Does 'Idol' need to be such a "spectacle of cruelty?"
Our comments are abuzz on the Seattle post, and most of you feel that American Idol has gone too, too, too, too far. You were annoyed by the parade of loony performances over good auditions, and embarrassed and ashamed to be part of last night's very public mocking of clueless contestants that appeared to be somewhat mentally-challenged. And like you, I'm wondering if I have the stomach for the "spectacle of cruelty" that American Idol may unleash in the upcoming weeks.
I think I forgot just how brutal these early audition shows can be. And I forgot that TWO DAYS of Idol (four programming hours total) is a bit too much even for me. Do we really have FIVE more "wacky and crazy" audition shows? Did I really agree to watch and review every single minute of this? Feel lucky that at least you can turn away if it gets to be too much. I'm stuck watching the carnage for the duration.
Not that any of us should be shocked by anything American Idol does. The producers are only giving us more of what we want. And we're showing up to watch in record-breaking numbers. We can complain about the "spectacle of cruelty," as long as we realize that we helped create it. And even though we might not like to admit it, we enjoy judging people we deem dumber, uglier, fatter, less-talented, and way more pathetic than ourselves. But what does all this nastiness say about us as a culture? And is this the type of behavior I want my own children watching and internalizing?
In my own humble opinion, American Idol is a show with a serious split personality. Only the second half of the season is a competitive talent contest. The first half is a tacky "Gong Show" that grabs ratings by poking fun at gullible people desperate to get their faces on TV. For some viewers, these "so-bad-they're-good" auditions are the best part of the series. And while I am easily amused by the antics early on, I think the "spectacle of cruelty" grows old rather quickly. I also think it undermines the legitimacy of the "talent contest" portion of the show. In real life, the "worst" contestants would be weeded out and dismissed, rather than encouraged to perform in front of the judges.
And by allowing increasingly bad and insane performers to audition (or planting them as some suspect), the Idol producers are telling America that they are more interested in providing shameless, shocking, "ratings-grabbing" programming, than they are in finding a true singing sensation.