American Idol and Human Dignity – UPDATED

Who would have thought it?

I’ve been a vocal critic of the way American Idol so often showcases people at their undignified worst (admittedly with their permission) during the auditioning process. Paradoxically, that winnowing-the-worst process eventually permits the audience to witness others at their artistic best, because art can be transcendent. It invites the God-spark.

This season, however, American Idol seems to be collecting an unusual number of contestants with personal stories that affirm the dignity and value of human life, and these stories–these people and their lives–are truly moving.

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This is either the most cynical exploitation of human drama for the sake of ratings that we’ve ever seen, or it’s a downright providential celebration of the inherent worth of every human life (and the right to live the life one has, no matter what the challenges) and a far-reaching lesson in the transcendent power of love.

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Gotta tell you that after reading the filth of the utter disregard for humanity contained in the Grand Jury Report against Kermit Gosnell and his abortion clinic, these videos feel like pure gift.

So does this:

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UPDATE: A must read from Russell E. Saltzman, over at First Things:

I knew that elderly patients with moderate confusion suddenly suffering trauma and surgery may emerge from anesthesia in a greater state of confusion. Perhaps they emerge no worse. The surgeon was optimistic—show me one who isn’t. My mother did not awaken unscathed. Her confusion swiftly grew so distinct she was unable to participate in therapy, and then began nighttime rages of shrieks and howls and daytime spaces filled with blank recognition.

She no longer knows me. She remembers the name but can no longer recollect the connection nor place my vaguely familiar face. She makes a heartbreaking plea reaching for my hand, please, would I please tell Russell to come for her and take her from this place. She is living an eternal moment no longer bounded by tomorrow or yesterday. She knows not where she is; she knows only that she wants “him” to come for her. She repeatedly asks, will I promise to tell him.

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Christa Cooper

    Anchoress, even if it is cynical “Queen for a Day” ploy by American Idol, God has used it for good. I think it’s a gift as well.

  • newton

    God bless Chris and his fiancee.

    How much do you want to bet there’s going to be a wedding on American Idol, even if he’s sent home during the contest?

  • Beth

    I was very touched by the young man on American Idol who talked about his fiance who was seriously injured in a car accident, and how he now helps care for her. I really lost it completely when she was brought in to meet the judges, and they all greeted her so lovingly. Particularly moving was Steven Tyler tenderly kissing and hugging the young lady. The whole thing was beautiful and inspiring.

  • Chris

    One thing I like about American Idol and these stories of contestant’s hardships is that they show us that sometimes out of great suffering, great dreams — and the fortitude it takes to take the risk to pursue those dreams, even if it makes you look foolish — are born.

  • Jen

    Chris Medina has my vote! He’s got quite a voice to go along with his heart. God bless him for living his faithfulness to his beloved.

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  • Laura

    This is why we shouldn’t even waist our time watching this crap. I thank my husband for always making me feel guilty for watching in the past. This kind of music and singing is ugly.

  • lois in Indy

    How inspirational and uplifting. Thank you, Anchoress. Prayers for Laura and us all.

  • Laura

    Seriously, American Idol is eroding your sense of beauty. Stop watching it. Who cares what might have been a glimpse of any good, there’s too much else in it that is distorting your aesthetic sense. Ask yourself if this is goodness, truth and beauty all rolled into one because these three things are always connected. Is it good for you to watch American Idol? Should you enjoy a TV show that depicts the ugliness of the fashion industry and musical composition and performance? I didn’t even watch the clips because I don’t even have to, I’ve seen American Idol before and I’m sure it’s still the same show appealing to your base self. Shut it off.

  • Rwilliams

    Why fix it when its not broken?

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  • Lori

    Look into the eyes of all those wonderful kids in the March video, and tell me that all they want is to “oppress women.” What a wonderful testimony to God’s gift of life.

  • Elaine S.

    About a week ago I watched my all time favorite movie, “Amadeus,” in which Salieri describes Mozart’s music as being “the voice of God.” In both of these clips — in the personal stories and in the songs themselves — I too hear the voice of God.

  • Maggie Goff

    Laura, I’m sorry that you chose not to watch the clips because you pre-judged them based on something you had seen in the past. You did miss something that was both beautiful and good. I sure hope you change your mind and take a chance.

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance…that principle is contempt prior to investigation” Herbert Spencer

  • Joanna Nicol

    As a woman with a disability, I was also touched by Chris and his fiance. However, I an’t help fearing it is a bit of a soften ploy on the part p the show. His committment is sweet to be sure, I just hope he was really chosen for his music as they seemed more interested in the fiance and their story

  • JK

    Laura: You articulated it perfectly. I agree. American Idol truly erodes one’s sense of beauty and more. The desensitation of young people being ridiculed publically by morally poor role models, kids dressing likes unabashed slobs and voices that are all cloned to sound like the same screaming style-less, face contorting people. Where is the human dignity in that? This is the antitheses of beauty and virtue; and all with a goal for material, secular sucess. Worldly, ugly and classless! What does it honestly say about our culture:? Do any of these “performers” or viewers know anything at all about classical or other good forms of music?
    Amerilcan Idol is Rot, right from Hell.
    Forget the sentimentality. Sentimentality is not what gets souls to heaven.

  • Laura

    I think that Elizabeth Scalia is very intelligent, creative and an excellant writer, however, the point I’m trying to get across is the fact that American Idol shouldn’t even be talked about. We all would be better off ignoring pop culture all together; it’s hard because anything visually stimulating is so addicting. We really give pop culture too much of our time and attention and therefore power of influence. You may not see it; but if you give up a show like American Idol and other contemporary pop culture for one year, then you’ll be surprisingly repulsed by what you thought was good.

  • Laura

    Thank you, JK!

  • Maggie Goff

    Laura, I have to admit that I don’t even have a television, and haven’t had one for about 7 years now. The only time I see anything from American Idol is when there is a clip on a blog like this, and I thought both the stories were very moving. Sorry, not addicted to pop culture….;)

  • francesca

    Great comment on the March for Life video — when asked why he was there he said, “Because I don’t know why you wouldn’t be”!

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