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Possession is Law: “Your” American Idol & Season 8 Finale Thoughts

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“Your” American Idol & the Season 8 Finale

May 20th, 2009

I didn’t even bother watching tonight’s finale of American Idol – this is the least attentive I’ve been of the show all season, having only watched Tuesday’s performance show in its entirety and relying on EW’s great Idolatry for the remainder of my Idol-related coverage and analysis. I realized at a certain point that as a) a Canadian and b) someone who will not buy the album of pretty well any contestant coming out of the show, there really isn’t anything in the show for me other than snarky commentary and critical analysis of the entire process. And, realistically, all you need for the latter is to know who won, and to be able to follow the demographics.

What always fascinates me about Idol, however, is this idea of possession, which has grown more and more complicated as we’ve gone from season to season. Is Kelly Clarkson still “your” American Idol, or has she been usurpsed from her throne by every subsequent Idol? If she wasn’t, does this mean that Taylor Hicks is just as much “your” American Idol as Clarkson or Carrie Underwood or David Cook? And, where does Chris Daughtry sit within this paradigm: is he some sort of demi-Idol, or is he cut out of Idol worship altogether despite his success and his association with the show? Do all of these people belong to the Idol machine, and thus to the viewers at home who voted for them, or are they actually individuals capable of expressing themselves? And, if people didn’t vote, do they own them the same as someone who voted? Similarly, if someone voted for the person who didn’t win, do they still get to claim a piece of the winner like in elections where everyone’s stuck with the guy with the most votes whether they want them or not? Or, rather, are they capable of claiming that this isn’t “their” Idol, refusing possession in favour of sullen indifference or complete devotion to the false Idol who finished second, or fourth (I refuse to acknowledge anyone who idolizes the third place finisher), or didn’t even make it into the finals (that’d be the case for Idolatry’s producer, at the very least)?

I raise all of these points to say that anyone who is seriously outraged by the results of tonight’s American Idol finale needs to realize that even with perceived ownership, and the agency of having had a vote in a democratic process, their true vote will be with their wallet, or their credit card, as these artists make their way into the musical world. Even if they may not be “the” American Idol, something tells me that Simon Fuller has no power over the American public as to who they choose to worship.

If he does, god help us all – spoilers for tonight’s American Idol finale after the jump, be warned.

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