The Malakar Malady

| hosts a summit of sorts on American Idol contender Sanjaya, the tone-deaf kewpie doll who keeps winning the damn thing. The question: Is a vote for Sanjaya a subversive act against the oppressive "Idol" machine? Chuck Klosterman has the best answer.

If we lived in a futuristic dystopia where the state forced the totality of its populace to watch 'American Idol' every week after constitutionally decreeing that this program would serve as the sole arbitrator for creative integrity, then, yes, voting for Sanjaya would be 'subversive.' As things currently stand, I would classify purposefully voting for a television personality you don't like as 'astonishingly idiotic.' It is difficult to understand why people would direct effort toward negatively impacting a TV show they could just as easily not watch, especially since their efforts will (clearly) have the exact opposite effect on the very program they (allegedly) despise.

His last collection (Chuck Klosterman IV) included a solid essay on why people get so worked up when people like what they don't like. Sadly, not online and linkable.

UPDATE: Lamar says "I wish I could read Klosterman's critique on why things he doesn't find entertaining should likewise be despised by all Americans." That's not what the essay's about. It's on why people—not him!—get so worked up about their favorite band not becoming popular, directing their anger at the fad of the moment. "I can't believe Arcade Fire is on the radio all the time but no one's buying the new Sparks album!" and so on. Klosterman doesn't share that attitude.

NEXT: Rudy Giuliani Teaches Economics 101

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  1. I would classify purposefully voting for a television personality you don’t like as ‘astonishingly idiotic.’

    I don’t see how it’s any more “idiotic” than voting for anyone else. People watch TV to be entertained. My guess is, the people that vote for this guy find it entertaining for him to win.

    I don’t watch the show, and have no dog in this hunt.

  2. I’ve only seen clips of Sanjaya on Olbermann’s show, but I honestly can’t tell why he’s considered worse than other American Idol contestants and past winners.

  3. They may be rubes and/or philistines, but the fans of American Idol know what they want. They want spectacle, and constantly confounding the powers-that-sing may just be the kind of spectacle they want. The user voting format gives them just that kind of power, and they’re using it to get what they want.

    Good on ’em.

  4. Klosterman is full of bunk. He assumes that people get wholesome entertainment out of Idol, and nothing else. He fails to see that Idol is the cheesiest, vainest, where-did-the-music-industry-go-wrong docudrama on TV. If I’m entertained by seeing the worst guy on the show win, why is that wrong? Half of the show is based on schadenfreude, yet Klosterman can’t understand why not everybody watches the show with the best of intentions.

    I wish I could read Klosterman’s critique on why things he doesn’t find entertaining should likewise be despised by all Americans. Seems like a solid read.

    Let’s face it: Despite Klosterman’s goggles, American Idol is all about the cheese. It started in England as Pop Idol, it has remained a pop show in America, the contestants do not play instruments (or showcase that talent) and do not write songs. The whole thing is about cheesy, one-hit goobers making a name out of nothing, and yet we’re supposed to be outraged that another basically worthless stardom-seeking mophead is winning?

  5. I would buy a CD by Sanjaya.

  6. It seems obvious to me that if Fox really felt like Sanjaya’s continued presense was bad for the show they’d just rig the vote to get rid of him. Who would know?

  7. In fairness, Idol did give Jennifer Hudson her start.
    There, I’m done defending the show.

  8. If this kid is so bad then why did he even make it to the stage where the viewers vote anyway? How many are left at that point? 20? 30? If he’s so awful then are we to believe that there was no one else who could have made it that far instead?

    The reason he advanced that far is because he was intended to be the last gasp of the gong show aspect of the “contest.” He was supposed to get on stage, be lousy and then get belittled for the amusement of people small enough to enjoy that kind of thing. Once the entertainment value of his public humiliation had expired, it was counted on that he would be cast aside.

    Of course, that hasn’t happened. For what I’m sure are a variety of reasons not limited to the admittedly silly idea of being “subversive,” people are voting for him in defiance of what they were supposed to do.

    Sanjaya was intended by the producers to be a patsy, a fall guy to be ridiculed, and it’s backfiring. Whether that helps the show or not is irrelevant, at least to me, because that truth is sufficiently entertaining on its own.

