Thursday, January 18, 2007

American Idolatry

God help me. Again, I find myself in a blogging ethics dilemma, weighing my obligation to cover VTK newsworthy information with my desire not to fall into negative media pitfalls, to avoid tabloidism. Tabloidism is, of course, entertaining, but it has, of course, detrimental consequences to society. How many times did I whip up a post revolving around skeletal pictures of Nicole Richie with a title along the lines of “One, Two, Three Pounds Of Lady”? Many. But I want to encourage neither eating disorders nor the proliferation of celebutantism. So I scrapped them all. But pop culture/entertainment is an important part of VTK.
Sure, it’s not as high brow as the art posts, as morally righteous as the political posts, as blow-hard as the crackpot posts, as savory as the recipe posts, as hilarious as the alcohol-fueled hijinx posts, or as sporty as the sports posts. But it has its place. And I have a job to do, goddamnit. And I have been a bit remiss in my duties here. Ever since I jumped on the Su Doku bandwagon, really.

Today’s predicament is with some content related to American Idol - a show that is problematic in and of itself. On the one hand, it is reality TV and therefore is inherently good. On the other, its popularity is derived from catering to the American public’s sadistic desire to watch people get humiliated and demeaned. Yes, there are some redemptive stories and some high quality singing mixed in there, but they are largely camouflage for the real ratings draw – the exploitation of the delusions, the failings, and the insecurities of hopeful young adults between the ages of 16 and 30. Some of the humiliated, aren't really because they're doing it as a joke. Some of them end up making money off their horrendous performances. But you have to feel for the kids who really thought they had a chance and got torn to shreds in the process of losing their dreams. I guess all but a few knew what they were signing up for. It's still a little sad, though.

But, in the end, it is reality TV, and as such, I will watch it as soon as I will breathe and eat. And so, I give you the myspace pages of this year’s contestants, brought to you by deathbycamera.com, tipped to me by the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, thesuperficial.com. If you’re going to be guilty, might as well be real guilty.

13 comments:

Kristin said...

Don't beat your head against the wall VTKid, your pop culture posts are great and much needed during this war on terror (and by "war on terror" I am referring to Jack Bauer's war against the Arab-Justin Timberlake who just blew up LA on "24")

So I'm totally sucked into this whole "American Idol" thing but I was kinda losing my interest in it last night because it's basically just 3 semi-successful people from "the biz" tearing apart musical performances by the mentally retarded. Let's face it, some of the people are strange but a good portion of them are really mentally ill. I don't think the retarded were ever really known for being good singers.

When I was watching the show I had a flashback to when I was a child and for some unknown reason I was taken to a midget wrestling match. I was 10 and we all sat on stools arranged around the ring which was like a sunken pit with about 8 midgets who were wrestling each other. To this day I can't fully articulate what exactly I was feeling about this experience at the time, but I got sick and puked. American Idol sometimes gives me that same 10 year old midget wrestling feeling.

I'm truly thankful that I'm not a singing retard or a wrestling midget but I also don't know if I want to tempt fate and laugh at them either.

Dan said...

Thanks K-Bev. It's a dilemma isn't it? I think part of the entertainment value of it is the fact that they are semi-successful schmucks and while they're tard-bashing, you're thinking about how much of a loser each judge is. I mean, the bassist for Journey? Really, Randy? Dogg? You're making fun of someone for not being cool?

Did that midget wrestling actually happen or was that a dream?

Kristin said...

True - Randi, Paul, and Simon are all schmucks so I guess the viewer gets to feel superior to both the asshole judges and the retarded contestants...I hate that show but I can't stop watching it.

Midget Wrestling really happened: 1985 Topsfield Fair

Dewy said...

I’ve often wondered where my hatred of reality TV came from. I’m as low-brow as they come which my browser history file will prove. I devour my weekly Sports Illustrated yet struggle get through half of my Atlantic Monthly before the next one arrives and that’s on a good month. Perhaps this is a classic symptom of early onset curmudgeonism but I remember a time when it seemed like network TV was specifically designed for me. For someone reared on Barney Miller, Taxi and Magnum P.I., with a few notable exceptions, primetime shows confirm that I’ve hopelessly strayed from the cultural zeitgeist. But the problem with this apparent snobbishness is that it smacks of the connoisseur-ism which infuriates me. I’ve been in heated arguments with friends who refuse to drink a Budweiser and will only drink microbrews or imported beer. Yet I fear I’m being hypocritical when American Idol is the Budweiser of TV shows. Then again this wave of reality TV started in Europe so maybe a better beer metaphor would be St. Pauli Girl which is swill. I feel better.

Dan said...

And all the true genius reality tv shows make you feel superior to all those involved. It's like they figured out how to mainline prozac through TV waves. Maybe it's the mirrors.

Dan said...

Dewy, I know your taste in beer, I've drunk beer with you, you're no connoisseur.

I really should whip a more comprehensive post on my feelings about reality tv, including my rankings of the top reality shows ever, but in the interim let me just say that it is the greatest current extension of the plastic sugary entertainment that I look for from tv. When someone comments on how stupid reality tv is, I think ... uh ... yeah, yes, it is. And that's exactly why I watch tv. It's like pointing out how outrageous FOX News is. Obviously. But it can be informative to watch it in the sense that it gives you an understanding of what the people who choose the people who run your country are listening to. Except it's not like that because I'm not looking down on reality TV viewers. I am one. I love garbage tv.

Kristin said...

News Flash: I'm not sure if this is exclusive to Comcast customers but there's a new channel that is completely devoted to Reality TV programming. So far it consists mainly of "Mr. Personality" reruns which was some sort of dating show hosted by Monica Lewinsky.

Dan said...

W-W-W-W-W-W-WHAAAAAT?!?!?

What channel? I just got my Comcast upgraded yesterday and I don't see any Reality TV Channel.

lc said...

No news on the Comcast channel but your last idea about fox news being informative actually echoes what Edward Said says about cultural hegemony -that the internal constraints that come with culture can actually be productive in giving you insight into that culture rather than inhibiting. It lets you in to the "formidable structure of cultural domination."(Orientalism, p.14) Lest you get shit or feel guilty about a pop culture post, Said, god love him, would agree with you and would say that culture would fall into the category of "newsworthy information" and politics.

Dan said...

you Said it.

Dan said...

(couldn't resist. tried, but couldn't)

Kristin said...

Channel 232 - "Fox Reality" - they have some sort of menacing slogan too - something like "Because you just can't get enough"

Dan said...

I just turned it on and checked the guide menu (I love unemployment) and it's almost all cops shows, dating shows (like 5th wheel), and ambush makeovers. not my kind of reality tv. though they are showing two episodes of My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance later, so that should be good.