American Idol is Tentacle-Poking My Brain
Sharing an incident that happened today. It gave me tiny brain pokes at the time and I shook it off, but the poking has become pretty incessant. I’m getting nothing done. So I’m recording my thoughts in case the poke-r inside my brain happens to have Lovecraftian tentacles or something.
So: in my perusing of the depths of the Interwebs, I found a video.
A group of American Idol finalists sing a song together. Pretty normal.
But the song they sing is “Shout to the Lord.” A song I love, but have never heard performed outside of church or some other Christian gathering. (I mean, the first words are “My Jesus”…subtle, it ain’t.)
Not to take away from the beauty of the video. I love the song. Love the arrangement. Love the performance. I’m practically ready to hold up a lighter and sing along.
But throughout, there’s a pretty sizeable section of my brain that’s weirded out.
Like, big time.
It’s. I. But.
*incessant brain poking*
Religion. On a national tv show. On a mainstream, non-denominational channel.
Were all nine performers Christian? What if some weren’t…did they have to sing anyway? Did someone…interview contestants on their religious convictions (’cause, ick!)? Suppose one or two of them considered themselves Atheists or Muslims or Pagans or any of a zillion other faiths? Did anyone ask to opt out? Would they be free to voice their discomfort without ruining their chances in the competition (and the fact I have to ask that question is terribly, uncoolly indicative of the reality, I think)?
And even if all eight contestants were Christian and felt comfortable with the song selection, I still feel icky.
Because I KNOW the entire audience isn’t Christian. Show’s called “American Idol.” That’s a pretty broad demographic. And I feel like everyone not Christian might make the leap that non-Christianness = non-Americanness.
Is it just my Canadian-ness? Somehow, I think not. I’m pretty sure that — although many Americans likely LOVED this performance — many others felt excluded and othered.
But then I Googled the performance and what I’m reading in the YouTube comments and majority of blog posts is approval. Which…I mean, I thought it was sure to have sparked crazy controversy. But no. People liked it. Not just the song itself, but the public celebration of the Christian faith (and no other) on tv.
In fact, if anything, it kicked off a debate on “true Christianity” and “religious hypocrisy” (which is so crazy I almost hope the brain tentacles find a squishy bit and finish me off).
That said, I don’t think religion is a dirty word. I found it a beautiful, moving performance. But as good as I’m sure the intentions must have been, I’m still trying to figure out how it happened. I get someone thinking of the idea, shopping it around. But in a team of performers, producers, media pros, consultants…NO ONE thought it might be inappropriate? Or offensive? Someone must have pointed out the ickyness.
Thus: weird vibes. With tentacles.
And my tentacled vibery is rooted in a majority culture asserting its identity without recognizing any possibility of plurality (I’m not a regular watcher…if Idol has ever done group sings celebrating another religious identity, please tell me).
So I’m wondering…would I have felt better if Idol had chosen a non-Christian faith for their song choice? Or if there had been a variety of faiths celebrated (and at what number of faiths does it become okay?)? How does it continue to be an acceptable thing to trumpet one faith above all others on national tv? Or am I spending way too much time thinking about reality tv and religion?