American Idol, gladiators, and audience participation

Stefany Anne Golberg in The Wonderful World of Stefany Anne Golberg:

A response to Morgan Meis’ ‘Idolotry’ (The Smart Set, February 2008)

Screenhunter_07_nov_01_1250People in the United States sure seem excited about voting these days. This excitement has even led to some pontifications about a renewed collective enthusiasm, a bolstered civic pride, even an actual increase in voter participation. A recent conversation about the matter with a group of acquaintances led to a discussion about, naturally, American Idol. A married couple was marveling at the enthusiasm with which their not-yet-legal-voting-age teenage child and her friends voted for American Idol contestants, at the investment they had in the show’s performers and, indeed, the whole voting process. They felt as though they were participants, and that by watching American Idol and voting for their favorite contestants, they were included in a larger community of spectators who, in acting together as a community, became co-authors of their own entertainment.

Before recorded technology allowed time-based arts to be at the complete control of the producer, performance was often just a crapshoot. You had your concept, your score, your well-rehearsed cast, but once presented in a live setting, you also had an ingredient that was not necessarily part of the script: your audience.

More here.  Also, Stefany reminds us: Yes On Prop 2!  Do check it out.