The Goddess Speaks
‘Idol’ wins fans with message of hope
I'm a sucker for "American Idol." My husband is mystified at this since my taste in entertainment more generally runs to novels by Jane Austen and intelligent movies with dialogue and no special effects. I'm not sure why I find a musical talent show so appealing. One thing is clear: I'm an average American, because this show is the most popular thing on TV. That annoys me as I have spent most of life trying to avoid being average. Still, every Tuesday night I rush through dinner so that I can sit and watch young people trying hard to beat the odds, and the whole affair, from opening credits to closing pleas for votes, just makes me feel better about life.
So what's the magic? I think part of it might be the idea of hope. With every newspaper filled with mortgage foreclosures and stock-market panic stories, it's nice to think that in America a kid with a good voice can live out the dream. It's nice to imagine the "Idol" families are talking about how David always loved to show off in nursery school, and how Carly was a hit in the Kindergarten Talent Parade. It's even nice to consider the sacrifices and tears that have landed these young people on a national stage, singing their hearts out and believing that our votes can buy their happiness.
It's all so positive and sweet and hopeful -- and so different from the rest of the television network offerings. Even the more intelligent shows, and there are some out there, are filled with anxious doctors, disturbing phenomena, sad endings and dysfunctional families. What ever happened to "Leave It to Beaver"? I can tell you where Beaver went: He's home watching "Idol," motoring through some sugar-laced soda and salting his popcorn. He's certainly not on national TV spilling his guts and wrecking his family, as the people do on "Moment of Truth."
I like to think of myself as a philosophical reader and thinker. After all, I make my living teaching English, and I have a Ph.D. in education. However, Tuesday night at 7 p.m. any thought of picking up a serious book or putting in another DVD featuring long-dead actors in ancient movies just flies out the window.
I curl up on the sofa, ready to applaud yet another round of tried-and-true songs, earnest young singers and self-serving judges whose banal comments can be summarized in three phrases: "Check it out, dude, check it out"; "that was a (good/bad/brilliant/unfortunate) song choice for you"; and "what I like about you is that you are authentic."
I wouldn't trade away the silly comments and often even sillier singing for anything less idiotic. I love all of it, and I make no apologies for being just another silly average American. Given the basic premise of the show -- that hope, talent and hard work are enough to earn success -- maybe it's not such a bad place to be one evening a week.
The finale of "American Idol" airs on KHON/Fox on Tuesday and Wednesday, with David Archuleta singing off against David Cook.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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