Girls Write Out
Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's that time of year again; time for a new season of American Idol. My family, fans of the auditions especially, waited eagerly for the first episode. It arrived this week, two nights of sure laughs and hopeful expectation. We tuned in, like most of America, but I found myself increasingly dismayed and wondering: Is American Idol just getting plain mean?

Sure, Simon crosses the line from nice to rude regularly. We expect him to criticize horrendous singing and outrageous costumes. But it seems to me he, and the entire show, has crossed another line.

Some of the folks auditioning seem . . . not quite right. Sure, some of them are just kids wanting their five minutes of fame. Others are kids that--well, their momma just lied to them is all. I understand they chose to be on the show, and I'm fine with that if these people are mentally competent. I'm just not sure they all are.

In fact, if you watch the show with that in mind, it becomes very sad, because if it's true, American Idol is exploiting the mentally challenged. Would you in any circumstances call someone who might be mentally handicapped a "super geek", or say they are"useless at everything" or to say "You look a little odd, like one of those creatures who live in the jungle with those massive eyes."? Come on, Simon, what are you, a ten-year-old bully?

Then to make the "horrendous" singers do three songs? Why, if not only to exploit them?
If they're mentally competent, fine. They knew what they were getting into when they signed up.

But if they're not, then we're all just kids in the school yard circled around the bully and his latest victim. The thought bothered me enough last night that I'm giving up on the Idol auditions. Maybe I'll tune in later in the season when the focus returns to the singing talent and the whole things just doesn't seem so . . . sad.

Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:22 AM  
  Comments (19)
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At 9:55 AM, Blogger Rachel Hauck said...

I can't watch the auditions, either. Too painful. I wonder if the producers "beat the bushes" to get some of these people to audition.

But think of it in our terms, as writers. Our moms and dads love our work, encourage us, so we boldly step out and let an editor or agent read our work...

How devastating to get back, "You're worhtless at everything."

We'd be crush. Maybe those trying out can't sing, but they should be encouraged to pick a new life goal.

But what fun would that be for the producers, right?

We like watching train wrecks, you know? :)

I love your heart, Denise!


At 10:04 AM, Blogger Keisha.Michelle said...

I agree with you Denise. Idol is getting just plain mean. What's worse is that the other judges are getting just as mean as Simon.

I am well aware that some fully sane people audition for the show in the hopes of being so awful, that they'll end up like William Hong, the She Bangs guy.

But some of those people really are not all there, and I really don't believe that they made an informed decision to audition. If they volunteered to audition, the producers should know better than to air that. It's exploitation. But I get the feeling that someone, maybe some sort of "recruiter" goes out and finds some of these people for ratings.

I started watching on Tuesday night, but couldn't do it again last night. I had to prepare for Top Chef, anyway.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Valerie said...

You know, I thought the same thing when I saw the segment you're referring to. I felt terrible for those boys. You could tell they weren't quite "right," but to their peers, they were wonderful. I guess that's all that matters in the end.

I know Simon can be cruel, but it's just as cruel to sit there and outright laugh while someone is trying to sing. (I use that term loosely) It can be considered even more rude than Simon's comments because by now, people expect him to be VERY blunt.

(While he's not the most tactful, Simon is the most accurate judge though when it comes down to the real competition.)

At 12:14 PM, Blogger carla said...

Thanks, Denise, for speaking up. I, too, thought the auditions excruciatingly painful. Cruel really. Very sad that we, as humans have resorted to this for entertainment.

It reminded me of the garbage pail kids (I'm telling my age here)a few years ago which I would not allow my kids to have. Making fun of other people doesn't cut it for me.

The contestants with real talent shone through. It will be interesting to see how far some of them go.

Carrie Underwood is from my state and does Oklahoma proud. She is the champion for all things wholesome and considered herself a winner whether she won or not. Isn't that what it's all about? Encouragement and cheering each other on?

Let's just hope the real competition brings more uplifting entertainment.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

I have to say after being around a lot of special needs' people, I can see that many of the people are the show are not stable. To me, it's like making fun of the mentally retarded and it pains me. I turned it off last night. I also take it even deeper and I'm sad that these people have no one ot tell them the truth before they get hurt publicly.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger eileen said...

