “got” Carrie. Her robotic lack of passion was disturbing. But I knew she was going to win after the first two minutes of the finale show. The opening number — a Beach Boy medley performed by what looked like the Brady Bunch — was the first bad sign. It underlined Idol‘s deep roots in theme-park whoring and seemed to pave the way for pretty blonde girls who look good holding microphones. A few notes into the chirpy Up With People jamobree and I knew Bo Bice was a goner. His swaggering, belting, bar-room masculinty hadn’t a chance under the sunny glare of all that fake pop music. My gaydar could suddenly see through his pants! His gonads were shrinking to the size of grape-nuts and by the time the group-fuck was over, Bo Bice was as sexless as Ryan Seacrest.
John: Isn’t Ryan Seacrest the lowest? He has to hype the thrill of all these executions. When they brought on that overweight black girl last night to sing the National Anthem — she had been eliminated at the audition, yet there she was with her hair nicely done, looking like a hippo in a black dress — and she’s put up there just so the audience can scream with laughter, can relish how flat her singing is, how out of touch she is with her own reality. It made me think of those London thrill-seekers in the 19th Century who would take tours of Bedlam to laugh at the freaks and ridicule the mad people.
David: Yes, Leandra Jackson’s appearance was the show’s most brazen display of cruelty. Replaying her auditon in all its horror, and then bringing her out with the Oprah makeover, the parting of the screens, the overworked smoke machines — it was all a setup.
John: You know, this show comes from England, and I don’t think they really get what kind of a nation they’re dealing with here. We shoot first and ask questions later. One of these days one of these pissed-on, pissed-off contestants will come back to the audition with a semi-automatic and take out the judges — Randy, then Paula, then Simon with clean shots through the forehead. And the truth is, everyone watching will be cheering the killer on. Because we’ve all developed this taste for red meat and humiliation, thanks to four years of reality-show watching.
David: I think the finale exposed the producer’s cynicism about their contestants and their audience. The producers needed to juxtapose the best and the most talented against the insane and the most deluded. They had no trust that people would want to simply celebrate the victory of the winner. They were greedy for ratings. They already had the most watched show in America, yet they wanted to make sure no one would change the channel. It was this sort of calculation, to manipulate me, that really turned me off. And after I saw the mocking standing ovation they gave to poor Leandra Jackson, I knew that was it. I will not be watching American Idol next year.
John: Unless they give us another Mario…to perv on.
David: Well John, Faye Dunaway said it best in Network:
“The American people are turning sullen. They’ve been clobbered on all sides by Vietnam, Watergate, the inflation, the depression. They’ve turned off, shot up, and they’ve fucked themselves limp, and nothing helps. I want a show developed, based on the activities of a terrorist group: Joseph Stalin and His Merry Band of Bolsheviks.”
John: Or Paula Abdul and the Forty Thieves.
David: Shouldn’t that be Boy Toys?
John: Straight up!
David: All in all, it was a two-hour nightmare to hype a five-second announcement. To quote Faye again: “And how sad that is.”
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