Idol catches attention of academic researchers - Metro US

Idol catches attention of academic researchers

Lack of talent does not stop hopefuls, essay suggests

Michael Buckner/getty images

American Idol judge Simon Cowell tells 60 Minutes reporter Anderson Cooper, in a segment to air Sunday, that he believes everything should be televised, including public executions.

IVORY TOWER IDOL: Yesterday’s column featured an analysis of Idol’s demographic evolution from the DeFlorz Professor of Humanities and director at the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, and today the best thing I’ve read is an essay in The Chronicle Review, an academic review, on the Idol phenomenon written for university professors. This, I suppose, is a way of saying that Idol has arrived as a cultural landmark, worthy of serious study – which infers, of course, that it’s all downhill from here.

Summing up the show for an audience that might have somehow missed the Idol experience, Christopher Ames, provost and dean of Washington College in Maryland, describes the first round of national eliminations, the much-watched and controversy-filled first act of each season, where “scenes of homely kids wailing off pitch before sneering judges borrow from the disturbing reality-show penchant for humiliation as entertainment.”

“Time and time again,” Ames writes, “contestants in the early episodes of this year’s season whine obviously off key and then insist they are highly talented — in spite of the judges’ protestations. Most of those kids have not learned how to sing, but they have mastered the self-esteem and “attitude” so valued in our culture. The persistent dynamic of these episodes is expertise putting down untalented braggadocio.”

This stage of the show, Ames suggests, will be familiar to post-secondary educators whose job it is to remind young people flush with a mostly unearned entitlement that they have a lot to learn: “In a world full of people rating themselves highly,” says Ames, “audiences seem to long for the enforcement of standards of taste and judgment.”

In related Idol news, CBS’ 60 Minutes will be profiling Idol judge Simon Cowell this Sunday, with a segment that features him telling Anderson Cooper that he thinks everything should be put on TV, including public executions, which should feature sponsorship, but no ads. So – Pepsi brings you the lethal injection of a three-time loser who shot a 7/11 cashier and a police officer; GoDaddy.com is proud to present the death of Latrell Spruance aka The Ohio Ghoul. Over to you, Ryan.

DESIGNED FOR THRILLS: The Canadian version of Project Runway announced that it’s begun production yesterday, with a press release inviting anyone who wants to be a contestant to log onto www.slice.caand download an application form between now and April 13. The U.S. show’s next season began auditions last week, so hopefully we can look forward to the homegrown version hitting the small screen within a month or so of the Bryant Park finale of its U.S. parent. We know that Canada is a hewer of wood and miner of ore, but are we dispensers of bitch? I’m hopeful…


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