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Thursday, July 09, 2009


I've noticed recently that America's Got Talent has developed a rather annoying formula to try and maximize its manipulation of its audience. But before I break that down why is it that we have 2 Brits and a narcissistic has-been judge American Talent?

Does the prevalence of British judges on reality shows have to do with the hope of recreating the success of Simon Cowell? Maybe, but then again before Simon (B.S.) there was The Weakest Link. Sure that was a Brit game show import, but we kept the Brit host. Do Briton's, on a fundamental level, frighten us? Either our Nation still uses Brits as our first and most fundamental antagonists, or more probably this is a cultural way of trying to reconcile America, the great rebel nation, the independent, self-made nation, with out pre-national parental figures. And that the success of these reality shows, in which Americans compete to prove the Brit judge wrong, essentially, thrived in the Bush II era, the President who most embodied the Oedipal complex (and probably did more to prove Deleuze right than any one), may also have complimented the larger national oedipal complex that our nation never really has come to terms with. The modern myth0s of America is that of the divine nation, the nation borne of ideas instead of flesh and blood. America, especially during the Reagan administration, has stood in as a civic Jesus; complete with virgin birth. So, this spectre of Anglo influence must be excised somehow, and perhaps we do it on reality shows.

Because you can find Americans 10 times as callous and rude as any Simon knock-off. From the shores of Long Island, to the windy streets of south Chicago, the high school football games of Texas to the stalled traffic of Los Angeles, America does have talent at being as annoying, brutish, and rude as anyone, and I say that with pride. So, let's give some Americans jobs and have real Americans judge our reality shows.

Now, to the formula: inverted bathos (bathos being the sharp change from the exalted to the everyday).
First 15-25 minutes: the gong show worthy acts in montage. People, other than Hasselhoff, who are in denial to their own lack of talent. Seriously, I loved Knight Rider as a kid, but in his universe he won the Nobel Peace Prize for single handedly tearing down the Berlin wall. Look it up, that's not much of an exaggeration.

Second 15 minutes: The judges leave the podium, they've seen nothing good. They wonder about backstage. Someone asks, "Where's all the talent?"

Third: Here's the inverse-Bathos. A contestant who is sure to fail: a person with a menial job (janitor, chicken catcher) or who looks like they'll fail miserably are given more personal time, cue the Pathos, so that we feel sorry for them; the person about to crash and burn in front of a national audience ( as opposed to the other thousands of contests we've only seen in montage who presumably didn't have feelings). Then they go out and shock the judges, get a standing "O" and then there's a slow motion walk back-stage to some cheesy rock ballad.

The spontaneity is gone, and after watching more than two episodes, what should be inspirational has become predictable, crass, and manipulative. Apparently America "got" talent, but we don't "got" emotional intelligence enough to "get" that we are participating in the embarrassment, of all the other acts, we fear so much for these people who are given a name and who we see for more a minute.


Nick Stentzel said...

Wow, I am totally forwarding this to some sad souls who need to wake up to the realities of their poor viewing habits. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks!

Rtbd said...

I watched an episode where they unsuccessfully tried to manipulate me into thinking a cute but ultimately unentertaining & talentless kid had won all of our hearts. It's great for the kid but annoying to me. Errgh!!