American Idol and American Politics

I find it a little eerie how closely the finale of the television program American Idol resembles the presidential race.

Here you have an older male from the school of hard knocks; a younger, soulful man who inspires his peers; and a woman candidate who shows amazing resilience.

In a way, both Idol and the presidential race exemplify a sort of ‘family romance’ of American society.

Syesha Mercado was in the bottom three on a number of occasions, but she remained in the competition almost to the end. Don Kaplan wrote of her:

‘ Every week the bubbly brunette . . . has been on the verge of going home. And every week, it’s been someone else who gets the boot . . . “Idol” fanatics have been saying for weeks that each episode of “Idol” would be Mercado’s last. “But she keeps breaking through,” says Michelle Boros . . . Boros thinks the singer has been underestimated by the experts because “she doesn’t quite have that personality X-factor that the ‘Idol’ people like.” . . . Kid Kelly, Sirius radio’s vice president of music programming believes Mercado is hanging on because “she’s a chameleon. She has this ability to transform herself each week – and at the end of the day, she’s very talented.” ‘

So you have the woman candidate who is a determined survivor even though it was pretty clear early on that she would not be the winner (winners don’t keep being sent to the endangered zone). Ms. Mercado is said to have gotten through the stress of all those close calls by depending on her man.

As for the younger man in the competition, his fans complained that it was unfair to say that David Archuleta was ‘inexperienced’. They pointed to his extensive experience on ‘Star Search.’

Angie Mohr disagrees, writing:

‘ David Archuleta, being 17, appeals to younger teens and tweens and that is where his fanbase lies. He is the “pretty boy” of the two and his shy, halting interview responses highlight his youth and inexperience. ‘

Despite his charisma and almost cult-like following, Archuleta was dogged by controversy and upstaged by a key mentor who proved so disruptive that in the end he had to be banned from the set.

Mohr adds of rocker David Cook:

‘ David Cook has the rebel just-crawled-out-of-bed, tousled look that draws older teen and early twenties girls but also speaks to the boys-turning-men in the same age range. ‘

Simon Cowell said of David Cook on Late Night with Jay Leno,

‘ “Who would I like to win? I’m going to say David Cook,” the acerbic judge told Leno. “Only because the guy started off working in a bar. You know, I kinda feel he deserves to win more. Where the other guy, you know, he’s 17, cute, you know, hasn’t had to work quite as hard as the other one.” ‘

So why do I think there are these, like, cosmic parallels?

Oh, it is just a function of genre. You see, when you cover an election as though it is a talent contest and you zero in on personalities rather than issues, then this is pretty much the sort of melodrama you can construct. It becomes about determined women, less experienced young men, and more hardened older men who know how to mix a stiff drink. You would find these personalities in any tubby novel for sale at an airport bookstore. Mercado, Archuleta and Cook are far more complex and interesting persons than the stock characters that the media has imposed on them. But at least the wrong done them by simplification is minor; they are after all entertainers, and if they attain their potential they will have plenty of opportunity to tell their real stories.

With regard to our political leaders, the infotainment approach obscures the most weighty matters ever to face our Republic, and does a grave disservice to voters whose fate hangs in the balance.

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