The cruelty of American Idol

Posted in Music, News, Other, TV

It’s swirling around the blogosphere, and even in dinner conversations: is American Idol meaner this season?

And I am not so much referring to criticism of singing. That, I can understand. It’s a singing competition. It’s the outright criticism of people themselves: of how they look and act. And, this year more than other years, those made fun of are done so to the extreme, drawn out, and have more obvious things to criticise. Without going to details, more have physical or even obvious emotional defects/problems, and it’s horrid to see them being taunted so.

Example:

Singling out one performer for his appearance, Cowell said the contestant resembled "one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes … what are they called? Bush babies?" [Reuters]

Yesterday at the TCA Press Tour, they slightly responded to the criticism, although noting that they are no different than other years…

OK, now on to the "crueler" Simon. "I take your point; it’s a singing competition. Why would I say that someone’s a bush baby?" But he defended himself by saying, "We never try to censor this show. There are times I watch it back and I think, ‘God, I wish I never said that. I feel more comfortable being on a show where we’re prepared to show the warts as well as the good things."

Randy agreed. "It’s season six; it’s no different than it ever was." [TV Squad]

Another quote:

"American Idol" judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul say they’re no crueler than usual this year, and that people who audition should know what they’re going to get.

"If you don’t want to hear that, don’t show up," Cowell told television writers at a news conference on Saturday. [AP News]

Perhaps we are not asking the right people. Perhaps it is no more mean than others, in terms of Paula/Simon/Randy. Perhaps it’s the producers and editors who are choosing the clips of the criticism and drawing out long scenes on peoples’ appearances. So, let’s listen to their response:

Executive Producer Ken Warwick made no apologies for dwelling on the delusional, the tone-deaf and oddballs among contestants, insisting he was giving viewers what they wanted.

"People like the bad singers," Warwick said. "It’s more the bad singers that will bring in the ratings." [Reuters]

I think what is not being made clear to producers it that the dissatisfaction is less with the talent of the contestants than their obvious appearance flaws.

I’ve always found it annoying that although this is a competition on talent, so many people are aired who have no talent whatsoever. We never hear the mostly good compete against the really good – just the bad versus the good. Entertainment.

For a show with guaranteed high ratings, I was shocked to see them go so far as they did during the premiere week. Completely unnecessary and cruel. And, if this is a true reflection of the changing demands of viewers, the desensitization to cruelty and demands for it for entertainment value, then it is truly sad.

If you want American Idol coverage, check out b5′s own Idol Stalker.

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