Hallelujah! I thought it was just ME being an old lady! I could not watch night #2 after seeing the promos. Too painful. How humiliating. These reality shows...I don't know. A friend of mine had a daughter on the show where they live in a house for six weeks...??...and Jennifer came home pretty depressed. Scary. Reality is hard enough with Jesus.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

The one guy I felt the most sorry for said his co-workers encouraged him to try out. I hope they're proud of themselves. That poor guy was used in all the previews for the show, and I thought it was obvious that he wasn't all there mentally.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Diann Hunt said...

It's not funny, it's cruel. All for ratings? How sad is that?

At 1:06 PM, Blogger allen said...

I direct a group of 'special needs' children and young adults in a theater program. I have forty performers. Some are profound, other's not so much. But I saw five minutes of the show (my wife watches, I do not) because another show was about to start...the segment I saw was tragic. My 'performer' (some at least) do far better than this poor guy (he sang "Unchained Melody") and then stared blankly into the camera after he was canned and poked fun of. I hope that he was exagerating, acting, if you will, because he could have fit in with my group easily.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Kayla said...

One of my friends tried out last year and he didn't even get to make it in to see Simon, Paula, and Randy. And you know what? He is one of the most amazing singers I've ever heard with a great stage presence. Cute, too. He's got it all.

So how is it fair that he didn't even get a shot when the people doing the preliminary auditions let in all of the horrdenous "singers" that we saw last night just so they can be made fun of?

It's no longer really a competition.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger CaliGirlDCE25 said...

how true is this conversation! Seriously.... seriously. I missed Tuesday night, but I saw Wednesdays episode and it was so sad. A bunch of my friends came over and we watched it and we were all thinking the same thing. My mom is a special ed teacher in elementary school and I kept thinking about how these people remind me of her students. And it's so true that the preliminary judges just send through either the truly INCREDIBLE singers or the horrible ones, just for TV quality. It sucks. It's sad that America and the world can be entertained by such sad exploitations of the innocent.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Jaime said...

So, my husband and I played Playstation II's American Idol and in THAT setting (with a fully mentally competant husband) it was a riot to hear a computerized Simon tell my husband, "I hate everything about you. There is nothing I like". But, I agree, it's a little heartbreaking to hear that comment thrown at an awkward teenage outcast who is pouring their very soul into an audition.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Katy said...

The unfortunate lad who sang "Lean On Me," is from a smallish town 30 minutes from me. Unless he is VERY well-loved in that town (where everyone knows everyone), he will be made fun of no end after last night. That's just sad.

Katy McKenna

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Alison Strobel Morrow said...

I've yet to watch American Idol for the very reason that I CANNOT stomach watching people be embarrassed. I don't care how mentally competent they are. The cringe factor is just too huge for me.

And yet I am soooo dying to try out...


At 12:32 AM, Blogger paraselus said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt this way about the show. Out of the tens of thousands who are showing up to audition, they pick mentally handicapped, mentally ill and people who do not fit society's norm for attractiveness for the purpose of ridiculing them on national TV.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Robin Lee Hatcher said...

Denise, I blogged Wednesday night about the very same thing in "An Open Letter to American Idol." Here is the Tiny URL if you want to read it.

I hope people are writing to AI. They have had the two biggest nights with about 39 million viewers. So if they think we all love it, it will just get worse next year.


At 9:41 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

I'll definitely check out your link, Robin.

I heard this morning that 55% of people think AI has gotten too cruel. The question is, will America turn off their TV sets, because that's the only thing that will speak to these people.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Heather said...

UGH. . . another disgusted viewer here. I started watching AI last season after the hubby's cousin tried out. She won the Arizona Fox TV thing they do every year. . .guaranteed her to get to the second stage. Which still wasn't seeing Simon and "friends". She didn't get to sing in front of them, and she has an amazing voice. It's gotta be so frustrating for people like her to see what they actually put through to the judges. She has, however, sung several times for the Phoenix Suns games and several other things.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Sassy Style said...

My family used to love American Idol. Based on comments here, I'm thankful we don't have TV right now. This is really teaching children how to respect everyone even those who are different, huh. :(



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Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

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Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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