Junk-haus auteur Quentin Tarantino is a guest judge on American Idol tonight, for the second time. He's an unabashed, earnest fan of the show. It got us thinking. What kind of people watch Idol?
Basically, it breaks down into five types. They are as follows:
The shrieking, BO-whiffed, bracefaced (did I mention shrieking?) core. We might have maybe once gone to an Idols Live! concert in Worcester, MA once and holy god the shrieking. Hypothetically, our ears might still be ringing. These fans are a no brainer. Tween and early teen girls like to have crushes and feel sweaty little tingles up their spines and they like to weep. Oh do they like to weep. Here you have, twice weekly!, a blaring, bright, bombastic channel for all those curly-cue girly-sue emotions that just store up at school and maybe Ryan brushed by you but maybe it was an accident and oh my god does Brittany Sanders have boobs now? Oh never mind, here's Kris Allen. Ahhhh. Shrieeeeeeeek.
Basically the Vote for the Worst folks. Reality singing competition versions of lulz-seeking inter-trolls. But the truth is that, beneath the snickering hater, lies a sad Chillable Red-soaked secret: These people still watch American Idol every week and feel some swell of pride whenever their spitefully cast votes seem to have some effect on the outcome. It's that deep abiding nerd love that turns to nerd hate that burns so white hot it becomes nerd love again.
The Ironically Lame
"I just watch for the bad hair." "I just watch because it's so stupid." "I just watch because my boyfriend makes me." These are the lines of the tragically hip, those who tune into American Idol because oh isn't it so silly and homey and mainstream, like having a Miller High Life at Gutter. For an example of this, look no further than the latest, especially useless edition of Diablo Cody's always useless Entertainment Weekly column "Binge Thinking" (yeah, I know). In it we're supposed to think it's hilarious and endearing that she likes American Idol and that she saw something special in dorky, gangly Alex Wagner-Trugman. He was a skinny lad who got voted off in the semifinals and oh ha ha, she liked the little dork and isn't she fun. No.
The Earnest Eeyores
These are the folks who really think and feel about the competition, who really are gunning for Adam Lambert because his performances are really saying something. Oddly enough, Quentin Tarantino might fall into this category. He really, genuinely, sincerely, etc. seems to care about the "artistry" of the evening. Some of these people aren't so annoying, like Cody's EW colleague Michael Slezak, who covers all things Idol exhaustively, unironically, and ably. Sure he said that Lamb Chops' latest made him feel genuine emotion and he should be slapped upside the head for that, but otherwise, he's the tops. No, the Earnest Idol supporters are typically not the most frustrating fans of the show. But they can be! Oh, can they.
We are the Bewildered. Most likely, they are you. People who, every year, swear to themselves that they will not watch. They will resist the sticky charms and pebble-in-the-shoe annoyances of this heaving, top-heavy bit of reality manipulation. But we can't stay away. There's something so alluring about its methodical nature, its plod plod plod to the end. The way Ryan says the same things, the same way, every season. The character arcs you can follow with a finger, the ups and downs (definitely up this season) of human Slushee Paula. The strange gurgle in the stomach, new this year, when Kara opens her big stupid yap. Is it that we feel we are participating in America? Is it that we just like to hear some decent singing every week? Is it that we lack any other sense of accomplishment in our lives, so finishing a whole season of Idol, start to finish, is what we use to get our sad little fix? Probably all of that. Either way, we're just a little past Passive, but just far enough past it that we may, shameful fingers prodding the keys, vote for one of the singers as the season wears down. Yes, Melinda Doolittle, we voted for you. And yes, Allison. Expect a call.