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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Who are the bigger jerks?

Most of last week I was out of the culture news loop for reasons I've laid out in the past couple of posts. But I did manage to keep reading pieces of newspaper and to catch snippets of news online, and I saw a ton of stories questioning whether American Idol judges were too mean. Even Rosie - as if she doesn't have enough irons in the fight-with-other-celebs-fire - got in on the act, calling Randy, Simon, and Paula mean folk.

I love the news. I love the business. I love that we "cover" all aspects of life, serious and silly. But I hate overkill.

I've said it before. Humiliations on American Idol are caused by the talentless hacks who insist on performing anyway and by their friends and families for not having the nerve and decency to tell them they're talentless hacks. So we can't be mad at the judges for tellin' 'em straight...or for creating a little comic relief in their judgments following bad auditioner after bad auditioner.

Anyway, I just finished watching Best Week Ever on VH-1, and there was an interesting segment: they showed clips of two this year's more peculiar Idol rejects (the guy Simon suggested looked like a lemur and the rotund guy who Simon thought had borrowed Randy's pants). These new BFFs made the rounds of morning talk shows and a couple of late night shows. And in every case, the show hosts smiled condescendingly and struggled to maintain their composure while these two young guys seriously said they were planning acting careers in Hollywood and on Broadway. These guys were being made fun of.

Randy, Simon, and Paula? They were up front with it.

The "serious" news and talk hosts who interviewed these guys? They tried to pretend they were taking the Idol rejects seriously.

Who do you think was mean here?

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20 Comments:

  • I had really thought that most of the talentless hacks showed up to exchange 15 minutes of fame for the show's best entertainment value.

    I thought it was a fair exchange. Regardless, we must get away from this notion that competition is "mean" and "bad" and remember that we biological organisms are the product of nothing other than competition.

    Some of us might be freaks of nature but, for the most part, evolution and luck and happenstance has turned out one heck of a fine product.

    Yes, I am having one HELL of a hair day today.

    By Blogger Matt, at 1:03 PM  

  • Btw, I am speaking to you as Fourth Grade Dodgeball Champion 1984.

    By Blogger Matt, at 1:04 PM  

  • aww, c'mon James - lighten up. It's entertainment.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 3:23 PM  

  • A few thoughts on this.

    You're correct about the talentless mofos who audition. I've covered several auditions, and there are just some people who shouldn't be there. But you know how it is: Someone gets up in church and sings a little song and suddenly they're told left and right that "they can sing."

    But there's a flip side, too. The show's producers WANT people like that. That's part of the act. If everyone who auditioned could actually sing, there would almost be no show, and the context of the show would be lost (that's my reading of how the producers think).

    Yes, the judges can be mean. But that doesn't mean they're always right.

    To prove my point, I have two words: Jennifer Hudson.

    By Blogger Drew, at 5:21 PM  

  • Simon said he looked like a bush baby (you decide: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=%22bush%20baby%22&btnG=Google+Search&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi).

    It's a singing competition, so unless you think you're the best singer in America, you shouldn't get your knickers in a twist if you don't make it through the audition. And, after the first season, none of us should be claiming surprise that the judges tell it like it is, particularly Simon. I say shame on the friends/families/co-workers who would encourage someone toward public ridicule, unless they assume these folks couldn't possibly make it far enough for that to happen.

    By Blogger Yvette, at 6:48 PM  

  • I've never had a problem with them telling someone that they cannot sing. However, when they start to make it personal, that's a bit too far; it's about the singing folks. As for the follow-up interviews, I've never seen any because quite honestly, I just don't care enough.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 7:31 PM  

  • I agree, Claudia. It's one thing to make fun of their singing. It's quite another to throw out personal insults.

    And if I were interviewing the Idol rejects, I probably would play it straight too. Who am I to be a dream killer?

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 10:34 PM  

  • i just can't do american idol or other reality shows because i'm one of those weird people who cant handle watching people make complete and utter consenting asses of themselves. the only one i can handle is wild boys. and sometimes jackass. and i have no idea why. its not the judges that bother me. its the fools that get up there and well... act a fool!

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 11:24 PM  

  • Matt, I agree, competition has been demonized. We hafta fix that. And speaking of fixing, good luck with the hair. Oh, and kudos on the dodgeball win. 1984? Did you wear an elastic headband and knee socks when you played?

    Sarc, I know it's entertainment. I swear, I don't think the judges were mean at all. I was just trying to point out the hypocrisy of the judges' critics, who know damn well they too were laughing at the rejects - whether to their faces, or behind their backs.

    Drew, I've only covered one audtion. But our TV columnist at the Herald wrote a piece last week in which he interviewed Idol producers who said they explicitly tell contestants that if they're bad they're likely to catch hell from the judges and if they can't handle harsh criticism they should think hard about their singing ability before the cameras start rolling.

    Yvette, that dude does have some giant eyeballs. And I say amen on your other comment. I was stunned to learn that the portly guy who Simon asked about wearing Randy's pants has some mental challenges. Not stunned as in "Who has mental challenges?" but stunned as in "why would his people let him subject himself to this?"

    Claudia, you are correct. It is about the music. But you have to admit human nature is such that many of us only occasionally embrace talented singers who aren't also pretty and fit too. If it was just the voice, there'd be more Clay Aikens and Angie Stones (pre weight loss) at the top of the charts. I personally love good tunes in those genres I like. I don't really care what the artist looks like. But then again, we probably all say that. And if we're older than 18 I hope we all mean it.

