This was written (mostly) in 2005. American Idol was rated TV-G at the time and I objected to that.
The show posts a G rating, signifying it is a family show. Shows with the TV-PG rating suggest parents should guide their children while watching to reassure them that the world won’t end when they see violence or hear profanity. It’s easy to give a PG rating to a show with violence. Violence and profanity are easy to spot. The censors have lists of things that need to be rated accordingly or otherwise disallowed. Gun fire = TV-PG; Blood = TV-MA; Vagina = Sorry, Nice Try. AmIdol has a G rating because the censors have a hard time spotting the material that requires discretion. (And this isn’t much of a surprise. I mean, we’re talking about people who are paid to watch and assign ratings to TV shows. We’re probably talking about full-on rejects here. I read a book about the financial system, and I learned that the people who work at the ratings agencies- the agencies that determine whether a bond is good or bad- I learned that those people are imbeciles, that they couldn’t get jobs at real Wall Street Firms, where the real money is. I’m guessing that censors had difficulty landing real entertainment jobs.) <— all that being said, I work in a deli. I’m the deli guy at Goldman Sachs.
American Idol holds huge preliminary tryouts at large wide-open venues (normally stadiums) in the cities in which they film the first episodes to air. Producers choose the best and the worst at these preliminary tryouts. The best are serious contenders; the worst are to be sent before Simon Cowell where he will attempt to pop their delusion bubble. Funny thing is, he will pretend that the delusional contestant wasn’t picked for the sole purpose of a nationally televised reality-check. Even better, the check is going to be given by music industry insiders. The entertainment value here lies in the distance between Simon and friends and the delusional contestants. It’s like ten feet but it’s really like worlds apart and that ten feet is going to be as close as it gets for the delusional. Simon will act as if this is the contestant’s first tryout. Simon will say “you suck” and feign disgust that this person wasted his and the show’s valuable time. Simon won’t acknowledge that this delusional, unpaid contestant was actually playing an integral role in the proven money-making AmIdol formula. Money making, merely money making? I’m leaving it to the reader to insert better words and phrases that capture AmIdol’s decade-long money printing machine into the comment section of this post.
I don’t have much of a problem with AmIdol’s exploitation of the delusional. It’s the reason I watch the show. It makes me feel better. I feel that I’m somewhat delusional and dreamy, and watching talentless contestants attempt to sing on a national stage makes me feel more emotionally stable. I laugh hard, and so does the rest of the family. It’s wrong, but there are greater injustices.
I don’t watch the show when they go to Hollywood and the real competition starts, because I’m not into singers that don’t even try to write songs. I don’t get the lack of effort, or lack of desire to really be heard. Can an artist really communicate anything when he or she is limited to singing songs written by others? They attach their voice to another song and by, oh, shit, going an octave higher than Rod Stewart, are they really saying anything? What is going on there? We don’t really hear a voice when we watch American Idol. We hear “I want to be famous.”
So as I watch the first part of the season, questions arise as I see contestants crying as they walk off the stage- sometimes escorted by security- exploitation time OVER. What kind of parents allows their son or daughter to become so delusional? What sort of childhood produces this crazy behavior? Did that girl just say she hears voices? Is this newly rejected contestant really going to walk directly to the street and beg for money as he says he is? We question the contestant’s self-awareness: “That 57 yr old man in a poodle skirt doesn’t honestly think he stands a chance, does he? He’s got to know that he sucks!” And I wonder, just as an eight-year old needs to be comforted after a scene of brutal violence; won’t he or she need guidance upon seeing a schizophrenic American Idol contestant?
American Idol doesn’t explore any of these questions; as soon as the laughs are through, it’s on to the next contestant. Oh, and this one is mind blowing…ly good! We go to commercial break with a quick peak of a beautiful 17 year old girl singing Killing me Softly and we see Paula just melt in her chair. We forget about the last girl, the one who was escorted off the stage while doing jumping jacks cuz she thought a display of athleticism was going to sway the judges. No actually, we don’t forget that. How can we forget that? It’s CRAZY.
I don’t have a problem with the show being on air, or the fact that it’s watched more than any other show. I do have a problem with the G rating. Because the show is f*******cked up. Every time I watch the beginning of an AmIdol season, I think to myself, “This is entertaining, but my kids aren’t going to watch this.” My kids are gonna watch Goodfellas before they watch AmIdol.
There’s a song by Blink 182 about a high school kid who gets invited over to a pretty girl’s house to hang out. It’s supposedly based on a true story. The boy thinks the girl might like him so he peddles his bike to her house as fast as he can. When he gets there, the girl and her friend await him with a garden hose in the front yard. They spray him with the hose.
I believe this isn’t much different from what American Idol does with its joke contestants. The only difference is the girls in the song are more forgivable because of their youth. American Idol is grown up people making money by spraying others with insults and demonic laughter. Never questioning where the delusional singers came from or where they’re going. To me that’s rated R. Or at least rated “So Aaron Jr., we’re gonna have a little talk now.”
For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day, and worried about their bills, were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls. If we wanted something we just took it. If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again.
-Henry Hill, Goodfellas