Sanjaya Malakar: Freak of the Week
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE SACRIFICIAL CANARY IN OUR CULTURAL COAL MINE
Love him or hate him, it’s still an obsession. Love him or hate him, that is the question.
Let me begin by saying this award goes beyond our least favorite contestant on American Idol. It is not just for Sanjaya, it is also meant for his fans, and his most vocal detractors. For me, the tidal wave of hate and controversy that has apparently engulfed this year’s American Idol represents everything that is wrong with America’s popular culture in this earliest part of the 21st century.
Here we are in 2007, with all of the accoutrements (sans the flying cars) that one would have expected to see in the two-thousand aughties. There are tiny phones on our hips, that act as computers, televisions and stereos; big screen, hi-definition TVs in our living rooms (for the rare occasions we get to be at home); and an endless supply of distractions that can be found on the world wide web and across the plethora of channels we can enjoy. We claim to be in touch with each other more than ever before, but we really just isolate ourselves in the sterile world that technology has afforded us.
We also have a government that seems to take pleasure in lying to us. It lies in order to lead us into a war. They lie again to cover up those lies and even lie about which lies they told. There are so many liars in the executive branch of the US government, it is hard to know who even possesses the remotest grip on reality. Most people (for whatever reason) have chosen to go ahead with their lives and ignore it. The rest of us either fume with outrage or casually shrug it off as politics.
When you marry our technology with our collective denial, we gain the ability to easily forget things and force others to follow suit. In the rush to offer fresh perspectives and new ideas, the hype and exposure that is utilized by today’s disseminators of information (from the large corporate owned media outlets, down to the fame obsessed teens on MySpace.com) bullies common sense and proper perspective off to the fringe of society. Our thirst for ‘knowledge’ and need to be ‘hip’ turns our brains to mush and our ability to discern falsehood from fact disappears. We consume everything like frantic businessmen on a five minute lunch break and we are left with cultural indigestion.
It is no wonder that season six of American Idol seems to have stirred up so much controversy. With the crap coming out of Washington, D.C. and the war in the Middle East pretty much out of our control, we take out our frustrations on the things that are under our command. American Idol even puts the control right into the palm of our hands and feeds us someone to blame if the results don’t turn out as we had hoped. Silly monkeys.
Sanjaya Malakar represents everything our culture tries not to be. He is a non-white, effeminate male, satisfied with his own mediocrity. How dare he be happy and loved by millions. If he becomes a success, how could we justify the ideals that drive this once great nation of ours? Ironically, our (so-called) free and open society seems anything but free and open, especially when it feels somehow threatened. Would Sanjaya provoke this much anger if he were a beautiful girl or white? My answer is: No.
Do any of these Sanjaya haters remember all the way back to season two, where two attractive (but musically limited) female singers did well enough in the competition to make it into the finals? Example one, Julia Dimato, was a horrible singer, but that didn’t keep her from finishing tenth. Carmen Rasmusen, the walking definition of tone-deaf, made it all the way to sixth place, based solely on her looks. She was eliminated much earlier, but was spared when that wing-nut Corey Clarke (the guy who later claimed to have slept with Paula) was disqualified for having beat up his sister years earlier. If Carmen was such a great singer and truly deserved to make it as far as she did, why is she only seen on TV commentating about Idol and not singing?
Let’s move forward a year to season three, which had a whole crop of crappy singers that managed to do much better than they should have. A one dimensional singer like John Peter Lewis, who was more memorable for his bad complexion and greasy hair, made it to eighth place. John Stevens, who looked like a young Conan O’Brien and sang like a retarded Bing Crosby, made it all the way to sixth place. I remember folks being up in arms when he made it through to another week after (future Oscar winner) Jennifer Hudson had to go home. Media outlets barely said anything about it until Elton John made some absurd claim that racism played into that decision. They certainly didn’t tear Stevens apart for being ‘the worst singer ever.’
