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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Idle Americans

OK, I have to admit - everyone in my family is a huge fan of American Idol. We are, in other words, "Idle Americans" on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, glued to our couch as we watch thousands of people audition and get humbled to their core as they are critiqued by judges Simon, Paula, Randy and newbie Cara. I have to say, there are a few beneficial things that result from my girls, ages 10, 14 and 17, watching this show faithfully every week. The top being that they have to do all of their homework, eat dinner, wash their dishes and take their showers before they can become one with the sofa to watch and rewind portions of the show. That's a big benefit. The other is we all sit and watch the show as a family, and laugh at the expense of those who get hailed with witticisms from Simon, our favorite British import.

What is it that makes this show so appealing to millions of Americans? It has been the number one show ever since it aired 8 seasons ago. I think there are several reasons for its popularity including:
  • The "rags to riches" aspect, taking an unknown and creating an instant millionaire when they sign a record contract.
  • Watching the contestants get verbally slaughtered by Simon and overly coddled by Paula. I'm not quite sure what the Randy and Cara provide, perhaps it's just to balance the table.
  • Observing how so many people are tone-challenged, especially the parents and friends who build the confidence of the auditioner having them believe they have singing talent when they haven't got a clear "C" note to pitch.
  • Feeling like a fly on the wall when the contestants go through high levels of stress and quietly wondering how we might handle that situation if we were in their shoes.
  • Waiting for Ryan Seacrest to flub up - I mean what a job that guy has, the least he can do is trip up so we feel better about our lives.

All kidding aside, I think the show appeals on a variety of levels because there are so many basic human elements involved. It's sort of like high school, where emotions are so raw and there are stand-outs, drop-outs and mediocres all around. It's seeing those emotions repeated again on TV. From the gut wrenching stories that make you root for the underdog; to the lucky, born-beautiful person who realizes they cannot make it on just their looks; to the honest, hard worker who makes it to the final 12. And of course we love watching the judges because they can be so brutally honest or so overwhelmingly protective.

And maybe that is the underlying reason Americans love the show. I think all of us wish we could be Simon for day (and get paid like him too). Can you imagine being completely honest like Simon? In a typical day we have to be politically correct and careful of what is said to our child, co-worker, teacher, friend, relative - just to preserve their ego and whatever type of relationship there is. What favors are we doing when we don't tell someone the honest truth but instead hide behind niceties? Didn't someone once say, "The truth will set you free?" Why then do we go through our day telling little white lies or holding back an honest assessment in order to keep the boat steady? Do we really feel our best relationships can't handle the truth? In the short term, some feelings may get hurt but that might help separate the true friend from the acquaintance. If we are honest and not saying something with the intention of hurting feelings, we may actually be doing someone the biggest favor of their lives.

I have a pent-up Simon Cowell waiting to be heard. I would love to see the end of the "politically correct" era and the end of Idle Americans who are less effective because of too many PC restraints. If we could be brutally honest with the co-worker in the cubicle next to us who doesn't do anything all day but play solitaire; if we could tell the principal at school that they are too cautious and need to be more astute with the times; if we knew our voice could be heard in local, state and federal governments, I think more people would speak up and stop being Idle Americans. Think about how effective Simon Cowell is, he separates the talent from the talentless. If we could be honest with ourselves and others, perhaps then we'd actually have more American Idols.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post. You two both continue to amaze me. I look forward to reading your latest adventures or topics of discussion each time I log on. Thanks for ALL the great Stories.


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