Cruel Laughter and American Idol

January 19, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 10:24 am   Category: Life

Is it just me or have the makers of American Idol seemed more cruel this season already? I know that the “check out these idiots” portion of the auditions is always popular and I admit that I have laughed at many of the weirdos that have been featured over the years, but I have found myself cringing this season and pitying many of the sad folks featured so far. Seattle was especially painful with that poor software engineer being spotlighted for a good 5 minutes. (Nicholas Zitsman or something?) The producers of the show apparently decided that prolonging his humiliation by forcing America to sit through basically his entire a capella rendition of Unchained Melody would be good television. It started feeling like watching someone being tortured to me. I ended up rooting for the poor guy (who frankly seemed like he might be autistic or something) and disliking the producers for their apparent sadistic streak. But is the cruelty of the producers just driven by the cruelty of the audience? Are we the ones who demand more and more humiliation of the weak and downtrodden souls who are misguided enough to think trying out for American Idol is a good idea?

Look, it is obvious that out of the 10,000 people who try out in any given city maybe 100 get to the final judges. The pre-judges obviously weed out everyone except the top 1% and the bottom 1% and that’s what we get to see. The top 1% almost seem to be pre-approved for the next round and the bottom 1% are sent to the wolves for us to all laugh at them. The problem is that the bottom 1% this year more than ever seemed to be made up of either mentally or physically disabled people. So has it come to this? Is American Idol now our Coliseum wherein we get to laugh and gawk as the weak and disabled are disemboweled by the proverbial lions?

Yuck. What does it say about me that I laughed hard at some of these truly pathetic folks?

55 Comments »

  1. I was laughing SO hard and covering my ears from the sheer pain of that Utah guy singing “Unchained Melody.” It was so awful and it seemed like it would NEVER stop.

    But I did feel bad for a number of these guys. Some of them appeared to be mentally handicapped or to have physical features that seem to give away some kind of disability or developmental problem. My wife was using pretty technical medical terminology to talk about it … but I can’t remember the terms now.

    Comment by danithew — January 19, 2007 @ 10:52 am

  2. Isn’t being from Utah a handicap?

    I can say will all certainty (this may become part of my testimony on Sunday) being a resident of Seattle, that that was an accurate depiction of the cross section we have to offer up here.

    Looking at it semi-objectively, Say if you go to sing, expect to have your performance torn apart. I am not so sure that the comment about the kid looking like a bush baby was appropriate. (I still laughed though, so I am pretty sure I am going to hell.)

    Comment by jake — January 19, 2007 @ 11:04 am

  3. That is the very reason I avoid American Idol for the first half of the season, if I even start to watch then. It is painful, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to make fun of those who don’t even realize they are being set up as the butt of a joke.

    Comment by cantinflas — January 19, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  4. I’ve never watched American Idol, but I heard about this afterwards. The great LDS Philosopher, Glenn Beck hypothesized that it is symptomatic of how our culture has reached a point where we objectify people as mere objects for our entertainment.

    We’re supposed to use things and love people, not vice versa.

    Comment by V the K — January 19, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  5. Not to be cynical, but let’s remember that each and every one of these people signed waivers, allowing their audition to be filmed and broadcast at the discretion of the producers. Even for the most bizarre and untalented candidates, this is a chance at being on television for their moment of fame. Look what it did for William Hung, who then recorded at least two cd’s that I know of!

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 19, 2007 @ 11:27 am

  6. eh, they chose to go on the show – and they know what happens if they’re bad.

    Besides, while I don’t think American Idol producers go out and get ringers that are bad — I’m certain they don’t edit out the people that are trying to be bad just to get on TV.

    I’m there until Hollywood, and then I leave it up to my wife to tell me what’s happening.

    Comment by Jared — January 19, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  7. I went to High school with Nick Z. and what made it really funny for me was that he had not changed one bit in ten years. He was not acting- that is how he really is, though that doesn’t mean he didn’t think it would turn out the way it did. That is why have not the slightest guilt laughing at people on the show- because they know what they’re getting into. Its like we’re laughing WITH them.

    Comment by Nick — January 19, 2007 @ 11:32 am

  8. Geoff,

    I can’t watch American Idol for just that reason. I don’t care if the people knew what they were getting into. I find the idea of laughing at people for being awful despite their best effort distasteful. But, even worse to me is taking pleasure in watching Simon belittle, insult, and humiliate people as a sport. I felt dirty after seeing a promo for the first episode.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 19, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  9. Keep in mind that they have to get through the producers to get to the judges. So most who get through are then “pumped-up” a bit by the producers and given some confidence.

    The only one that bothered me a little was the mother whose husband didn’t believe in her and whose son encouraged her to try-out. When she started to cry while saying all of this, I thought, “she’s going to be REALLY bad.”

    I think most of the people who try out need to be told how it is. Maybe not in the manner that the judges tell them, but they do need a strong dose of reality.

    Comment by Tim J. — January 19, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  10. V the K: We’re supposed to use things and love people, not vice versa.

    Amen.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 11:43 am

  11. Nick (and Jared and Jake, etc.),

    Well of course it is all legal — they wouldn’t air the stuff if it wasn’t legal. The question I am asking is about the morality of it all. This is not a case of poking fun at arrogant and powerful celebrities or something — this is taking the weak and disabled of the world and setting them up for what is basically a cruel practical joke. It is grinding their faces and publicly humiliating them for the enjoyment of the masses.

    One can claim they should know the risks but I am not so sure these people really do (or can?) understand the risks. If they are blind to their utter lack of talent enough to get that far they are almost certainly blind to the fact that the joke is on them in front of many millions of people. Doesn’t that seem at least morally questionable?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  12. I don’t think it’s immoral enough to be wrong, unless it drive someone into permanent depression or suicide. I suppose one of these years we’ll read that a contestant went home and ate his gun. But so far that hasn’t happened.

    I agree with those who say that people know what they are getting into … they shouldn’t show up, wait around all day and audition if they aren’t willing to be criticized.

    Comment by danithew — January 19, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  13. Geoff, I understand your point, where people are truly unable to grasp what they are getting themselves into. On the other hand, there seems to be a certain human impulse to flaunt ourselves, even if it means flaunting our shortcomings.

    Think of some of the advertising we see. There are times when the morbidly obese, the “ugly,” or those with some other glaring “fault” are mercilessly exploited. I find myself wondering just how much that person had to be paid, for them to wear that costume, engage in that behavior, etc. Still, directors find willing subjects.

    I’ll tell you the contestant that gave ME watery eyes—the 16 year old boy in Minnesota, who’s parents were unsupportive of him trying out (and frankly, his demeanor suggested other reasons his parents may not have been especially supportive of him). Seeing that kid make the cut for Hollywood, and call his mother on the cell phone to tell her he’d made it was very emotional to me.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 19, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  14. I meant to add one caveat – if a person clearly manifests any signs of being mentally disabled, even in the slightest, their screenings shouldn’t be shown to the national audience.

    One of the things I do appreciate about Paula Abdul is that she seems to recognize when some of the contestants have some kind of problem, and she tries to let them down as nicely as she can.

    Simon on the other hand – he really is pretty cruel.

    Comment by danithew — January 19, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

  15. danithew,
    Yes, and keep in mind, the vast majority of these contestants have watched the show before (one admitted he’d never seen it). They KNOW what Simon is like, etc. Short of mental handicaps, the vast majority have to be aware of the risk they are taking.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 19, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  16. Danithew: I don’t think it’s immoral enough to be wrong, unless it drive someone into permanent depression or suicide.

    Oh good grief Dan. If you really mean this then you are saying that any kind of cruelty that the strong inflict on the weak is not “wrong” unless it drives that weak person “into permanent depression or suicide.” I doubt you really mean that.

    Look, let’s face it. The early season shows of American Idol are basically the equivalent of school kids mocking the slow and weak and disabled among them on the bus. It is like laughing and pointing and chanting “retard! retard!” at those poor downtrodden and misfit kids who were audacious or foolish enough to catch our attention. We laughed then and apparently we laugh and point still. Is that “immoral enough to be wrong”?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  17. Inconclusive for me as to the “morality” of exploiting these people.

    The bigger question for me is, WHO TOLD THESE PEOPLE THEY COULD SING?

    If this what is to become of a politically correct society that tell everyone that they can do anything if they just put their mind to it? Really, we need to make sure we are honest with each other and our kids. Just because you sing, does not make you a talented singer. just because you own a garage and some wrenches, it does not make you a mechanic.