  9. Seriously, I’ll just be glad when it’s over and they stop pre-empting House.

  10. Is a vote for Sanjaya a subversive act against the oppressive “Idol” machine?

    Well there’s nothing “oppressive” about said TV show. I ignore it quite unscathed, myself. But that doesn’t mean one can’t choose to subvert its ostensible goals by choosing someone who violates standard norms of quality over others who more banally meet them.

  11. I hate the show and don’t watch it and wouldn’t buy a CD from anyone on there. That said, Klosterman needs to pry the stick out of his ass. Of course it is subversive to hope than Sanjaya wins and the whole show is ruined forever. Not subversive like some dirty hippie blowing up an ROTC office but subversive in a fun entertaining way. Sanjaja has made the show worth watching just to watch the shocked look that Brit bastard who invented the show’s face everytime he wins. It is great. Couldn’t happen to a better person after he foisted this crap off on America as entertainment. Klosterman can go fuck himself if he can’t see the good clean fun in that.

  12. It is difficult to understand why people would direct effort toward negatively impacting a TV show they could just as easily not watch

    If this guy can’t see the entertainment value in mucking with the show’s “formula”, that’s too bad for him. As for me, American Idol has never been even remotely interesting past the Schadenfreude stage, until now. Sanjaya doesn’t sing any worse than the other guys and he actually has some personality, unlike them. It’s hilarious to read some of invective from the “you’re ruining the show” camp. They say that people vote for Sanjaya because they “hate” him, and then out comes the most vile, racist garbage against… Sanjaya.

  13. I got called out on the front page!

    I was referring to the snippet from Klosterman’s. My point is just that Klosterman is characterizing the thoughts of a group (those who find the process of television more entertaining than the content) as astonishingly idiotic. He’s calling me an idiot. But hey, at least I’m astonishing!

    Honestly, thanks for the clarification. I basically took the snippet from above and assumed his whole essay and book were “this guy is astonishingly idiotic, this other guy is non-astonishing and idiotic, etc.” I guess it helps to read the confounded essay.

  14. I don’t watch AI or any other reality(sic) programming. It isn’t innovative. Except for the interactivity, it’s nothing more or less than the old Major Bowes/Ted Mack Amateur Hour that I used to watch as a kid, or Ed McMahon’s flashier Star Search. What distinguishes it is its focus on the single vocalist who works in a narrow band of pop styles. On the old talent shows, a returning champion could be an accordionist, a tapdancer or an operatic soprano. Star Search changed things up a bit by allowing like acts to compete against like. The Idol producers, noticing how popular the solo singers tended to be in earlier contests, and being record industry weasels in the tradition of those who gave us Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Boy Bands(sic)?, settled on that specialty because they could use the “talent” to stoke the star maker machinery behind the popular song.

    What I really loathe about AI is the way series that I enjoy keep getting stomped by it in the ratings, and cancelled. At least it wasn’t up against Friday Night Lights and Jericho last night.


    ? If you just sing, you are a vocal group, not a band.

  15. Check me out, I’m smarter than Chuck Klosterman: “Many people thinks it’s fun to be assholes.” Check me out!

  16. “I don’t watch AI or any other reality(sic) programming”

    tis a pity. DRAWN TOGETHER is hilarious! 🙂

    Although who would do John Davidson’s hair if they were ever to redo “That’s Incredible”…

    (although I doubt if they could capture the innocence of the show. kinda like how Marylin McCoo – Solid Gold – ( will jump forwards in time and jump Stevo’s bones…)

    *um. not sure where that came from. um…

    **hurries off

  17. Well, in the show’s defense, let’s not forget that last season’s runner-up was hotter than a thousand dying suns:

  18. I can’t believe Arcade Fire is on the radio all the time but no one’s buying the new Sparks album!

    Last year, when I was 37, I still knew something about what was going on in music. Now, at 38, I have no idea. Arcade Fire? Sparks?

    So that’s it then. I long wondered how old I’d be when I finally lost that last thread connecting me with what’s happening with the young kids.