There were a few crappy girls in season three who did even better. We had a beautiful Hawaiian girl that always wore a flower in her hair, Jasmine Trias. She finished third, despite being completely tone deaf. The season’s runner up, Diana DeGarmo, was not only tone deaf, she was annoying in that Kathie Lee Gifford kind of way. To this day, you can read continuing examples of the kind of hatred some people feel towards the season’s winner, Fantasia Barrino. Whenever she is on TV, she is either too ‘black’ for certain people or they find her voice grating. And we are supposed to act like Sanjaya is the worst thing that American Idol has ever given us? Don’t even let me get started on season four’s Fran Drescher clone Mikalah Gordon.
This year we have had a high-profile troublemaker like Howard Stern insert himself into the controversy. His presence has given credence to the idea that voting for Sanjaya Malaker is ruining American Idol. TV programs bombard us with an absurd notion that a naive seventeen year old boy can single-handedly bring down a ratings juggernaut like Idol. Even if it could happen, would it really matter? This is coming from the same people that ignored the poisonous dog-food story. Can we really trust them?
Each week, after Sanjaya escapes elimination, a few idiots on TV run whatever footage they have from the show (usually the worst moment of his two and a half minutes on stage) and roll their eyes, saying we have VoteForTheWorst.com (with the help of Howard Stern’s audience) to thank. I just do not buy into the myth that Stern welds that much power over his (relatively tiny) radio audience. This is the same guy that only managed to get his fans to spend $472,185 on (show contributor) Artie Lange’s movie Beer League last year. Faced with a fact like that, can we really attribute Sanjaya’s staying power to Stern’s listeners?
Those claiming control over Sanjaya’s fate are no different than tribal wise men in prehistoric times. We are all familiar with stories of men that took advantage of their tribe’s ignorance and claimed control over the skies whenever an eclipse occurred. Howard Stern and the other folks cashing in on Sanjaya’s ‘unbelievable’ success seem no different to me. Stern is a master at ‘hype’ and knows just what to say in order to garner the kind of attention he gets. Call it the ‘perfect storm’ of media, but don’t mistake it for the truth. VoteForTheWorst.com and Stern only play a tiny role in a much larger voting audience. For every lemming in that crowd, there are a dozen young girls who may like Sanjaya or (at least) feel sorry for the kid.
Unfortunately, we are living in a world in which real news is being replaced with (what I call) trend-spotting. Anyone that has foresight, and is willing to step up to lay claim to these so-called trends, automatically gets a lot of airtime simply because ‘news’ organizations lack the proper resources to do it for themselves. ‘News’ organizations bite on some false idea with ‘great’ video and they run with it. Once there are enough people repeating these false claims, they start to get reported on as if they are fact.
The laziest news outlets just go ahead and repeat what others have already said and no one thinks to question it. That is the price we have to pay for allowing TV channels that put money first. They only aim to fill the time between commercial breaks instead of gathering their own news stories. Once upon a time, broadcasters had to be responsible in order to maintain their license. Those days are long gone. That’s why we get Sanjaya bashing, never-ending Paris Hilton updates, and ‘infotainment.’
We should be so proud of ourselves. Sanjaya has become the dog we all get to kick around when we get fed up with the way things are in our country. Fortunately, he is young and just dumb enough not to take things too personally. He may even recognize that the joke is really on all of us and is just making the most of it. Does it really matter if he wins? Didn’t last week’s Idol mentor, Gwen Stefani, lip-sync her performance? It seems that a lot of pop stars do it these days because they could end up sounding just as bad as Sanjaya when they dance around during their TV appearances. Who knows? Sanjaya could turn out to be excellent at lip-synching. His hair may be an entirely different story…
By awarding the Freak of the Week to Sanjaya Malakar, I am thanking him for stirring up so much controversy and reaffirming things that I have already believed to be true about our world. I may even have to start voting for him. As long as he remains on the show, his presence will continue to expose the chest-pounding idiots, delusional enough to think they are ruining American Idol. Do you think the producers are running scared? They are running all the way to the bank. Sanjaya will disappear as soon as they want him him to go–you can bet on it!
Sanjaya, I know you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the top prize, that doesn’t matter. You have already done more than enough to help us. Don’t change a single thing that you are doing. Having a record of these experts and haters making fools of themselves only helps me avoid more assholes in this world.
How could I not thank you for that?