American Idol Upset: Who You Callin’ “Marginalized?”

idol-finaleMay 20, 2009 Tonight was the big hoohah over American Idol’s grand finale controversy, and the New York Times’ ArtsBeat section had a play by play ‘real time’ review updating regularly that described this showdown between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert as “the guy next door versus the guyliner.”

On the ‘unfair to Adam’ shout out, you can add a posse of young teens who gave me the verbal-lashing-phone-recap claiming, “They totally went for the goody goodie just because they thought Adam was gay or wears nail polish or eyeliner or whatever! Sooooo not fair! It figures! Just because he’s different.” Hmnnn…Couple things here:

First, as a marketing person, I’m thinking “c’mon kiddies, do you really think this wasn’t a bait and switch/shuffle the deck underdog dramarama deal for added impact and ratings?”

Followed by the more motherly clucking of, “Or perhaps voters/media are trying to impart ‘normative/centrist’ is the bedrock of society and anything fringe is disenfranchised”…(After all, this is running on Fox network…)

idol-finalistsThen I circled back to the media maven,

“Or maybe that’s ‘the masses’ voting…and it’s not being network driven with wink and nod, dollar-driven behavioral backlash…”

Either way, there will be plenty of chatter about it, prompting a cause and effect rebel yell and lots of ancillary press and stereotypes and conversations swirling…Which could actually be a good way to open dialog with kids …

I mean, really…my daughter might as well have added,

I need to go get something pierced right this very second to lend solidarity to this guy.”

Clearly, I should’ve watched, as it’s ‘pop culture mania’ at its watercooler finest, but hey, I invited my daughter to the ‘social room’ of the outpost studio where there’s a big screen massive TV and she still preferred to watch it with her friends.

Instead, I read the Wall Street Journal about the sweeping credit card fee reform and restrictions for the ‘under 21’ set requiring parental cosigning for debt and other popular legislation to curb predatory practices. (story to come)

Of course, I was muttering under my breath that the Senate passed the bill to the house with the usual ‘bury the bone’ antics of sneaky pete riders, in this case tossing in the notion of allowing ‘concealed weapons in public parks’ to credit card fee restrictions.

Gee, there’s logic there; guns and plastic; tight alliance between issues. Sigh.

Shades of my days at Girls State in Hawaii when I learned ‘that’s how politics works’ and changed my leadership focus from PoliSci/Int’l Govt. to Communications & Mass Media. But I regress…

In some ways, this media/politics interplay points to the adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”…No big analysis here, as I said, I was reading the WSJ,  What the new credit card rules mean for you”

But here’s more of the NYT banter to give you a feel for what many Americans are yakking about…and no doubt will be tomorrow in break rooms from Walmart to Wall Street.

I could get all self-righteous and sniff that I “never watch this stuff,” but after Susan Boyle’s internet coup, I sure try to pay attention and keep up. You never know where you’ll find media inspiration!  😉


Banter between J.C. (Jon Caramanica) and D.I. (Dave Itzkoff) from the NYTimes ArtsBeat Blog

J.C. What have we learned tonight?

D.I. Do you think there’s a possibility of backlash tomorrow?

J.C. Against?

D.I. Anger from people who genuinely believed Adam would win
and believe it was taken away from him.

J.C. You mean the marginalized? And they’ll be arguing that this is a continuation of said marginalization?

D.I. I think there are people who were emotionally invested in him, yes.

J.C. They would be absolutely correct. I wouldn’t underestimate the emotional investment in Kris – it may not be particularly recognizable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

D.I. That is fair. But there’s a tiny culture war brimming, even in this little teapot.
Is this a tide turning back the other way?

J.C. I don’t think the tide was ever really going the other way in the first place.
All that said, Gokey would have killed Allen had it been the two of them in the finale.

D.I. And in fairness, Adam Lambert is going to have a healthy career after this. But when I look at my e-mail inbox, I see a lot of messages that start: BOOOOO!

J.C. A self-selecting demo, that. Also, why is no one e-mailing me?

D.I. Let’s just say for now that there’s a lot tied up in these results.

D.I. So what’s your takeaway from tonight?

J.C. Honestly, I’m a little sad. Not because Adam lost, exactly, or even because Kris won. But more because this season ended with a fizzle. Most of the promising singers fell by the wayside early, and what was left was competence.

Adam excepted, of course, but he wasn’t a coalition builder, and that’s what Idol demands.

D.I. That’s a very fair point. The previous seasons have shown that a centrist contestant usually takes the prize. (Taylor Hicks, David Cook, et al.) It’s remarkable that Adam Lambert made it as far as he did.

10:01 After Kris Allen wins the dialog banters on a bit and then I read  what I’ve been echoing in my own fuzzy brain ever since that little teeny tiny snippet of conversation from the teens…

D.I. Can I be diabolical for one moment?

J.C. Please.

D.I. Since they knew Adam would have a strong career, First place or Second place, why not throw it to Kris and make it more surprising/controversial?

J.C. Next you’ll tell me there’s no tooth fairy!

The problem with that is, in a week, after the heat dies down, then you’ve got Kris as your Idol
He couldn’t shoulder that burden.

I believe this is America’s vision, Dave. And now I don’t have to rewrite the lede of my piece.

D.I. So did we coastal elites underestimate the massive mainstream vote that Kris would deliver?

J.C. First, careful about that “we.” Second, yes.

Kris Allen will have songs on VH1 and modern soft-rock radio for at least a little while

Not that anyone will notice.

D.I. I think you’ve got a good point. The “Idol” audience is that mainstream, middle of the road crowd.

Millions upon millions, indeed.

American Idol Finale Kris Allen Wins (NYT Artsbeat)

American Idol Live Blog Tonight!

American Idol/Reality TV-Media Literacy Toolbox Sample

American Idol Finalist Prediction (Sister Rose)

Visual Credits: Lead Photo: by Frank Micelotta/Fox, via Associated Press: The “American Idol” finalists Adam Lambert, left, and Kris Allen, with the host Ryan Seacrest. Finalists/orange background: by Michael Becker/Fox



  1. coffee buzz says

    i wish Kris would embrace his victory better, but maybe he just needs some time for it all to soak in… In any case he’d better not wait too long, Adam is already swooping in to steal his thunder

  2. In American culture (and, possibly, world-wide) if you are too popular, people will try to bring you down. These arbiters of cynicism, or haters as they are often referred, work to cast doubt on anything mainstream

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