Late on Tuesday night, as the votes were counted from Kentucky to Oregon, we finally got some clarity on this thing… The pundits were proven wrong, some of them, but the voters had the power, not the media, and they made their choices.
As far as I am concerned this whole process has lasted way too long: the heated rhetoric, the disrespect back and forth, the confusion as to whether all the votes got cast and counted. There were conspiracy theories, behind-the-scenes dramas, advisers forced out of various camps because of their indefensible shenanigans, pretenders falling by the wayside one by one then trashing or endorsing their former competitors.
But finally it seems to be over, at least for this election cycle. I am talking, of course, not about the Democratic Party’s attempt to nominate a candidate before their national convention in August—not about the battle between Hillary and Obama—but about the battle between the Davids, Archuleta and Cook. I am describing the soap opera and spectacle known as “American Idol.”
Call it what you will, a big old-fashioned talent show, repackaged and promoted as something revolutionary and new—but it is not new at all: anyone remember Ed McMahon and “Star Search”? Same premise, but not nearly the same phenomena.
Even with this year’s ratings down somewhat, the national singing bee still grips the popular imagination, dominates water cooler conversations, overwhelms the entertainment media each spring. And, I must confess, the idolatry even seeped into parsonage. We would gather around the TV as if it were the Oracle of Delphi and we were awaiting the divine word.
I was pulling for Brooke White, the seemingly sweet and really leggy blonde who one night, memorably, forgot the lyrics to her song. “She’s a human!” I said. “Not a robot!” Jo was pulling for the younger David…Archuleta.
Jacob said it was a no-brainer the older David…Cook…would win. On Tuesday night over 97 million votes were cast, tying up phone lines and air waves from east to west. David Cook did in fact win, by 12 million votes, 56% to 44%—Jo and I called Jacob in Atlanta to offer our embittered congratulations—and if it had been a real election the national press would have been screaming, “Landslide! Mandate!”
That American Idol has played itself out against the backdrop of the parties’ nomination process—or has it been the other way around?—has seemed eerie to me in a way, a commentary on art as life and life as art, everyone smiling for the camera and hoping for the blessing of strangers, all the principals hoping one way or the other to be America’s Idols…