Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are (To Drink Coke)?

I love American Idol, sometimes. It all depends on the season and contestants. Season One found me getting drunk with my senior-year roommates and rooting for Kelly Clarkson. Season Two found me not that interested. Basically, I'd casually watch until last season, where I found myself captivated with the singing-phallus-stylings of one Chris Daughtry. This season, I haven't really cared. I watched the god-awful auditions, I watched as children and histrionic adults had their dreams crushed, I was glad when Sanjaya got the boot, and then I stopped caring.

Tonight, however, was Idol Gives Back, which is a publicity stunt to raise money for various vaguely-explained charities. The idea is that people call and vote and News Corp. (read: Fox News) will donate $.10 per vote call toward these charities. Which begs the question that perhaps Fox News could just promise to stop being douchebags as a way to heal the world, but whatever. Tonight involved the remaining six contestants singing "inspirational" songs between video packages of Ryan Seacrest embracing people while wearing "grungy" clothes valued at more than the GDP of the countries or communities he visited. Simon Cowell threatened to ward off malaria with his man-teats. Paula Abdul smiled nicely. Randy Jackson said "dawg" to people in New Orleans.

I sound like a horrible Scrooge, I know. But American Idol is an orgy of consumerism, which I've accepted. A bunch of guys named Nigel make a gazillion dollars by exploiting the dreams of attractive young people who are strung out on Coke, careening around in various Ford models, text-messaging their loved ones on AT&T/Cingular phones, only to pause once weekly to scream at me on my TV. I tune all that out to enjoy snarking on contestants with my friends and occasionally liking someone who comes out of the show. In all honesty, I'd hoped Kelly Clarkson would be on tonight, but she won't be on until tomorrow's result show. (Her new song? Awesome. She can keep making breakup songs until the end of time and I will keep buying them. Fucking Guarini.) I do not, however, associate American Idol with philanthropy. While I appreciate the effort to raise awareness of the horrible conditions in many African countries and how many people starve in America, I do not appreciate hearing "Download a Ford commercial and the babies won't die." I'm paraphrasing, but not by much. "Be sure you thank your corporate overlord, News Corp., for single-handedly saving the little black babies in Africa."

If American Idol wanted to convince me they were serious about philanthropy, they should have taken down the Coke logos, stopped the Ford commercials, and not talked about Cingular text messaging for the hour. Instead, they should have done an actual telethon. Bring out people we want to hear sing (CLARKSON!!), have the contestants sing, and have America pony up some actual dough to help people. Clearly, Americans can mobilize their wallets when assuaged by horrific circumstances. During 9/11, the tsunami in Indonesia, and Hurricane Katrina, Americans donated millions of their private money to help people. We don't need Fox News to donate a relatively paltry $5 million to help illiterate kids in Kentucky get books. The Idol-viewing audience needs to sack up, part with some damn money, and actually do something good for someone. One night of corporate donations for actions people already do won't save the world. Teaching viewers to take the time to stop and think about those who are less fortunate will.

No comments: