Friday, February 2, 2007

Is American Idol democratic?

There is an article in The New York Times today on the increased participation of fans in choosing certain pop culture outcomes, such as American Idol, Rock Star, the Grease show and all kinds of stuff involving the Super Bowl. The title of the article is "Democracy Rules, and Pop Culture Depends on It." I can't help focusing on the democracy part of the title and story.

In democratic governments, such as ours (we're not a pure democracy, but that's for another time), everyone has a vote, someone wins, the other person loses, and we live the with decision of the majority and the winner holds office. In the American Idols contests, is there really this type of democratic decision making? The fans vote and someone wins (Kelly Clarkson for instance), but that doesn't stop you from preferring the music of Sideshow Bob (Justin whatever his last name is that was runner up to Clarkson). You still have a choice as to which person's music you prefer and you can act accordingly and purchase their CD's. You are not bound by the decision of the majority. (Granted, the number of votes per person is unlimited in the American Idol case, but the decision is still made by popular vote.) In government, you are bound by the decision of the majority. If you prefer John Kerry too bad, George W. Bush is president.

Which leads me to conclude that the "democracy" practiced in pop culture situations and government are different animals. The democracy of pop culture does not force you to do anything. You can believe that Taylor Hicks is a no talent bum and avoid his tunes like Rosie O'Donnell avoids Chip and Dales dancers. You're not bound by a majority decision. If you don't like a minimum wage set by a democratically elected Congress, just try to make your displeasure known by paying someone or agreeing to work for less!

So all I can say is thank God pop culture as a whole is not democratic. Otherwise I'd be stuck listening to George Strait and Green Day instead of Black Label Society and Dream Theater. Thank God pop culture is subject to the market and not democratic control so I'm not bound by the preferences of the majority and I can't force anyone to adopt my preferences.

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