Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Real American Idol

In a bit more than a week, I am giving a lecture to a professional audience in Geneva on how ´we´ and ´they´ are produced in youth cultures. When preparing the lecture I have been going through a lot of audiovisual content (fancy expression for hanging on YouTube) and value studies of European youth. I wish to elaborate a bit on the shared or divied values today and between generations. The quest made me go back to one of my favourite moments on Dutch TV some months back: the winner of the Dutch Idols Nikki decided to sing a gospel song in the finals of the competition and got criticism from one of the jury members (gay celeb singer) for the song selection. In that moment, I felt like the Dutch society was accurately presented in a matter of seconds and forced into dialogue.

Well, the moment came back to me watching the annual charity show of the American Idol called Idols Give Back. The star-studded show for Aids work featured everyone from Miley Cyrus and Fergie to Brad Pitt. However, the most fascinating moment was when this mainstream of the mainstream programme ended with the finalists singing together a religious song called Shout To The Lord. This was not a song they picked themselves but was for sure selected by FOX. Fascinating, wouldn´t you say? It seems like religion - more accurately Christianity - is getting cool again on both sides of the Atlantic. Or religion has consumer power? Or both. I keep watching these clips again and again in awe.

I find it wonderful that people are in touch with spirituality and wish to express it. But the difference between the Dutch and the American example is important: in the Dutch Idols Nikki chooses to express something important to her when in the American Idol mainstream entertainment adopts religion as a collective practice.

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