Once or twice every new TV season, I watch the “cattle call” sessions of American Idol. I have only one thing in mind: To see what I call “The Setup”. This gambit is simple, clearly manufactured, and seems a fixture on the program.
It revolves around a yet-not-vetted contestant talking about themselves at length, covering how hard they’re worked and just how WHAM-O an impact they’re going to make on the judges. Usually, they’re less than temperate in their self-prediction for “mega” stardom and all the attendant worship.
There’s a jarring comeuppance when the person actually performs, displaying something which might be accurately described as anti-talent; an absence so profound that it represents a whole new category of non-accomplishment. You’re then stuck trying to figure out why this dork has such a laughably high opinion of their offerings.
I think the answer is is the bad mojo of the excessive self-esteem movement we’re bombarded with daily. Self-love is running amok. Both genders have become Oprah-fied to boiling temperature with the love object in the mirror.
I remember being jarred by the realization many years ago, as I was listening to Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love”, that she was singing about love for herself, probably the first anthem to narcissism ever. Since then, the “I’m perfect” movement has become totally mainstream.
Lady Gaga and several other performers are mining a wellspring of preference for songs that are anthemic in their relentless trumpeting of there being no need for anyone to aspire to be ‘better’, ‘kinder’, more ‘accomplished’, or anything, for that matter, than what they are (“I Was Born This Way”, as just one example).
Of course, all of this ‘unqualified’ acceptance of self comes to a crashing halt if you end up pushing your candidacy as the next Taylor Swift and end up as fodder for “The Setup”. How do you go on after that?