    Stop laughing at me! I was once like you! It’ll happen to you too one day! MARK MY WORDS!!!

  19. Guy, you’re an idiot.

    I’m 22 and I don’t know who those lame ass bands are.

  20. This quote from Jacob at Television Without Pity is the best explanation for Sanjaya and why people vote for him…

    What is [Sanjaya] doing? It’s amazing. Joe so totally called this: he’s an insane person, by demons driven, and most of all he’s chosen this stage for his rebellion. I mean, there’s acting out, dyeing one’s hair, dressing the fool, embarrassing yourself on TV, bringing shame to your family, singing songs you don’t know the words to, coming out of the closet fifty times in a row…that’s acting out. But to do all of these things at once, that means something. I think maybe it means you really, truly, hate your parents. Like Menendez amounts of parent-hating, is how this strikes me. Hate. Devil. Shouting. Baby. He dances to beats that he doesn’t know, fucks up lyrics he doesn’t get, glories in the feeling of his mohawk wobbling around on top of his crazy little head. This is an affront of the best kind. This is what the Who were trying to warn us about. My BFF Will always complains that punk has been co-opted and Green Day and blink should call themselves something else, and I keep trying to explain that this is the wonder of linguistic drift and the true punk is being cooked up in the bedrooms of people too young to think we’re cool enough to hear it. On these grounds, I submit to you that Sanjaya is punk rock. He stalks the camera around the stage, wildly out of control, grinning and grimacing and choking and giggling in turns like a psychopath. He keeps screwing up the lyrics and singing about boys, trailing off, remembering to sing about girls again. All very energetically. I want to start a religion with Sanjaya at its center, and we’ll wear t-shirts that say NO FUTURE. If he were singing, he would sound pretty great, but this is not singing. This is a revolution.

    And, yes, I would buy a t-shirt containing a Sanjaya stencil and the words ‘No Future’ at the bottom Would be much cooler than your Arcade Fire shirt. Would sum up the coming apocalypse better than anything.

  21. gwjrho:

    Take heart! You don’t know who Sparks are because you are still a whippersnapper. They formed the year you were born.

    I know I’m getting old, but I caught The Arcade Fire on KimmelenO’fercarsonman or SNL, so one doesn’t have to be that hip to know who they are. There, I’ve given them the Kiss O’Death.


  22. whatever, did you never hear Sid sing My Way?


  23. “It is difficult to understand why people would direct effort toward negatively impacting a TV show they could just as easily not watch, especially since their efforts will (clearly) have the exact opposite effect on the very program they (allegedly) despise.”

    Terry Pratchett summed up the motivation of certain people for doing ugly things quite well with this: “SOME PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING FOR THE SHEER FASCINATION OF DOING IT, said Death. OR FOR FAME, OR BECAUSE THEY SHOULDN’T.”

  24. It strikes me as amusing that everyone prefaces their comments with “I don’t watch A.I., but…” as if that somehow makes you better than someone who does watch it. It’s like those people who brag that they don’t own a t.v. or never watch t.v. Bully for you, but it doesn’t make you superior.

    Personally, I used to have zero interest in the show and even kinda made fun of those who liked it–that is, until it sucked me in (cue dirty joke, if necessary). So it’s not high culture. Who cares? It’s an amusing distraction which keeps me from worrying about more important things. 😉

  25. i must link arms with my brother in arms lamar over chuck klosterman being a bottle of puke.

  26. You would by a Sanjaya CD? What is a CD? Ever heard of free MP3s.

    Everyone watches AmId but no one will admit it! Look at the damn ratings!

  27. Arcade Fire SUCKS you don’t need to know who they are!!!!

  28. someone told me the new arcade fire album is good and i trust their judgement normally, but i’m afraid of indie rusted root all over my face again.

  29. a woman:

    Just because I disdain AI and other “reality” junk, doesn’t mean that I’m all highbrow. I’m spending my evening surfing the web while I listen to the Stanley Cup playoffs on internet radio. I taped the NBC comedy bloc and CSI to watch after the game is over. I read science fiction and comics, and not just ironically.