    At some point, we all need to come to grips with reality. I deal with this on a daily basis with my chosen occupation. I was hired for my mouth, not my brains. They did however hire a few guys for their brains, hoping they could develop these guys into outgoing consultants, only to find that they are continually offending people and talking over their heads.
    I have come to grips with the fact, that even though I sell technology products, I know very little about them. I am no technical, and I make that ver apparent as I go into things. I rely on those that have, where I have not.

    If I fooled myself into thinking that I was more qualified than I actually am to deal with technical issues, i would become a liability to myself, and my company.

    If we all tell everyone else that they are doing great at building a house, as it falls over in a pile of rubble, are we really doing anyone a favor?

    Here is what society has done for these people. We have told them through painful winces that they are doing great, to keep going and shoot for the stars. All the while knowing their we have equipped that rocked with insufficient fuel to get more than 20 feet of the ground, where it will crash.

    I guess I am old fashoned? I lived in an age where if I got too big for my breeches, there was someone bigger than me to knock me down to reality. Being picked last for some teams in School helped me figure out that I probably was not going to be an all-star in football. Now, we don’t even have competitive sports in half the politically correct schools in the US.

    Who is setting up the weak in the world to be trashed on American idol? Not Fox, they are just running with the stupidity society has created.

    I am amazed at how many people walk out of the room insisting they sound amazing. I can only HOPE they paid these guys as actors, though I have seen people like this try to build a house….

    Comment by jake — January 19, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  18. You may be right, Geoff, but I can think of a lot of things people do that are very “acceptable” in society, but far more “wrong” than mocking American Idol auditioners.

    Comment by Nick Literski — January 19, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  19. Nick L: there seems to be a certain human impulse to flaunt ourselves, even if it means flaunting our shortcomings

    I agree that the world is full of people so desperate for attention that they will even willingly subject themselves to humiliation to get that attention. But that fact doesn’t seem to make accepting their offer and using these poor needy misfits as objects of our amusement right. I can’t imagine anything that seems farther from Christ-like behavior than doing that. These misfits seem to me to be the very type of people that Jesus spent extra time seeking out and lifting up. That is the disconnect I am having with this right now.

    I agree that there are some excellent moments on the show though. I too liked that kid in Minnesota. And the judges were pretty nice to some of the obvious pathetic misfits (even as we in the audience laughed at them).

    I guess I am just wondering what kind of message I am sending my kids when I watch this stuff with them. “It’s ok to laugh at and scorn misfits of the world as long as it is in the comfort of our home”?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 12:39 pm

  20. BTW — look like I’m not the only one who is noticing what seems to be a ramp up in the meanness on the show. I just saw this article.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  21. A lot of comments here seem to be concerned with whether the people know what they are getting into and whether they deserve it. That misses the point of the moral question relative to the watcher. The question is:

    What does it say about you that you take pleasure in watching other people publically humiliated?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 19, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  22. By the way, it might be that you like American Idol, but for other reasons. I am not saying everyone who watches is immoral.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 19, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  23. Does anyone know if contestants are able to ask that their auditions not be aired (after they have auditioned and know that their audition was bad)? If that option is available to them, then the discussion is even more moot than it already is. I’ve seen Nick’s myspace page and he sure seems to be basking in his new celebrity status (at least for a few more days). He’s laughing, and I laugh with him.

    Comment by Nick — January 19, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  24. Question: Would it also be immoral to watch (and laugh at) an embarrassing video that someone had posted of themselves on youtube?

    Comment by Nick — January 19, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  25. I agree they seem to be a little meaner this season. But, the ones that I feel are morally culpable are the friends and family of these poor souls who continue to tell them they are good. Seriously, THEY set them up for a huge fall. Everyone’s seen the show, and I can’t in good concience encourage any friend to try out. I have felt bad for a couple of the guys, and I don’t know if you can assume we are always laughing at the bad ones. BUT – I think the friends and coworkers of Zitsman who told him to go try out are the ones really at fault.

    Comment by Veritas — January 19, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  26. Question: Would it also be immoral to watch (and laugh at) an embarrassing video that someone had posted of themselves on youtube?

