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I like how news shows are devoting serious time to the question of whether American Idol is “too mean” this year.
No, it’s not too mean this year. Nor was it too mean last year—the last time you asked this question.
If anything, American Idol isn’t mean enough.
In the opening week of its sixth season, Idol rejected two weird-looking kids with no singing talent. One was Jonathan Jayne, who’s fat and autistic. The other was Kenneth Briggs, who Simon Cowell said looked like a “bush baby.” The media are all up in arms about this now. Every show from Today to Scarborough Country wants you to feel bad for how these two poor souls were treated.
It’s true Briggs and Jayne are human beings. And it’s true human beings deserve to be treated humanely. But there’s a time and a place to treat humans like humans, and that time and place is called everyday life.
American Idol is a show. More importantly, it’s a filter. Thousands of people stupidly think they can be rock stars. This show gives them a chance to find out.
What would you say if you saw two weird-looking kids with bad voices singing on TV one day? If it wasn’t on Idol, you would never see them. These kinds of people don’t get on TV.
This isn’t because their lives have no meaning. It’s because they can’t sing, and they aren’t nice to look at. They don’t belong on television, and they don’t belong in record stores.
You may think this is shallow, and you would be right. But you would also be missing the point of the entertainment industry. Pop music doesn’t exist to fulfill some deep human artistic need. It exists to make money by entertaining people. People are entertained by good singing. They are also entertained by people who look good.
No one wants to see ugly people who can’t sing on TV. TV’s an escape, and there are enough ugly people who can’t sing in our everyday lives.
If you’re ugly and can’t sing, and you want to be famous, you’ll have to be famous for something other than singing. If you insist on singing anyway, your only chance is American Idol. If you don’t want to be judged by the entertainment industry’s standards, don’t subject yourself to the entertainment industry’s judgment.
At least they’re giving you a chance.