Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I Would Rather Spend 10 Minutes in a Phone Booth with a Constipated Anaconda Than Watch American Idol

Yeah, you heard me. Can't stand it. It's awful. If I try to sit and watch it, I have to turn away, because my eyes start to melt and my dog starts barking to warn me about my imminent seizure.

Okay, maybe not that, but that's what I'm thinking.

And it's not just American Idol that does it to me. I'm just picking on them right now because a friend of mine (who I normally consider a clear-headed kind of guy) just started yakking about what happened on American Idol last night. Personally, I blame his wife for infecting him. I mean, I believe that she's fundamentally a good person, but she has been led astray and is spreading it.

But no, it's not just American Idol. It's Dancing with the Stars and America's Got Talent and Survivor. And it isn't limited to TV either. It's Grand Theft Auto and The Sims and Britney Spears and McDonald's. They all seem to induce different varieties of nausea.

Anyway, I took the example of American Idol and started considering the reasons why I dislike it so much when other people can't seem to get enough of it. I mean, I know I've always been a bit outside the norm, but I try to put myself in the shoes of others, and I honestly can't do it in this case. I honestly don't understand the appeal. So I started asking myself why. I think reasons exist on several different levels.

1. Reality TV as a concept. I understand the folly in applying intellect to reality TV, but intellectually, most of it doesn't appear to offer much. I understand the basis behind it; the networks want to make a quick buck without having to spend much money doing it. They set up these wild situations, throw a bunch of volunteers into them, make up some rules, record what happens, and put it on TV. There is little need for traditional writing staff or research staff or trainers or actors; they save a bundle. And then the popularity behind them makes them hugely profitable. However, setting up entertainment in this manner does little to challenge the intellect. It offers little to feed the imagination, challenges few perceptions, and does little to feed knowledge and experience. I feel like I gain about as much from watching American Idol (or similar reality shows) as watching a blank screen for an hour. If I'm going to sit and watch something, I need it to have a little more substance.

2. Modern Popular Music Trends. Perhaps it is in part a function of the schools in which I grew up, but I can't stand most modern popular music (by which I mean music that's popular and not necessarily just "pop" music). It's not that I can't stand popular music in general. I enjoy listening to Beatles music, and there are other forms of popular music (mostly from the past) that I'll listen to as well. It's today's stuff that I can't stand; and by today, I mean from about 1985 on. Much of it is Krap. With a K. It doesn't even deserve to be called crap. And in the schools in which I grew up, that stuff is 99% of what people listened to. It was all Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys and Eminem and whatever. I didn't understand why everyone was crazy about the stuff and I couldn't stand it, probably be cause I hadn't been exposed to anything else. It wasn't until I got to college that I even heard of less mainstream artists like They Might Be Giants (who are great). It also wasn't until then that I really learned about the tyranny of the record companies and how most modern music is written through corporate structures and not so much through ideas and inspiration. I think that likely has something to do with it. It is near-impossible for unique, talented artists to really become known without selling their souls to one corporation or another. I think the internet may change that, but it's not quite there yet. Oh, and guess what's played on American Idol? Mostly the Corporate Krap that makes me want to hurl.

3. Drama (especially manufactured drama). One reason I have such distaste for reality TV (and for many other aspects of modern pop culture) is its reliance on what I call the Train Wreck Effect. Apparently, a good way to get someone to watch your show is to get them to gawk at it like they would gawk at a train wreck. This usually means manufacturing drama. I've noticed as I've watched these shows (for periods of five minutes before rushing to the bathroom to Bow Down Before the Porcelain Altar) that most of the games, most of the rules, heck the very concepts of most of these shows are set up to manufacture as much drama as possible. A great example is the commercials that have been blaring lately for that lie-detector show (can't remember the name) where some lady has to admit to her husband on national TV that she would leave him for this other guy to win a million dollars or whatever. Talk about the Train Wreck Effect! It's rather disgusting the lengths these shows take to get people to gawk. And frankly, it's more than a little disturbing. Oh, and American Idol's version of the Train Wreck Effect? His name is Simon. I will even admit to having been mildly entertained by his bashing of the applicants the first two or three times. But after years and years of this, it's beyond old, and it just gets more disgusting each time. I can't even stand to look at his face anymore.

4. Commercial Gimmicks. There's few things I dislike more than sitting through commercials, but I understand why they're necessary, especially on broadcast networks. However, one of the things that will give me he urge to set my TV on fire is the gimmick where shows will tell you that they'll say who won just after these messages. Then after the commercials, they're diddle around for ten minutes, not really say anything, and then say they're really tell you who won just after these messages! And this will repeat three or four times before they even tell you anything! And American Idol is the king of this sort of behavior! Whoever invented that should be tied to a chair and forced to watch that in a loop for eternity. I have difficulty thinking of any greater hell.

So I guess the point I'm making is this:

To the friend of mine who stared yakking at me about American Idol this morning: when I'm forced to think about that wretched show at 7 AM when I haven't gotten enough sleep and I'm trying to force myself through the beginning of the work day, it makes me feel very, very stabby.

You know who you are.

Progress: 3.73%  Flight Time: 0:05:35

1 comment:

Geoff said...


I pwn your soul.