    No, in my opinion, that would be different. So, to the extent that you are genuinely laughing with people, I think that is a different thing. However, very few embarrassing videos have commentary from someone trying to be as demeaning as possible toward the embarrassed person.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 19, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  27. jake (#18),

    You make some interesting points but I think the evidence from the show argues against this notion you have that rational and socially aware people are encouraging these poor souls to try out. For instance did you see that poor obese girl with the platinum blond hair and badly applied bright red lipstick? She was clearly not socially adept in the least and had no business trying out. But who was with her? Her uber-nerdy mother who was also very overweight and was wearing the very same poorly-applied bright red lipstick. That tells me that the daughter was being encouraged by the loving and supportive mother — one social outcast taking advice from another. Who is there to protect them from there own social blindness though? Part of being a misfit and an outcast is that you end up associating mostly with other misfits and social outcasts (especially when it runs in the family). So you have groups of people who find love and support among others who aren’t socially discerning enough to warn their loved one that he or she is walking into a humiliating trap for making it to the last rounds and auditioning Randy, Paula, and Simon. The producers of the show take advantage of their weakness (their inability to discern as a group the fact that their friend/son/daughter is not really a viable candidate to move on to the next round) to make them the butt of a national joke. I think the show producers are morally culpable for that. I am morally culpable when I watch and encourage such cruelty to continue (which I won’t do any more now that I’ve had time to sort it out in my head.)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  28. Nick (#23): Does anyone know if contestants are able to ask that their auditions not be aired

    They can ask, but as you Nick L mentioned I’m sure the show can legally ignore such requests. But the socially undiscerning people that should ask are probably unaware that they are part of the goober squad portion of the show until it airs anyway.

    I’ve seen Nick’s myspace page and he sure seems to be basking in his new celebrity status (at least for a few more days). He’s laughing, and I laugh with him.

    Well what else can he do now? But he was sincere during the tryout. The producers and audience weren’t laughing with him Wednesday night — we were laughing at him.

    Would it also be immoral to watch (and laugh at) an embarrassing video that someone had posted of themselves on youtube?

    I’m going to part with Jacob and say that it depends. Some people want attention so badly that they will intentionally do self destructive things to get it. Encouraging them to continue on self destructive paths is immoral in my opinion. So to the extent watching them does that I’d say yes.

    So while I think it is funny to see “man gets hit in crotch with ball” weekly on America’s Funniest Home Videos (read: harmless and honest mishaps) it is not funny to see someone hurt or humiliate themselves in a desperate cry for attention (even if they pretend to be laughing with us).

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  29. Is it anymore Cruel than what Roadrunner does to the Coyote?

    Is it more Cruel because it’s “reality” TV?

    I haven’t had channels on my TV in about 7 years now. The negative side ofthat is I have no idea how to relate to teenagers. Seriously.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 19, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

  30. I’ve only watched last season and this season, so I don’t know how it was in previous seasons. Last season, I noticed the really crappy singers they showed were the ones who were SO sure they were brilliantly good, and the really awesome singers were the modest people who were humble and not sure if they’d make it or not. It was very amusing to see this distinction.

    This year the crazies have really come out full force, and it’s been disturbing to see some of them. I’ve felt really bad for some of them.

    It’s also made me wonder if I’m deluding myself about anything. Seriously.

    Comment by Susan M — January 19, 2007 @ 4:40 pm

  31. I was thinking about this exact thing this week Geoff. What made it all come together for me was Boyd K. Packer’s comment on how TV is the great spacious building. I had been thinking about that and I was watching American Idol and laughing at the bad people. Then it was the girl who you mentioned with the bright lipstick and frizzy blond hair’s turn. And I noticed the black judge, who’s name escapes me at the moment, looking at his notes, and then he asked if she would be more comfortable if her mom was in there with her. And I realized at that moment that, hey, they never have people’s parents in the audition room-they told him to ask that just because her mom is weird and dorky like she is, and so they can have double the fun in making fun of them together. It made me feel rather yucky inside and I immediately clicked off the TV.

    1Nephi 8:26-27
    26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the aother side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
    27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

    Boyd K. was right on the money.

    Comment by Katie — January 19, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  32. “For instance did you see that poor obese girl with the platinum blond hair and badly applied bright red lipstick? She was clearly not socially adept in the least and had no business trying out. But who was with her? Her uber-nerdy mother who was also very overweight and was wearing the very same poorly-applied bright red lipstick. That tells me that the daughter was being encouraged by the loving and supportive mother — one social outcast taking advice from another. Who is there to protect them from there own social blindness though?”

