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American Idol: The Fallacy of Fifteen Minutes of Fame

August 16, 2010


Artist Andy Warhol’s assertion that everyone will have at least fifteen minutes of fame in their lifetime seems to have gripped this generation at the heart. Is it proof that talent has abounded in this special generation or that being like the stars is the only way to verify an otherwise insignificant existence?

I happened upon a crowd of people some years ago who were gathering by the hundreds in New Orleans famous tourist area known as the Riverwalk Marketplace. They were there to audition for American Idol and in only a few minutes the crowd of wannabes swelled to perhaps a thousand or more. The air was filled with expectation, bustle and electricity even as eyes sparkled with hope and boundless anticipation. I have pondered the sight endlessly since then and I have followed the meteoric rise of the American Idol television production.

Often I wondered if anyone understood that while only one person would be finally chosen of all those who auditioned, in the end isn’t it a lot like playing a lottery ticket. The odds of winning the lottery are staggering. Yet everyone knows full well that the success of the winner is directly dependent on the willingness, the enthusiasm and the hope of the losers. The more losers who spend on the tickets the more money that is handed off to the winner; this is the simple principle that prevails in both the lottery and the quest to become the next American Idol.

Is this good for America? I could use the phrase “Not by a long shot” as an answer and a long shot it is. Tens of thousands of hopefuls gather for auditions in other American cities until in the end the only question that seems appropriate is: hasn’t America anything better to do? Have America’s aspirations succumbed to ersatz? Have we given up on seeking lives of meaning, service and giving to others for a song and a dance? Have the days of serving in the Peace Corps and not asking “what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” passed from the youthful psyche to be replaced by only a few blazing moments in the spotlight?

Ronald Reagan kept a sign on his desk that said “It’s amazing what you can accomplish, when you don’t care who gets the credit.” Jesus said “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Mt 23: 11) This kind of thinking makes winners and great ones out of the losers and the obscure of this world. But is that real?

It is not only real but it is the reality that is conspicuously missing from an entire generation who have set aside the truths of scripture for an ultra-personal eclectic mix of religious pluralism and general ‘do good’ stuff. It is holding a “form” of godliness but denying the power thereof. (2 Tim 3: 5) It is a complete lack of understanding if not a wholesale aberration of sound Biblical theology. If only we had a few well-funded endowments for those who show exceptionally good judgment and common sense alongside the many endowments for the arts. 

In fact if it were truly known how power, fame and fortune were acquired in our largely secularized world many would shudder at the revelation. Unbelief is that element that keeps the ugly truth from being taken too seriously. Let no one dare to question the captaincy of our own souls.

The God of this world (Satan) would prefer that we never come to the knowledge that it is he himself who endows and grants some the spotlight of fame, power and fortune. It isn’t the preachers or the Lord that make this assertion but it is Satan himself. To wit; “And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said unto him, all this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” (Lk 4: 5, 6)

The question of who really holds the keys to success is rarely asked among the hugely successful of our nation. We may have to look at the fruit or the product of that success to refine our answer. In this day of successful mega churches we see orthodoxy, sound doctrine and adherence to scripture waxing and waning as every new doctrine from the “prosperity gospel to the “emergent church movement” sucks in the ungrounded at an alarming rate. All this makes true the saying that with everything including the church, the hardest thing to endure may be our own success.

But a little bit of fame goes a long way to light the fires of many an enthusiastic song and dance wannabe. Are they to blame for being sucked in by pop culture’s rolling snowball of sparkle and promise?

Do we dare ask the chicken and the egg question as in, which came first, one great winner or thousands of miserable losers? We could follow with another question. What do the losers think they are after the effort is finished? Are they still dreamers and are they satisfied to say, “It’s not that you win or lose that counts but its how you play the game that counts? Let’s not kid ourselves, the audition centers for American Idol are not providing follow ups or free counseling services for the rejects.

The whole matter seems always to levitate back to the end product. It is the fruit of our success that tells us the most about our clamoring, fighting and working for it. In the end we should be aware that the sad outcome of seeking fluff is that, you might just get it!

We may be the only nation in the world that has created what might be considered sanctuary cities for aspirants for the top three temptations offered by the god of this world. Those who dream of reaching the top in wealth may look toward New York’s Wall Street with visions of becoming the next top brokerage sophisticate. Those who want the applause and notoriety can show up in Hollywood and gamble a life away struggling to reach the heights of stardom. Power seekers can show up in Washington with pockets full of campaign cash and a mouthful of ratcheted rhetoric. If your power waxes and wanes a bit after a while you can recharge your power base in New York by appearing on the View.

In the end isn’t it all just another demonstrative repartee otherwise known as, a song and dance?

Copyright ©2010 Rev. Michael Bresciani

Rev. Bresciani is a Christian author and columnist. His articles on many important subjects are now read in every corner of the globe.

 


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