Wednesday, January 24, 2007

One Dad’s Reflections On “American Idol”

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!

7 comments:

dave h said...

AI is just one show of the many that defines the problems of western influences upon the world.

I agree with your thoughts Jamie, that they crossed too large of a line to make fun of people. Ridicule is not funny.

Barc said...

I agree that American Idol has been more focused on the bad auditions this year, something that seemed to start last season. So far this year apart from the two guys in Seattle that you mention, I don't think they were too exploitive.

Last year they did the same thing to some poor young man who obviously did not understand that they were making fun of him and really seemed to be a good person. That to me was their worst offense to date.

To me the biggest problem with most of these folks is that no one had the courage to tell them they weren't very good. In our culture of tolerance and political correctness we tend to avoid the truth rather than embrace it. I agree that a strong Father or parental influence would save most of these folks from the embarrassment they face on the show.

I am much more looking forward to watching as the show moves to Hollywood and the focus is on talent rather then freak shows.

Anonymous said...

This is my first year of watching AI. I wonder where the parents and loved ones are, who allow their family members to entertain the idea of being a "star". I feel kind of voyeur-ish as I'm glued to the TV, looking for talent with Simon. I think I need to read a good book instead.

cjpics said...

Jamie,
Your comments are right on and I'm glad that you are pointing out exactly what this is, exploitation. God takes a dim view of gain at the expense of others and calling that which is evil, good.

Most men have commited this type of sin at sometime in our lives, I know that I am guilty. Praise be to God most high for shining the light of Jesus Christ into our lives that we can live to serve others rather than exploit them.

Anonymous said...

Jamie,

You have a gift in expressing your heart on paper and getting out the stuff that most of us shrugg off. I wonder why some of these contestants did not have friends or parents willing to tell them not to do this. While exploitation sums this up pretty well, one must also realize there is a price to pay when you deliberatly put yourself on camera.

Anonymous said...

Jamie,

I believe you are right on about American Idol and the wrong twist we see in the media that devalues individuals. Thanks for the reminder to be showering our wife and kids with positive value statements.

Rick

Stephen M said...

Beautifully said. For these reasons and others, I very, very rarely watch the foolishness on television. Now if someone can give me advice on how to ween my kids off it, without starting World War III, we would all be eternally in your debt. Stephen M