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Thursday, May 18, 2006
American Idol. Cracking the codes
Have you ever caught the way Ryan Seacrest introduces the judges on American Idol each week?  He says, "Give it up for America's favorite dysfunctional family. . . . . Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and (inserting some snide remark) Simon Cowel." 

With that comment, he speaks the truth far more than he even knows.  These four (including  Ryan) are indeed the classic dysfunctional family.

Consider this.  Simon is the "strict Father."  Paula is the "therapeutic Mother." Randy is the dutiful, loyal first-born son, often side-taking and/or peace-making in the midst of family disputes.  Most of the time he is trying to please "strict Father" with his evaluation.  At other times he is taking up for "therapeutic Mother."  Ryan plays the part of the rebellious younger brother who literally demonstrates his rebellion through his physical distance from the three and through his constant cynical remarks about strict Father (Simon). 

The idol contestants are the siblings who must perform their way into the family's favor.  They must conform to the family's values and dreams for them.  And the dysfunctional system demonstrates itself through the evaluation.  "Older brother" tries to come off as encouraging to please "therapeutic Mother," yet he tries to be honest in order to please "strict Father."  "Strict Father," the one everyone most listens to and most longs to please, combines brutal honesty with cruel demeaning humor.  When he does give a thumbs up it usually comes with a subtle spirit of reluctance and leaves everyone strangely self-congratulatory and actually liking him.  "Therapeutic mother" has no real objectivity, simply trying to protect the "kids" from the brutality of "strict Father" and "older Brother."  Sure, she "loves" "strict Father" it's just she can't stand him."  In the end, she is a spineless jelly-fish.  "Younger brother" has no real agenda other than to somehow side with the "kids" against "strict Father."  For him, being nice to the "siblings" is about getting back at "strict Father."  

"Strict Father" works through the strategies of shame, withholding and reluctant reward and he continually proves this reality:  he who loves least holds all the power.  He does it under the guise of "what's best for the kids" or for what will "make them their best."  But in the end, this kind of system is what produces false worship.  Do you see what is going on here?  The "kids" are actually worshipping Simon.  They are making an "offering" to him in hopes of being "blessed."  

In "America's favorite dysfunctional family" the core value is either pleasing "strict Father" or somehow defying him or proving him wrong through pleasing the world despite him.  Literally everything revolves around Simon, the strict Father.  And this precisely is the idolatry of American idol.  

Any thoughts from you idol-aters out there?  Are you seeing this picture?   


posted by John David Walt | at 5/18/2006 10:19:00 PM



Blogger RC said...

JD-found the blog and love it...looks like you guys were down our way...we were in Houston with the Henson's and visited "the church" not long ago. Tell the fam hi...we are trying to keep up with the Walt baby factory...on #3 now.


11:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Isaac said...

Wow JD. Now that you lay it all out like this, it all just makes so much sense. Isn't it sad that the escape for millions of us each week is to watch someone else's disfunctional family, so we can go on feeling a little bit better about who we are.

Of course, I know that the singing and the auditions are fun, but lets face it - people watch to be voyeurs. What does this say about our community, our longing for connectedness, our need for proof that we really aren't so bad?

You have me thinking now JD. Maybe its time to dust of my blog again ;)

11:02 PM EDT  
Anonymous JP said...

JD, now you have hit it, grasshopper....simon's opinion is the one that counts....look how taylor reacted last week when simon "was happy, he's happy!" Nice theological expose...and right on the money....AI is so appealing to us because in some way, we kinda wish we could be the ones up there....don't we????

2:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Canada said...

No doubt, this needs to hit primetime news. How would America respond to this insightful expose?

What I love about reality TV as you watch it over time is how it accentuates peoples personalities (strenght or weakness) to the point that you are watching a truly brilliantly scripted show. I recall the early days of the show and how much the characters have evolved- Ryan was a complete dork and had no balls to hate Simon, yet now Simon is his full blown nemesis. JD we need to get some re-runs of the first season and compare the judges. I would also love to see Simon on the very first show of the British version.

You are right on with this dysfunctional family bit, And we all love to watch.

10:28 PM EDT  
Blogger Fitz said...

Do you ever shut your brain off? I love AI just like the next American, but to think about it as much as to put it in terms of a dysfunctional family, I just can't do that. I am simply listening for who sucks and who doesn't...and for Simon's great remarks that make me laugh out loud and say, "You know, he's right!" But after Wednesday, I can shut my brain off completely as it will all be done. My other show - Prison Break - finished last week. So now I have no shows left to watch. Actually, now that I think about it, I guess that means I'll get to turn my brain back ON!

3:04 PM EDT  

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