    Geoff, this seems like the meanest and most judgemental thing of all. Now we should protect the ‘social outcasts’ from themselves by not allowing them on TV? I thought that girl and her mom were awesome, and I don’t personally think there is anything horrible about them suffering from rejection. I thought she was a horrible singer, but you are sitting here basicly saying that we shouldn’t allow her on TV because the poor dear doesn’t know what a loser she is…thats pretty condesending. Maybe these people are totally happy being themselves and despite rejection and harsh comments from Simon, enjoyed their American Idol experience?? I mean, who are you to say they have no business trying out?

    Comment by Veritas — January 19, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  33. I say we laugh instead at the lush, the clown and the total jerk who think they’re qualified to judge. Then I say go get a good book and read it and forget about this pathetic show.

    Comment by Blake — January 19, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

  34. Susan: It’s also made me wonder if I’m deluding myself about anything. Seriously.

    Lol. Good point.

    Katie: they told him to ask that just because her mom is weird and dorky like she is, and so they can have double the fun in making fun of them together.

    Exactly. It was carefully scripted to create maximum humiliation for this hapless mother and daughter combination. That,to me, is cruel.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  35. Veritas: I thought that girl and her mom were awesome, and I don’t personally think there is anything horrible about them suffering from rejection.

    Well since you thought her singing was terrible I assume you mean “awesomely entertaining to watch her be an idiot”. I confess that I laughed hard at this girl too — especially with her “singing” don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me.

    But focusing on “suffering from rejection” misses the point. Look – there were 10,000 people who tried out in Seattle. Only something like 20 of them were invited to Hollywood. That means that only 0.2% of applicants didn’t suffer rejection — the other 99.8% did suffer rejection. But out of the group who didn’t make it the producers hand picked the 20 or so most pathetic, socially backward, downtrodden social outcasts and misfits for something more than just the standard rejection — these chosen few got to be rejected and mocked and humiliated in front of millions of us. My problem is with this very conscious singling out of the very weakest among us for special scorn and mocking. That is the antithesis of Christ’s teachings in my opinion and such targeting of the (socially) weak is simply morally wrong. (And me gleefully laughing at her is also morally wrong I think.)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  36. In response to all the “They know what they’re getting into” comments:

    By the same token, the Christian martyrs during Rome’s persecution knew what they were signing up for too. The fact that some of them welcomed their chance to prove themselves faithful to the end doesn’t do anything to mitigate the emotional and spiritual damage of those who thought watching someone be eaten by lions was a good afternoon’s enterainment.

    A “dose of reality” is one thing; complete and utter lack of respect for your fellow beings is quite another. I can’t speak for earlier seasons but everything I’ve heard has led me to believe the judges are quite solidly on the side of that “other” this year.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — January 19, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  37. I mean, who are you to say they have no business trying out?

    Veritas, I think you’re missing Geoff’s point. Nowhere does he say these people have no business trying out. His point is that the judges have no business treating them the way they do. There is a world of difference between simply being blunt and being nasty. You can tell someone that they don’t have the ability you’re looking for without making fun of their make-up and social aptitude. Neither of which have anything to do with the ability to sing anyway.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — January 19, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  38. Well what else can he do now? But he was sincere during the tryout. The producers and audience weren’t laughing with him Wednesday night — we were laughing at him.

    Geoff- having talked to him since it aired, rest assured he’s laughing too, and was laughing both before and after he actually did it.

    But I suppose I’m looking at this from a unique point of view: I actually don’t watch this show- ever. I only watched this time because I knew Nick would be on, and turned it off afterward. I’ll have to go with Blake on this one and ask why anyone is actually watching this for regular entertainment. (though I wont question the morals of those who do)

    Comment by Nick — January 19, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  39. PDoE: His point is that the judges have no business treating them the way they do.

    Thanks PDoE. I’d like to clarify though that I am not criticizing the judges as much as I am the editorial decisions of the producers. As I said, 99.8% of the people who auditioned were told to one degree or another “your singing is not good enough”. I think the bottom 00.2% they featured needed to hear that message as much as anyone. My beef is with singling them out and showing their awful auditions so America could laugh at them. The judges honestly weren’t even mean to a lot of these people. The meanness in those cases was purely in the editorial choice to shine a spotlight on already-socially-awkward people in especially vulnerable and embarrassing situations. (My other beef is now with my own meanness in laughing at and scorning these easy targets and thus encouraging the producers of the show to do more of it.)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 8:23 pm

  40. Nick: rest assured he’s laughing too, and was laughing both before and after he actually did it

    Well I’m glad that he has thick skin.

