American Idol: Passion. Perception. Obsession.

True confession: I love reality television. While not every show is for me -- Fear Factor totally skeeves me out, and those desperate women on The Bachelor give me a headache -- the ones that I do watch I am passionate about. And so, as I am wont to do in the springtime, I find myself in the throes of American Idol fever.

Until last year, I was a casual viewer. I watched, had my favorites, but never did anything participatory, such as vote, go to fan websites, or chat with other ardent afficionados. It was enough for me to have the show in my life for an hour or two each Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, last year, in a moment that could have been highlighted with a lightening bolt and an angelic beam from above, Bo Bice sang “Whipping Post”. That was enough for me to jump head-first into a frenetic love/hate relationship with America’s favorite show.

This year, I swore I wasn’t going to get involved -- my affection for Mr. Bice would be enough...or so I thought. When Elliott Yamin opened his mouth, and the nuanced, dare I say glorious, sounds of “Moody’s Mood for Love” came out, I was once again AI’s bitch. I instigate conversations with friends who watch the show, defending my Elliott’s performance. I chat with grocery checkout clerks about what contestants wore and whether or not they should sue the show’s stylists for defamation of character. I chime in with witticisms and opinions on message boards and forums, chatting with fans of all ages and nationalities both about AI in general and Elliott specifically (although I choose to stay away from the more fanatical and simplistic ones with lots of IM speak and blinkies -- I like my banter to have some grammatical merit and decent vocabulary. A girl’s gotta have some personal standards, after all.). I spend two hours after the show hitting redial and casting vote after vote for my candidate. And -- I am not alone, nor am I the only woman in my age/demographic group who participates in such shenanigans. I know you're out there. (Actually, I can't believe that I've brave enough to admit this. In public.)

After Mandisa’s premature elimination last week, the grassy knoll speculators threw blame on everything from her weight to her religion to her perceived position on the lifestyle choices of others. Simon, who I have a grudging respect for, blamed Mandisa’s song choice for her lack of support and ultimate departure, giving my Elliott the slight edge in the bottom two because of the very same thing. Hmmm.

This got me to thinking: How many of those who vote weekly on AI do so based on a single (or consecutive) night’s performance, and how many vote for a specific performer, regardless of how well an evening’s presentation went? Are their votes contingent on how a performer sang technically, his/her stage presence, or the actual song choice itself? While her song choices might not have been the best for her, in my opinion Mandisa cannot be considered the ninth best contestant on the show. Say what you will about her -- the girl has undeniable power pipes and charisma out the wazoo. In dissecting her departure -- what was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Was it the fact that the performance voters threw their support to other contestants, or the fact that the brouhaha about her lifestyle comments sent former supports to other people or that her fan base wasn’t that big or participatory after all?

The fan bases for several of the contestants this year are vocal, passionate and devoted to their man or woman. While I’d be the first to admit that I like some of Elliott’s performances better than others, I’m still supporting him -- and only him -- because of his talent, his apparent character and yes, his potential. Each contestant has similar fans who will vote for him/her -- regardless. Period.

That begs the question: will those who were passionate about Mandisa (or any other ousted contestant) throw their votes to another contestant, or will they opt not to participate in the process anymore, now that their favorite has gone by the wayside? There’s obviously no way to document the motivation behind each AI vote cast, but I’m really curious to know why people vote, how often and how many times. Is the percentage of performance voters enough to affect the results over that of the performer voters? It’s too bad that I’m not in college and need a topic for a thesis, ‘cause I’d be all over this one like ticks on a hound dog.

Actually, what my contemplation of this matter really tells me is that I’m way too invested in this stupid show and I need to get a life. That’s probably true, and I’ll look into that -- after May 23rd. The night of the AI Final.

1 comment:

SusanD said...

You crack me up, Laura Petrie. Excellent post, too. The voting patterns of the American public are inscrutable, indeed.