30 (blogs) for (turning) 30: Day 16: American Idol and the Evils of Reality Television

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

Spring Break of 2013 was a strange one. I went down to Orlando because my friends Andy and Baja promised me free Disney tickets. Oh, and I hadn’t seen them since they’ve moved down there from Charlotte, so I was excited to relax, see my friends, and…oh, heck, I’ll say it…friggin’ Disney World.

Things started going south before I even got there, when Andy called me and told me that he was being suspended from his job at Disney due to some strange misunderstanding of a procedure in his new position driving the train in the Magic Kingdom. This was a sort of blessing in disguise, as it meant that I wouldn’t be left to my own devices in the mornings, but it did mean that his job was in a perilous position, something that’s never good.

When I arrived, it rained some, and, due to Andy’s new situation, he wasn’t allowed on Disney property, which put the brakes on my hopes of visiting all the parks before I left (I know, I know, I’m an adult, but how often do you get to do these things…especially for free!?). A few days in, they found a friend who offered to trade Disney tickets for Sea World tickets, something that was more reasonable for the 5 of us (Andy, Baja, their two girls and myself) since the girls were young. The rain started up again late in the day, so we started back towards their house, only to find ourselves in the middle of a three car accident on the interstate off-ramp, smushed between a British family on vacation (lovely, since Andy’s a Brit, too) and a young man and his sister, there for her 16th birthday, who were both absolutely beside themselves with horror about the entire ordeal. So yeah, maybe strange is the wrong word.

We spent the next few days on the phone with insurances companies of various kinds, and it wasn’t until almost the end of the week that anyone really felt like heading back out into the world. Finally, the Friday before I was set to leave, we ventured out into Disney’s Hollywood Studios, me, Andy and two small girls. Early in the day, Andy suggested that I audition for the American Idol Experience, a contest they hold in the park that is meant to emulate the experience of being on the TV show, only live for any random person who happens to be at the park to see. I relented, and got past the first round of auditions and finally made it into the later afternoon show.

It was me against two high school kids, both of whom were pretty good, but very unrefined. So yeah, I beat them, and made it to the finale show against four women. I won that, too. Lots of confetti, smiles. It was awesome. A little girl asked me later to sign her Disney autograph book. The poor thing won’t even remember who it is that signed it in a few years.

Anyway, I bring this up again, over a year later, not because I’m bitter (although I am a little, probably), but because of how the situation ended. The prize for winning the AIE was a Golden Ticket that got me past the lines at a real AI audition, something I’d considered doing before but never felt strongly enough to really sit through only to be sent away because they were looking for something else. Not that I don’t think I’m a pretty good singer, just that I understand that those shows are looking for something specific most of the time, and if you don’t fit the bill, then you often get sent away even if you are good. It’s not about talent, it’s about selling records and making money.

The thing is that I missed the cut by a year. No, sorry, check that, I missed it by about three weeks. See, the cut-off age for American Idol is 29 as of the first week of June. It’s April 29 and I turn 30 in 2 weeks, so I’ll let you do the math. Again, this isn’t driven by bitterness. Sure, it would have been cool to experience American Idol for real, and who knows what might have happened just by walking through those doors, but I think it says something larger about our society.

What is so wrong with being older? Why can’t older people accomplish things? Obviously they can, obviously lots of older people are doing great things all over the world. Now, this isn’t to say that I’m “old” or that getting into the Hollywood round or winning American Idol would be “great,” but it seems to me that our society is so focused on the “next big thing,” generally to the detriment of whatever already exists. Do we always need “new” and “cooler”? I don’t really think so.

The point I’m trying to make is that I feel like I owe it to myself to not make this same mistake. I can’t American Idol myself and convince my own mind that I’m too old for anything. There’s still time to do so many things, and if I allow myself to be sure that just because I’ve lived a certain amount of years that I can’t do this or that or the other thing, I truly believe I’m going to miss out on something huge.

And in the mean time, I’ll just go win that Voice show instead.

 

God bless,

Robert

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