Bits and Pieces
The Real World Politics of American Idol
More about how American Idol is very much like a political campaign. In the article, pundits compare Taylor Hicks to Bill Clinton and Chris Daughtry to Howard Dean…
“‘I think ‘American Idol’ is very political, ‘ said Jenny Backus, a Democratic strategist.
The other side of the political aisle agrees. ‘American Idol is democracy in progress, ‘ said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway.
Voting is part of the process; more than a third of the American people think their vote counts as much or more for American Idol than it does for the presidency, according to a recent poll by Pursuant, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based polling firm. The same poll concluded that roughly half of the American people had watched “American Idol” and one in 10 had voted for a competitor.
So for contestants, the political gimmicks start early.
‘One of the first things they do is when someone is kicked off, there’s now a scramble to get to the front to show the camera they’re also crying at the same time, ‘ said Idol judge Simon Cowell.
Singers use a number of vote-lobbying techniques on the show — appealing to patriotism, appearing with politicians — even kissing babies.
[Taylor] Hicks, an Alabama native, is not unlike another gray-haired Southerner.
‘Taylor definitely has some Clinton tactics to him, and one is bringing the crowd in with him, ‘ Backus said.
‘Chris [Daughtry] was sort of the Howard Dean candidate, ” Backus said. “He couldn’t broaden his appeal past the young, modern hip sound.”
Does Simon’s opinion influence the voters?
Check out this MTV.com article:
“‘I think that they have a huge influence, ‘ said Katharine McPhee, who backed up her opinion on Tuesday’s show by actually confronting the judges for being hard on her in recent weeks. ‘It would be really interesting to know if the actual votes go up and down based on who Simon says is the best and worst each week.’
Yes it would. Unfortunately, ‘Idol’ never releases the vote totals until the finale. Co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, however, would reveal that the numbers fluctuate each week.
‘Everything that I see in the votes, America truly votes for who they think is the best on the night and don’t really follow one single person all the way through, ‘ Lythgoe said.
Jacob Clifton, who covers ‘Idol’ for TelevisionWithoutPity.com, however, isn’t buying it.
‘The show is designed around the ‘pick your pony’ concept, which means that the majority of viewers aren’t basing their votes on the performances at all, much less the judges’ comments, ‘ he theorized. ‘From the final 12 on up to the final two, all the judges’ commentary really does is narrow and focus voting time for those few voters who are undecided, want to use some of their votes to help who they see as the underdogs, or can’t decide between two or three candidates.'”
The judges, particularly Simon, influence the vote in both obvious and subtle ways. Shaping viewer opinion is actually part of their function, I believe.