    That doesn’t make the acts of the producers less mean when they do these misfit spotlights nor does it make me laughing at these poor misfits less problematic though.

    (As you said, he wasn’t putting on an act — that is really how he is. Therefore, America was laughing at him for just being himself even if he is enjoying the temporary attention.)

    I’ll have to go with Blake on this one and ask why anyone is actually watching this for regular entertainment.

    Aside from the spotlight on the social misfits in the early episodes I think it is good TV. Unlike the the sports competitions I like so much, this is a type of competition I can enjoy with my wife and daughters — especially when they get to the top 20 or so best singers.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 19, 2007 @ 8:33 pm

  41. The good singers can really blow you away. I’ve been waiting to see the girl they kept showing on commercials, the one who sings “Stormy Weather.” I really hope I haven’t missed her. I’ve been waiting weeks just to see her audition.

    I don’t have OCD or anything.

    Comment by Susan M — January 19, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

  42. Wow, please don’t put words in my mouth. I can’t think someone is a bad singer without laughing? I agreed with you earlier that it seems way more mean this season, but I have serious issues with you taking some moral high ground about the show but saying incredibly condesending and judgemental things like this:

    She was clearly not socially adept in the least and had no business trying out…Who is there to protect them from there own social blindness though?

    So, again, who are you to say they have no business trying out? If they want to do this, why not let them?? I don’t think William Hung (with his multiple albums and guest appearances) is regretting one bit being humiliated on tv. I just feel like, sure the judges are mean, reality tv is lame blah blah blah, but, gee there sure are a lot of noses in the air around here…

    Comment by Veritas — January 20, 2007 @ 1:41 am

  43. My sister posted on this same subject on her blog.

    I think a lot of America is pondering the topic of what is wrong and right, in regards to ridiculing people. Maybe, in an odd sense, the show is helping people develop standards by creating this discussion.

    Comment by danithew — January 20, 2007 @ 7:52 am

  44. V the K: We’re supposed to use things and love people, not vice versa.

    That should be in the Doctrine and Covenants somewhere.

    Comment by Doc — January 20, 2007 @ 7:57 am

  45. Veritas,

    Good point about me saying she had no business trying out. I retract that statement — sorry if it freaked you out. Anyone is free to try out. What I meant is that she was clearly in the bottom 20 of the 10,000 people who tried out in Seattle. As Danithew’s sister put it (#43), that girl and many of the other folks featured in Seattle seemed to be “mentally challenged” in one way or another. My beef is not with telling people they suck at singing when they suck at singing — my beef is with spotlighting the “mentally challenged” on the show so we can all have a hearty laugh at their eccentricities and challenges.

    As I said, I can’t see how doing that is different than all the “normal” kids in the schoolyard ganging up on an autistic kid (or whatever) to point and chant “retard! retard! retard!”.

    Now I realize that showing people getting rejected is an important part of the show so I don’t think that should be removed. But there were more than 9,950 people rejected in Seattle to choose from; I simply wish the would have not spotlighted the few people with social/mental/physical “challenges” for the rejection examples. The producers had to go to some real effort to funnel these people through all the preliminary tryouts to get them on TV so there were no accidents about it after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 20, 2007 @ 10:21 am

  46. I watched. I laughed. I cringed. I hid my eyes. I dropped my jaw in shock.

    With that confession, I will say that I feel sad for those that actually think they have talent, but clearly do not. Whether they are socially enept, mentally slow, or just plain stupidly arrogant…they all are deluded (of course this is my musical opinion). Do you think maybe they know they are bad and go on anyway in hopes of being the next William Hung?

    The fact is that more people tuned in this season than any other. So to the producers, the bad ones make them more money than the good.

    What makes me upset is that I wasn’t shown all the good ones. We are told that 20 or so people made is through in Seattle…I only saw 5 or 6 actual good auditions. I like to see the successes…it makes enduring the bad auditions worth while. There were only 20 that were good, could they not fit all of those in??

    Comment by Pam J — January 20, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  47. I watch it because I like to see the talented people. That’s the fun part. I don’t find most of the bad ones all that funny to laugh “at.”
    I am a little torn about the morality of it. I do think that these people are making a choice to be humiliated. I didn’t watch the Seattle night but in the Minneapolis night I didn’t think the judges were all that cruel (compared to times past). Mostly honest, with a few ruder comments.
    If someone is horrible and the judges say its horrible that is fine with me. If someone is kind of good (but not good enough) I think that they shouldn’t be saying its the worst thing ever.
    However, I also feel it is a little like old ptractical joke where the popular guy asks the unpopular girl to Homecoming and then humiliates her in some way.

