Saturday, May 29, 2010

How Lee DeWyze Won American Idol

So, just how did he do it considering Lee was outclassed by Crystal Bowersox in just about every category there is e.g., musicality, vocals, originality and stage presence? I hate to raise the sexist card but, sadly, I think in this instance it's appropriate. I don't know if any of you readers out there had a chance to read a critique of the American Idol finale in yesterday's New York Times by Jon Caramanic. Well, I did and for my money he really hit the nail on the head by explaining that American Idol has evolved from a talent show into a make-over show. Doesn't that just feel right?  With a panel of judges, led by the commercially savvy Simon Cowell, the 'blossoming' of Lee DeWyze was sold to the viewing audience and they bought it hook, line and sinker.

After weeks of touting Crystal as being in a 'league of her own', the judges abandoned her and took up the 'cause of Lee'. Of course, this might have been a strategic manoeuvre to create some suspense in an otherwise pretty drippy season. But I think Simon tapped into something else which he probably was not even consciously aware of.  That is, everyone loves a 'make-over'. People applaud self-improvement and Lee fit the bill.  Crystal was too fully formed and too much her own person (a bit like Pallas Athena springing forth as a mature adult from her father's, Zeus's, head) to try and change. On the other hand, Lee was a veritable Pygmalion. Putty in the hand. Clay to be molded.

At the show's beginning, Lee was shy, lacked self-confidence and repressed.  And we were constantly bombarded with his 'ordinariness' i.e., he works in a paint store, he's a regular guy. Oy! If anyone brought up that friggin' paint store one more time I was going to scream!  Lee's personal story was presented by the judges, particularly by Simon, as being especially compelling and the American public fell for it. Now, to me, his story compared to Crystal's positively pales. She was raised by her dad, mother abandoned her when she was two (or so they say), she is a single parent herself and she suffers from a life threatening disease (Type l Diabetes which is no joke). If that doesn't reflect the human drama, what does!

But as compassionate as American may have felt about Crystal, their real sympathies and votes were going to Lee and that's because America , as most cultures, favor males over females.  It's a given that the majority of American Idol viewers are women and women are suckers for supporting and enabling men who they see as having 'potential'.  Historically, women have protected men at their own expense.  And it's a know fact, borne out by research, that single sex group therapy is more beneficial for women than groups with men and women as women tend to put their own issues on the back burner and defer to the men.

It's the old story that 'all it takes is a good woman to reform a man'. Lee's story is really just another permutation of the myth of the 'vulnerable' male. It's a cultural archetype and pops up in all aspects of our culture. The 'cool jerk', the inarticulate guy, the shy guy. It's disheartening, really, that another good strong woman was passed over in order to prop up a mediocore guy (sorry, all you Lee fans!). However, I think Crystal will prevail and enjoy great success despite the obstacles set in her way.

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