Schadenfreude is a term meaning "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune."  It's that feeling you get when you see someone on a high moral horse get brough low, or that warm fuzzy feeling when you see a terribly rude driver miss their exit.  It's that satisfaction you get with yourself when you see someone and think "wow, I'm pretty normal."  It's also the feeling that drives the success of American Idol's initial episodes.  Everyone loves the first episodes because there are so many people there who are completely awful singers or completely deluded.  All sorts of people who are clueless in all sorts of ways - whether it's social skills or fashion sense we are brought face to face with a parade of people to laugh at.

 Sometimes these people need to be set straight, and Simon is good at that.  Some are unduly arrogant and really do need to be told they aren't good singers or performers.  You don't do someone any favors if you keep giving them the false notion that they an have success when it comes to a singing career.  Sometimes, however, the people are on there simply so we can marvel and laugh at how ugly/dumb/foolish/terrible/socially awkward they are.  Last season was the first season I kept track of (since we got DVR) and so far there have been a couple episodes this season.

More than ever before I find myself feeling a little guilty for laughing or wanting to laugh at some of these people.  And while I often appreciate the way Simon bluntly informs people they need to pursue other career paths, he often takes the opportunity to completely shame and insult people.  And of course that's on the show not so we can hate Simon but rather so we can laugh.  This last episode in Seattle had Simon telling one guy that he was "very odd looking" and that he looked "like one of those creatures from the jungle."

As someone who claims that every person is valuable and who wants to follow Christ's command to love others and accept those the rest of the world doesn't accept, I find myself a little conflicted when I watch the show.  Some of the people are obviously going for a laugh, but others are just clueless about their situation.  They are purposely let through the process to see Simon, Paula, and Randy so we can laugh at them.  I'm not condemning the show or anything but I'm trying to remember these are actual, real people, not just characters.  And if I make a habit of laughing at people who are different then it's not really going to help me as I go through life and encounter people like that.  What do they need?  Not to be laughed at but rather to be loved, accepted, encouraged, etc.  So thank you American Idol for reminding me what a jerk I can be sometimes.

Finally as an aside...in a culture where "tolerance" and "acceptance" and "not judging" are considered the only truly right/moral things, I find it curious that the most popular episodes of the most popular show are the ones where we laugh at people for being different.


Anonymous said...

Mikey G remembers...the only episdoe I ever saw had this holy roller church chic who said "God told me that I was going to win American Idol."
Simon said "God told me you werew not going to win American Idol."
That didn't really bother me but what did bother me was how Sugar Ray's lead singer was hitting on her. She didn't know how to react to less than gentlemanly behavior and that made me mad.

Marla Bean said...

I enjoy a healthy dose of snarky commentary. That's why I like visiting votefortheworst.com. While I really enjoy American Idol, I actually have a really hard time with the initial auditions. But because of this, I can watch the rest of the show - knowing that these people who make it to the final rounds are not delusional enough to think that the contest is as much about musical talent as it is about making good reality TV. Some of those very rude comments you're talking about, are filmed later and not in front of the people... So, they only get to be horrified once it airs. Which is worse? You call it.

SIDE NOTE: if you click on the link above and get a strange page - it's their tricky ads - look for something at the top right that tells you to "skip this ad."

Franc-ess said...

i felt the same way watching the seattle american idol auditions. it was brutal. the guy who sang "unchained melody" had asperger's, i'm 95% sure. so when they were being overly critical it was obvious he had no idea how to react and was just too mean to watch.

of course, it somehow seemed less bad when triumph the insult comic was making fun of american idol hopefuls. it was like they were making fun of themselves along with him.