    Comment by JKS — January 20, 2007 @ 11:28 am

  48. My husband and I have watched AI since season one and I have a few thoughts (as I re-watched Wed. night’s Seattle “episode”):

    (disclaimer: I’m not a fan of the producers letting in crappy singers. I think it’s mean, too…)

    Okay, which is better? Paula and Randy being patronizing and “kind” to those that are terrible and then laughing at them behind their backs? Or Simon telling it to them straight?

    I have to agree with what #17 said: “Who told these people they could sing?” Because seriously, their friends and family members are just as cruel as the judges when they convince their kid/friend that they can make it as far as AI. I mean, come on! I teach voice lessons, but I still know I’m not good enough for AI or making a career out of singing.

    One last thought –the more disrespectful the person auditioning is, the ruder the judges get. I saw at least 8 auditions this season that could have gone over way worse, but didn’t because the “candidate” was polite. I hate those people who can’t sing that are like “Simon doesn’t know anything!” Okay…..wha? Simon is a jerk, yeah, but he’s been in the music industry for how long? And has made how much money? Yeah…anyway…

    Comment by Cheryl — January 20, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  49. There seems to be an amazing streak of self-exploitation coming out of American TV. I find the Idol shows difficult to watch, but I am also amazed at things like Dr. Phil or Supernanny in which people are willing to have their horrible lives videotaped and explicated for some free therapy. I suppose there is some social benefit to that — people can see examples of crappy parents and such — but I find it too too depressing.

    Comment by Norbert — January 22, 2007 @ 1:49 am

  50. I must concur that the REAL criminals are not the producers who purposely put these idiots on television or those of us who watch this lovely idiot parade. The REAL criminals are the ones who tell these fools that they can sing (and the fools themselves). I can sing. I have sung at weddings, funerals, and in high school musicals but I am NOT qualified in body or talent to get on NATIONAL TELEVISION to pursue a multimillion dollar superstar contract. For God’s sake when did we become the land of the self aggrandizing and megalomaniacs? I have a lot of gifts as an artist, a teacher, a parent, wife and friend. But at the end of the day, I am better than some and worse than others…aren’t we all? Please people, be honest with your friends, lovers, and children. Support them in their endeavors…encourage them in their pursuits, but be honest when the time comes. You can be positive and gentle and still be firm and honest. You and your “other” will only have yourselves to blame if you are embarassed on national television. AS for me, I am going to enjoy the idiot parade for as long as it lasts. One must find humor where ever one can.

    Comment by gracie — January 25, 2007 @ 8:42 am

  51. I find myself watching this show almost despite myself, but there are some singers who are so good that they leave me sitting there with my jaw on the floor.

    Yesterday, I think it was … there was a singer named Sundance Head who sang incredibly well. I was in delirious shock and wished he could sing more. This wasn’t the first or last time I’ve had that same feeling about a performer that showed up for the American Idol cameras.

    Comment by danithew — January 25, 2007 @ 9:02 am

  52. The REAL criminals are the ones who tell these fools that they can sing (and the fools themselves).

    gracie – The problem as I see it is that some of the people weren’t just figuratively “fools”, some of them seemed to be “mentally challenged” folks — people who in centuries past were literally called fools. If they were mentally challenged then they probably didn’t have the capacity to discern the fact that they can’t sing or that they were the butt of a nationally televised joke. So I agree that their friends and families (assuming they were not also somehow mentally challenged) probably should have protected them from the wolves that are the producers, but that doesn’t make the whole thing any less distasteful and morally objectionable.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 25, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  53. Some of the people I felt worst about (the way they were treated, that is) have been showing up on other popular night-time television programs. They seem to have survived the trauma and are taking on further opportunities to humiliate themselves and even try to advance their careers.

    So maybe we shouldn’t feel so bad for them after all.

    Comment by danithew — January 25, 2007 @ 9:23 am

  54. I don’t know Dan — people have been willing to be paid money to prostitute themselves since the dawn of man. I don’t think their willingness makes the whole process any less objectionable.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 25, 2007 @ 9:40 am

  55. Doc #44 It is in the doctrine and covenants: “Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.” 82:19

    Comment by Hal H. — January 25, 2007 @ 6:37 pm

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