Idol’ Worship

Jeremy Gordon

By Jeremy GordonPLAY Columnist

American Idol is a great show because it appeals to both extremes of television enjoyment. On one hand, the show functions as an intriguing social experiment involving the contestants and the viewers who vote for them. On the other, the show is fun and stupid – nothing’s better than watching someone freak out on Simon or listening to a cave troll belt out “My Heart Will Go On.”

It begs the question, though – what sort of person would audition for American Idol? Okay, there are people who can obviously sing, but think about people like the mountain man “Red” from last Wednesday, who screeched his way through the opening of Bohemian Rhapsody, or the Abercrombie reject from last Tuesday who unfortunately treated everyone to a metal rendition of Dancing Queen. These people got up that morning, looked in the mirror and said to themselves, “I am ready to be the next American Idol,” despite the obvious. While that insistent determination is admirable, blind optimism is depressing.

On the flip side, there is no intellectual or moral superiority in laughing at all the idiots who fail miserably year after year. Upon watching the great William Hung audition, my cousin called his friend and said, “Turn on Fox, you need to see this jackass.” But as my cousin sat and laughed from the couch, was he any better than the misguided Mr. Hung? The producers of the show are quick to play up the pathetic angle – watching Ryan Seacrest fire one sarcastic question after another to his oblivious interviewees just makes me want to punch him in the face even more – but what is gained from glorifying the oblivious?

Despite their shortcomings, these people go on national TV and embarrass themselves for a dream. It’s easy to make fun of every arrogant moron who claims they will be the next big thing, or every man-child who throws a tantrum after being told he sound like a dog making love to a cheese grater, but what about the simply na’ve – the guys who just want to do their best, only to become national laughingstocks? Is it so wrong to make fun of them for having a dream and going for it?

Of course, this changes nothing about what I think – I’ll still watch until the auditions are over. Every horrified look on Simon’s face is still funny, and watching unattractive women grunt Don’t Cha without any rhythm or tone is always a good laugh. However, American Idol isn’t just idiot swill – it may be a good laugh for us students, but it can be a source of hope for singing prodigies and cave trolls alike. At the end, American Idol brings people together regardless of race, gender or environment, and even if we refuse to join, we can laugh – what could be better?

Medill freshman Jeremy Gordon is a PLAY pop culture columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]