Friday, January 26, 2007

"American Idol" & Ancient Gladiators? Ouch!

Recently I watched some of this season's American Idol. Wow! I was blown away at how totally mean-spirited TV's becoming! Sure there were aspects that were entertaining, like the irony of Simon's Hollywood persona contrasted with his belly-bulging t-shirt wardrobe; (seriously, could someone please buy that brother a real shirt?); but it hardly outweighed the cruel and ignorant judge/host reactions to the not-so-subtle stream of broken lives lining up to reach for a long-shot-attempt at self-validation. Do you need to be a Christian to know that laughing at someone else's pain and desperation isn't cool?

In case some are thinking I'm taking this too seriously, lemme break it down. People usually don't behave in absurdly foolish and self-depracating ways out of an overflowing sense of self-confidence ...Duh. These are people who have been trained for years and years to feel like worthless, unlovable, born-to-lose, human garbage who must perform to earn their acceptability and significance, but will never be able to perform well enough. Their ridiculous behavior is simply an awkward caricature of their self-perception shaped by the devaluing, abusive, and critical treatment of those who should have loved, affirmed, and encouraged them. I'm talking parents, siblings, and other primary relationships.

They respond to this abuse by developing fantasies of grandeur in an attempt to alter their perceived reality and soothe the bleeding lashes that have flayed their heart so far open that normal daily interactions burn like acid. When the pain comes they run away (physically or emotionally) or lash out (how many times have we seen that on Idol ?) in a fight or flight response to something that's touched on a deep wound. They don't understand their brokenness; but they hate themselves for it. And their self-disdain is affirmed and deepened by the heartless judges' confirming words of devaluation on their physical appearance, clothing, weight, and other aspects of their person.

... And we watch them ... and we laugh ... because to us, they're simply characters on our television screen. Images living in hyper-reality that have no real feelings and are certainly not like us normal people. We're like the ancient Romans, gathering in mass to watch people suffer, bleed, and die at the hands of gladiators. We're becoming a cruel society. And many of us Christians are going with the flow of our culture, center-stream.

I'd like to encourage all of us (myself included) to weigh in the balance how we're training our own hearts through the kind of entertainment we program ourselves with. Next time American Idol comes on, make the choice to change the channel. Besides, Lost is on in a week, baby! Watch that, for cryin' out loud!


Michael said...

There's only one word that sums up my feelings right now.. CONVICTION!! I have never thought of Watching Idol in this way. And you are correct, Lost is much better!!

John Lynch said...

Bring on the "Others", baby! Yeah!!!

Al said...

I totally agree with you, John. Isn't there something in our human nature that finds entertainment value in others' pain? I'm not just talking about Idol, but how about other reality tv that highlights pain and brokenness... how about every time we slow down to get a good look at a traffic accident? There is something there... something that finds interest in pain?
Human history displays this same pattern... not just in gladiator days but also as recent as public executions and lynchings. Parents would bring their children to watch such atrocities as if it was a Monday night football game!
What is it in us that finds a guilty pleasure in seeing other people hurt?

Luke said...

Thanks for putting words to that, John. Interestingly enough, a week ago I began wondering what God thinks of the whole American Idol deal and process. I asked a couple people about it and they gave a chuckle. Kind of a "huh, never thought of that." Yet, they failed to explore it any deeper. Your blog put words to the anguish I felt. I've never been an Idol fan and now I partly know why.

When I do watch snipets of it, I admire those that are getting torn apart by Simon. Even though we laugh at them, they are the ones showing us courage. It truly is the man in the arena who is to be admired, not those standing on the sidelines.

John Lynch said...

Right on, Luke. I feel your heart. The same heart to heal & build up that Jesus lived out of. Press on brother.