Over the past couple of weeks there has been a furor on talk shows and in the media over what has taken place on American Idol. I admit that I have enjoyed watching the show over the years. It has been a point of connection with my remaining two teenagers at home. We enjoy trying to predict who will be the next person to leave the show and who eventually will become the next “American Idol.” Before the show goes to Hollywood, they go through a winnowing process by going to such places as Minneapolis and Seattle, to find a pool of talent from which they will derive the final twelve contestants.
This season, what has become clear to me and to many others who have watched the show in the past is that American Idol has crossed that fine line that separates entertainment from exploitation. I am convinced that Idol has purposefully tapped into the sick comedic pleasure that Americans derive from laughing at someone who looks and sounds foolish. It seems that they have deliberately disregarded the protection of the dignity of their show’s contestants in order to create greater “freak appeal,” more laughs and more Internet “buzz” on You Tube.
Some of this year's contestants very possibly are mentally handicapped, autistic or suffering from some other mental disability. This kind of having fun at someone else’s expense brings back to me some murky memories from my childhood that I am now trying to forget. I recall how we who "had it together" would make fun of kids who were different, who weren't “cool” or who had some physical deformity or mental challenge that they could do absolutely nothing about. Oh, that I could go back in time and rather than join in the sick “fun,” be the one who would nobly defend those who were unfairly being made fun of on the playground.
But back to American Idol and the present. In my opinion, the contestants who were exploited were in need of a protective father, one who would not have allowed them to become used for other people’s entertainment in the first place. And the decision makers at American Idol who deliberately sought out and chose to air the experiences of these contestants have revealed their own lack of “father heart,” their own lack of basic human compassion. Clearly two of the characteristics that an involved father imparts into a young person’s life are empathy and compassion for others. These qualities are obviously lacking in Idol’s producers.
The book of Proverbs describes the characteristics of the fatherless who have turned heartless like this:
“There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; those who are pure in their own eyes And yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are haughty whose glances are disdainful; those whose teeth are swords and who whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth, the needy from among mankind.” (Proverbs 30:11-14)
Yes, American Idol may be entertaining television to some, but in 2007, it has chosen to capitalize on revealing the dark side of the American character, that we are a culture that increasingly idolizes and worships outward beauty, youth, talent, charisma and having that certain “It.” This is a worldly spirit that focuses upon the external, temporal and superficial at the expense of the spiritual, eternal and essential. As a Christ-follower who is both a husband and father, I am called to be counter-cultural, to remind my wife and children that “charm is deceptive and beauty (popularity, outward appearance, talent) is fleeting; but a woman (or man) who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
What is needed today is for “real men” to stand up and defend the weak, not join in exploiting them. It seems this all needs to start with me in my own home. I must communicate to my wife and children that they are of infinite value and unique, valued for who they are and not focus on how they “perform” I must constantly be on the lookout for ways to affirm them when they are feeling neglected, forgotten or discouraged. And I must be a model to my wife and children of their Heavenly Father’s heart for the weak and less fortunate. So what about YOU. What do YOU think? Do you see this as an "over reaction" on my part? Leave a comment!