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Comments by YACCS
Monday, April 26, 2004

The C-O-N spiracy

The C-O-N spiracy

I don't watch American Idol, I watch Gilmore Girls instead. Why? I think the writing on Gilmore Girls is some of the best on TV and I think most of the people one American Idol can't sing to save their lives. Even though the subject matter may not, at first, be appealing, I will watch or read anything which is well written or compelling, which is how I've been drawn into watching Nova, American Chopper and Trading Spaces, even the Roman Empire in the First Century.

How do I know if the writing is good? Well, if I watch something and it makes sense, like many of the romantic complications on Gilmore Girls, something many shows get wrong or just recycle from movies (how many times can Ross and Rachel play at being a couple), then I'm going to watch it.

Of course, I have to excuse 24's plot holes because any group of writers who can keep the plot moving, which is a pretty hard task, deserves praise. You try moving a story along from plot point to plot point for 22 episodes. Few people can do it for two hours. Ever see the Battle of Algiers? That movie is captivating because it moves quickly and there are few movies which do.

But, if anything is a Rorhschact test on the American pysche, American Idol is it, at least with teenagers. And as this piece from Salon indicates, there is something else going on:

Take, for example, last week's results on "American Idol." As I mentioned in my last column, there are three extremely talented contestants on "American Idol" this year, all of whom happen to be black women. The other contestants range from just OK to cringe-inducingly bad. This past week, when Ryan Seacrest announced the three contestants who received the least number of votes, most viewers assumed that Diana DiGarmo and John Stevens, two white teenagers who should be practicing their box steps in show choir instead of paining the nation with their clumsy karaoke routines, would surely land in the bottom heap.

Not so, America! Instead, La Toya London, Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson, all of whom were praised to high heaven for their fantastic performances, were in the bottom three. The judges were asked what they thought of the results. They expressed disappointment, but reminded us that, after all, this is a democracy.

Others talked about a conspiracy.

Um, racism isn't really a conspiracy. It's pretty much out in the open. This is a racist country. Most people in this country are racists. Every single black person in this country knows it. Can't you just take their word for it? Even if you don't personally see evidence of racism in this country, can't you trust those who are in the position to see it, those who are telling you, day after day, that it's there?

Or do you not trust them?

Now, having seen just enough of the show to understand this, the black girls are the only ones with real talent. But Idol is as much about appeal as talent. And there is clearly a racial cast to all "reality" shows. Was anyone really surprised that Donald Trump, a man well known for his racial issues, didn't hand over a company to Harvard MBA Kwame? Or that in the history of reality shows, only ONE black contestant has won.

And as Dave Chappelle so adroitly pointed out, black male characters are usually driven off shows like the Real World?

The reality, however, is a bit more complex than racism. Remember, Ruben Studdard won the last season and Justin Guarini, who is biracial, came in second in the first season. I'd argue that it isn't racism alone, although that's a factor, but an unwillingness to vote for certain kinds of black people.

On reality skill shows, black men are at a disavantage. On talent-based shows, black women are at a disadvantage. While it is perfectly fine for black men to sing, and a lot of this is based on sexual attraction as much as talent, black women are simply discarded. No matter how talented black women are, they will lose to either a cute white girl or a man. Who do you think watches and votes on American Idol? White teenage girls. Why else do you think Clay Aiken came in second and got an insane amount of publicity?

As to the question if white people believe black people's claims of racism, of course not. No way in hell. White people live in a state of denial. Which is how, as Atrios keeps pointing out, Howie Kurtz could harp on Jayson Blair, seeing only his race, and not his asskissing and backstabbing skills, and ignore Jack Kelley, who wrote some of the most turgid, racially and ethinically tained prose since Theodore Bilbo published Segregation or Mongrelization, a copy of which is on Stormfront.

Unless directly confronted with evidence of racial bias, most whites will treat minority claims of racism with the sort of eyerolling denial small children get when monsters are under their bed. But unlike the monsters, whom to date have eaten no children, racism is quite real.

White people can see it, as in police stops of minority kids, and excuse it. They excused the beating of Rodney King "because he was threatening". He was on the ground, getting stomped, the only threat he posed was bleeding on their uniforms.

You can see that the most talented singers on American Idol gets the least votes. Why? Well, it just happens that they are black women. Even the show's hosts and judges were stunned by the result. Now, people will deny it, as they deny the open racism of US troops in Iraq, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

posted by Steve @ 1:20:00 PM

1:20:00 PM

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