    Grizz, I feel you and Claudia. But I'm gonna play Devil's advocate. Why have the rejects on your show for an interview in the first place? What's the redeeming quality of that interview?

    Yas, I'm a secret (was till this comment, anyway) fan of Jackass and Wild Boys. Both shows are insane, and I think I just like that they don't care. As for watching people make fools of themselves, my other confession is sometimes I pull the horror movie reaction when I'm watching competitive reality shows like Idol: I'll turn my head or flip the channel for a moment if I see a particularly bad audition, 'cause while the low-talent folks annoy me for the whole craving stardom thing I do feel bad for the most clueless of 'em.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:11 AM  

  • I think they're both mean. The judges are snarky to be funny. The talk hosts are silent to be nice. All these contestants really need to hear is, "hey, you're a great person, but you might not be able to pay the rent with your pipes."

    By Blogger hyacinths and biscuits, at 1:40 AM  

  • At first, I figure most of those folks have themselves and their closest relatives to blame if they have unrealistic expectations of the show. After all, the thing has been on for several seasons. Everyone who doesn't live under a rock knows the schematic.

    But when I heard on Jimmy Kimmel that Kenneth had once competed in the Special Olympics, it did make me think a little harder about the public spectacle of it all.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 1:44 AM  

  • H&B, you are helping chip away at my stubborn stance on this. Maybe the judges could be a little nicer.

    On the other hand, Tiggerlane, I think the revelation on Kimmel that Kenneth had been in the Special Olympics reinforces the point about their friends/family being to blame. Who with any kind of heart would allow a "special" child/sibling/friend of theirs compete on Idol, knowing what they were gonna face from the judges?

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:54 AM  

  • What difference does it make if someone competed in the SO? That disqualifies them from appearing on the show? Isn't that discrimination? Everyone has an equal opportunity to make a fool of him/herself.

    In a small way, I feel sorry for the contestants who get their hearts broken. I do think sometimes the judges make it personal instead of just making comments about the singing. But I feel more anger at the families and friends who encourage the participation.

    The news people, though, that's just gratuitous piling on. That's condescending "you poor schlump" stuff. I don't watch any of that, because to me, that's not entertainment.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 8:26 AM  

  • I'll be totally honest and say that I don't mind the eye candy! :)

    By Blogger Claudia, at 11:11 AM  

  • From what you see on most TV Shows, most people would believe it's easy to become a recording artist. The truth is though it takes some talent and a very thick skin. For idols contender serious about making it in the business, Simon and not Paula is the one doing the real favor.

    P.S.: I think Rosie and Donald cannot stand each other because they are so much alike... Both like to spread their uninformed opinions.

    By Anonymous Damon Z, at 11:52 AM  

  • I despise the very concept of these shows, and their success says a lot of very unpleasant things about Western civilization.

    By Blogger mkh, at 1:02 PM  

  • Watching Idol this year, I can't help thinking that the whole thing has gotten just plain mean.

    Don't get me wrong, some contestants most certainly deserve it, but I think the two you mentioned went in there seriously and unfortunately no one along the way told them (or wanted to tell them) that they were lacking in talent. For me this year, it's hard to laugh at some of the more vocally challenged contestants.

    Of course, there are some that do still deserve the ridicule, but we shouldn't be laughing at someone because of the looks or features they were born with. That's all I have to say about that...
    ;-)

    By Blogger Michael C, at 6:13 PM  

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    No, I do not think the judges have been mean, I think people are delusional and do not like their bubbles to be burst. I also don't think any of those untalented tryouts understand that it takes a LOT of work (along with actual talent) to be a successful singer. They just like the idea of instant success, instant attention. It pretty much never happens that way!

    I was really impressed with the dancing American Idol show (I can't remember the title) because the people who were rejected took it with grace, and heard the constructive part of the criticism, instead of just being childishly defensive. They took it like professionals - even if they were bad professionals.

    By Blogger bc, at 7:07 PM  

  • SWF41, I'm not dogging the guy for having competed in the SO. It doesn't disqualify him. But unless he also happens to be a great singer, I think it's fair to wonder if his logic and reasoning faculties are really sharp. And if the answer is no, then his guardian, his friends, his family, should have helped him decide whether or not it was a great idea to go on a show whose claim to fame is brutal judging.

    Claudia, there is "Candy" to be seen on these shows sometimes. If only the Candy wouldn't try to sing.

    Damon, I agree. Simon wouldn't make for a good suicide counselor or anything, but I think his style has at least slightly helped slow the degradation of the quality of music foisted on consumers each year.

    MKH, I can't argue with you.

    Michael C., I'm still on the fence about the mean thing.

    BC, graceful acceptance of a critique is a beautiful ability, I think. I wish I was able to handle criticism a little better.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:24 PM  

  • James, I completely blame the families/friends for not putting a stop to it. But if they try (really really try) and the wannabe-entertainer just absolutely refuses to listen, then he's got to take his medicine along with everyone else.

    That being said, the criticism from the judges should always focus on whether or not the contestant can sing, not sink into personal attacks.

    Just my two knuts worth.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 10:06 AM  

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