Friday, February 22, 2008

American Idol or American President?

I typically don't catch much T.V. besides news and sports, but this week I watched two shows that seemed eerily similar. First, I watched a little of American Idol the other night. I think we get a bigger kick out of the very bad than the very good, and of course the judges, particularly Simon, know how to blow up each singer's bubble and then pop it right in their face.

Actually what interests me more is the interviews with various contestants as they talk about their motives, their hopes and dreams, their fears and insecurity. It seems to me that our whole culture is enamored with, even mesmerized by the whole idea of "celebrity." I guess it is today's American dream, to really be somebody with all the wealth and fame and lifestyle that comes with it.

And, yet, only one will get the prize. All the rest get sent home with everything from "better luck next time" to "you just don't have it", whatever "it" is. Maybe there's a good life lesson in there somewhere.

Then last night I watched a fair amount of the democratic pre-primary debates from Texas and then listened to and read what the various political commentators had to say. I just couldn't help but make the obvious comparison. Two candidates polished to a high gloss, fully rehearsed and prepared, both fighting off fatigue and illness, and both determined to score a few more points with the pundits, to shine just a little brighter than the competition.

And then afterward, each commentator was gushing over their own candidate (Paula) and critiquing the opposition (Simon). Points were awarded for style, for smoothness, for expression, for charisma, and personality. I sat there wondering, is this how we choose the next leader of the free world? Is it really all about creating a sympathetic image or an inspiring persona, that will move our shallow, celebrity-obsessed public to vote? How long until each candidate has a number so we can call in and vote, so that by Thursday night we'll know who gets to be the next Commander in Chief?

Is it the candidate's fault, their campaign manager's, or do we blame the media? Or, is the media just giving us what we really want. Maybe so. I don't mean to be cynical, but I think there has to be a better way. Any ideas?

2 comments:

Mike Ruffin said...

Drew,

It's tempting to blame the media. But, I reckon that they, like the network that brings us American Idol, just give us what we want.

Frankly, I think that the key is for the American electorate to get more interested so that we will do the hard work of investigating the candidates' positions for ourselves. Cutting through the spin is hard, though.

My problem is cynicism. I find myself thinking that it doesn't matter much who gets elected president; the machine is the machine and it is going to grind forward as it wills.

But I hope I'm wrong about that!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, we can only speculate that each candidate will sincerely try to accomplish what they claim they will do in office. The rest remains to be seen!

Until then, I guess we can only grade them on what we believe their "sincerety" level is and how factual we believe their comments to be about their past and their opponent's past.

I personally rely on "www.factcheck.org" for that.