Does 'Idol' need to be such a "spectacle of cruelty?"

by Liz Finn-Arnold, posted Jan 18th 2007 6:31PM
Simon CowellSimon may have called the Seattle turnout "the worst bunch of miserable contestants EVER," but many of our TVS readers think that it was Simon's behavior (especially the name-calling) that was miserable last night.

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.

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idell jackson

I am losing interest in idol. I'm tired of the judge's behavior. And brian Seacrest fight with Simon botherd me.
The singers this year are terrible.
Maybe 3 or 4 should have made it.
The first 3 weeks are a waste of my time.

March 02 2007 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Randy why act like simmon dispect acting a fool and make himself look like he don"t want to be there. Randy you being a black man you should no better You have been down all of you life. Because you have a spot on tv don"t forget who you are you are still black show some resepct not like simmon. Show a little you can tell the true and be nice it the time. Love other as you love yourself.

February 21 2007 at 12:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Leave Simon alone. The man speaks the truth. He is getting paid to speak his mind and that is what he is doing. If you are stupid enough to go on TV and make a fool out of yourself than shame on you. If you are a special needs person and want to sing, talk to your family so they can help you. Try singing for them and let them give you their honest opinion.

February 15 2007 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is what is wrong with the world today - NO ONE wants to be responsible for their OWN personal behaviour. The individuals that show up to try out for a singing competition - that KNOW they can't sing- THEY are putting themselves in a position to be criticized on national television - THAT is what the show is about - helloooooo??? If they don't want to be critqued - then DON'T SHOW up to audition. I am sick to death of these whiney individuals - they put themselves in that position - not Simon, Paula and Randy. They want to be on TV - that is the price they pay - and don't tell me that they don't know that they are talentless......

January 28 2007 at 9:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
O Jay

You know, if this is all people can find the time to complain about it is really time to find a hobby.

I am a "semi-pro" musician, producer and performer---and have been doing this for over 20 years. I have auditioned quite a few people myself, as well as hosting an "Idol-type" karaoke contest or two.

While I consider myself a good person, there have been times where after a really bad audition went down I found myself laughing. Not to be mean or belittling, but to stop myself from screaming.

Each judge has earned the right to be there based on their success in their careers. I don't agree with how they do things, but I respect their opinions.

More to the point---you get what you pay for. In other words---if enough people voted with their remotes and stopped watching the show it would go away. I totally agree with the statement made earlier that most of the complainers here will still be watching next week---so they will have something else to complain about.

To quote a famous phrase: "You're either part of the problem, or part of the solution."

Time to choose.

January 28 2007 at 6:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey, "me". You're just as bad as Simon. The little pathetic difference is that you've had the time to respond to almost every comment. Get over yourself, no one cares what you think, and get a life. And most people who spend their time trying to bring other individuals down or prove their significant intelligence usually are insecure and have the most flaws to be looked down upon.

January 28 2007 at 5:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you think those "bad singers' are not put on the air for entertainment ONLY (they are PICKED TO BE AWFUL) then you must think ALice In Wonderland is a true story! LMAO ~It's TV people!!~ Most of it is PLANNED. It's all FAKE............except MAYBE at the end when the real singers are in competition with one another.
America is so guliable.

January 28 2007 at 4:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have not, nor will I ever watch American Idol. I just happened to stumble on to this site, and after reading some of the comments decided to post a few thoughts here. Sadly enough people seem to be driven more and more by cruelty, this world is in a sad state. I do believe that Simon Cowell will get what he deserves in the long run, and I for one am waiting patiently to see just what it will be.

January 28 2007 at 3:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have watched "American Idol" only a few times; after which my concscience told me to stop. It was enough, however, to recall history, and one of the reasons that Ancient Rome eventually fell. Their society became hedonistic, increasingly cruel, and loved to watch spectator sports that maimed,hurt,humiliated and killed. THe crowd's fervor fed off the weak, and were ultimately satiated only by the horrible death of the lesser opponent. Regardless of people's naivite,(or even ignorance) of where their talent lies; is it really good for society to vicariously feed off of watching human beings humiliate themselves, and then being made further spectacles of with jeering,unkind remarks,mimicing and mocking? Itisn't about a small- minded bully named Simon, but instead about an increasingly immoral audience. It is a sad commentary on American society when ratings increase because this is now what it takes to amuse ourselves. Kathleen S.

January 28 2007 at 3:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok, Baby boomers can relate to this. Remember the Gong Show. AI is it all grown up and updated. We watched it then and we will watch it now.

January 28 2007 at 2:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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