Of heartbreak, true confessions, and the moment of living unironically
I'm not a big fan of public confessions, but since this blog isn't all that public, and since I can't write about what I really want to write about without first making this confession, here goes. . .
For the past two television "seasons," I have watched American Idol with my children. I won't get into the details of how it began; let's just say I was, at first, dragged into it, and spent the greater part of the sixth season feeling that I was making a small but saintly sacrifice for the sake of my children. Heck, I was even fostering their feeling of connection with their peers and with a relatively harmless expression of popular culture.
I began this season with the same self-aggrandizing sense of maternal sacrifice, and I thought I'd throw in a little hipster irony for good measure. That way I could enjoy the pleasure of talking about it with other adults without losing my self-respect. I'm doing it for the children, I told myself. I'm really just there to fast forward through the commercials. Anyway, it's such a spectacular display of everything that's vulgar about American culture, isn't it?
I wasn't prepared for what happened next. There was this kid, see. He had a beautiful smile and cheeks you could pinch until kingdom come, and a clear, pure, voice with a gorgeous tone. He seemed slightly awkward and uncomfortable when he wasn't singing, unsure about how to handle all the screaming girls, the canned comments, and the glitzy insincerity. He sometimes laughed nervously and said "Gosh!" He was from Utah. He was just seventeen.
He killed me, this kid. The exact moment he killed me can be heard at about the 1:35 mark of this clip. That was the moment of my epiphany, the moment I said to myself, This is why people love American Idol! To watch the charmingly awkward kid with the great smile and the achingly lovely voice come into his own. To appreciate the unabashed sincerity of it, the way he seems to love just to stand on the stage and sing, goshdarnit, sing for all he's worth. I get it. Finally, I get it! God bless America!
That's when America kicked me in the gut. Just when I was ready to jettison the jaded pose, America went all ironic on me. America chose the earnest, growling "rocker," the one who did "edgy" versions -- with borrowed arrangements -- of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Lionel Richie's Hello.
Not only that. America made my six year old cry for a good five minutes. She even put a pillow over her face and refused to be consoled, explaining tearfully that she just didn't want to be reminded of it.
That's what I get for attempting -- for one, brief, shining, you're-killing-me-kid moment -- to live un-ironically.
I have the proper attitude now.
God bless America?? Heck, no!
[Cover your ears, David A.] Gosh darn America!