Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Living in an Idol Culture

In the US, it's American Idol. In France, it's Star Academy. In the UK, it's Britain's Got Talent. Each season, these shows take their devoted audiences through a crazed spectrum of the sublime to the ridiculous -- and it's hard to say which the fans love more.

The underlying message of these shows -- or rather, one of the underlying messages -- is that anything is possible if you truly believe in yourself. For those who didn't have the support of a loving family and parents who told them they could do anything they set their mind to, it's up to them to pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps. And some of them do it. But what has me laughing one minute and gaping in amazement the next is how completely deluded some of the candidates are.

I'm the first to agree that a child is much more likely to succeed in the world with the encouragement and affirmation of his parents. It can make literally all the difference in a child's self-esteem and world view. But I have to wonder if we've become a little extreme in our craving for affirmation when candidates show up to audition who are nothing short of tone deaf. The ones I wonder about the most are the ones who are there with their families who appear completely supportive. What did those parents tell their child? Are the parents encouraging the dream in order to fulfill some unfulfilled dream of their own like the classic stage mom syndrome?

If I have half-way succeeded as a parent, I've somehow managed to identify and encourage strengths in my sons. True, the tricky part is what to do when a child doesn't seem to be gifted in a particular area of passion. I suppose that's where tough love comes in. But we're shooting ourselves in the collective cultural foot if we idolize pop culture icons to the point where we will do anything to be like them -- or for our children to.

"Above all, know thyself."
- Socrates


Jessie said...

I totally agree, Dave! It's just sad when people show up and have absolutely no singing talent. I wonder who encouraged these kids?

But then, maybe that's just it. Without proper parenting, kids may seek fame and they are inundated with a culture that only values fame.

Although Erik and I watch the show, most nights I cringe at what kids are willing to do to seek a life that is not gratifying at all!

Petvin said...

I agree! It's great to see that there is tremendeous talent out there, but it is so sad to see the ones that so obviously don't have skills in that area. The words of singer Bruce Cockburn come to mind "...the trouble with normal is it always gets worse...". When what is "normal" gets worse, when "being approximately average or within certain limits of" has its threshold lowered so does the standard for what should be allowed onto the common and public stage. Fame, it seems, is something that so many desire, at any cost unfortunately. Kids talk about becoming hockey pros, famous soccer or football players, idols in the performing arts etc. But very few have the stamina or talent to reach those goals. But fame has to be reached, one has to make it to the frontpage of the evening paper or the headline news. So they do it with their non-talent sounding really bad making a fool out of themselves. But they made the press didn't they. These are the times we live in. Quite sad, very sad indeed...