    I will confess to having watched the first episodes of the WB’s Survival of the Richest, out of sheer curiosity. Once I saw a pampered prince or princess swab out a toilet or two, I lost interest. They never explained why the rich kids participated in the show. Had Duddy and Mummy cut up their credit cards? Had they lost bets? Were they, like virtually everyone in early 21st Century America, shameless media whores? Who knows?


  30. Sanjaya, Sanjaya, set the world on fiya…

  31. I don’t care why people vote for Sanjaya, but if you watch this Sparks video once you will watch it 50 times. Bloody addictive.

  32. I DO watch AI, and I am personally tickled pink by Sanjaya’s continued presence on the show. He’s entertaining, and that’s all there is to it. Some of the other contestants certainly sing better, but they did Latin night, and Sanjaya was the only one with the guts to actually sing a song with Spanish lyrics (not to mention his silly little chin pubes and slicked hair). The rest of it was purely crossover pop. You wonder why Sanjaya is still on the show? I don’t think votefortheworst or Howard Stern are really having that much affect on it. I think its because he’s entertaining, and that’s what people are looking for. When Sanjaya stops being entertaining, he’ll go away, just like previous contestants that confounded the critics by their longevity on the show.

    I just hope he’s still on when they have Bon Jovi on as the guest mentor, becuase I’ll snort milk out of my nose when Sanjaya busts out with ‘Blaze of Glory’ or ‘Lay Your Hands on Me’. That’s reason enough for me to keep him on the show right there.

  33. Thanks for that link, Matt. Sparks is one of the all-time greats, and Propaganda is a masterpiece.

  34. Sanjaya is my papaya.

  35. fuck klosterman.

  36. And just what does this have to do with Libertarianism? Don’t you know there is a war going on somewhere and our government has been taken over by McBushitler Chimpleburton? Get some perspective! For a magazine called REASON…

  37. It is difficult to understand why people would direct effort toward negatively impacting a TV show they could just as easily not watch, especially since their efforts will (clearly) have the exact opposite effect on the very program they (allegedly) despise.

    When these pundits say “clearly” or “surely,” whether or not in parentheses, we should all consider that a red flag: it seems to be code for “I believe this but have no reason to.” It doesn’t seem to me to be difficult to understand why people might think that having someone with relatively poor talents win the show might harm the show. And harming the show seems like a worthwhile goal, I must say. If Idol were gone, perhaps Fox wouldn’t move House around so much.

  38. It is the simple razor. Occam’s that is. He’s a likable kid with a certain amount of talent and an appeal to young girls who vote for him. He actually did a fair impression of a Latin crooner this week.

  39. I am not ashamed to say I watch the show, and am amused greatly by it.

    Fox likes having Sanjaya around, as they make constant remarks about his situation and poke at him during the results show each week. It adds another element of drama: can the worst singer on the show (by far, at this point) survive? How far can he go? Can he actually win this thing? What happens if he does?

    Klosterman is oftentimes a twit, but I agree that there is some odd fascination that the cool kids have with wanting to actively take down what they see as mindless, “corporate” drivel rather than simply ignoring it. By participating, they simply raise the profile of the show.

  40. andy,

    “I’m 22 and I don’t know who those lame ass bands are.”

    Then how do you know they’re lame?

    God, I would hate to hang out with a 22-year-old who’s never heard of Arcade Fire. You don’t even have to like them, but at least know they exist.

    Even joe knows who they are.

  41. Is that Dave W on the far left?

    (first time this Moose had ever heard of ’em)

  42. Sanjaya sounds like the only reason I would bother to watch American Idol. Unless Paula is stoned.

    I love Kelly Clarkson.

  43. I’ve heard of The Arcade Fire, but only because I socialize online with the likes of hip, young, music-loving posters like smacky and mk.

    VM | April 13, 2007, 4:01pm | #

    Is that Dave W on the far left?

    Yes, that’s him, but that is a fake Time magazine cover.

    The real cover can be found here.

  44. I wonder if Sanjaya would cause such a visceral dislike in people if he weren’t so fey and effeminate.

    If he wins, will Idol-haters experience Sanjayafreude?

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