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class observations of american idol

Like some 24.2 million viewers, I watched the final episode of this season’s American Idol last week. And like nearly a quarter billion of my media-consuming comrades, I was treated to Simon Cowell’s class-consciousless rendering of the American Dream.

Idol’s star judge has long been invested in the notion that American Idol “is really about is the American Dream.” And this past season, the wealthy Briton has viewed eventual-winner Lee DeWyze though those same rosy, rags-to-riches-tinted glasses. As a final comment to DeWyze, whose job in a paint store was mentioned seemingly dozens of times, the uber-judge offered this observation: “This [a former paint store clerk getting his big chance on American Idol] is what the competition was designed for.”

It can be difficult to assess the economic realities of those around us (or even, to give an honest assessment of our own class situation). We all code up and/or down the class spectrum at various points in our lives (sometimes even during the course of our weekly routines) according to personal comforts, insecurities and desires. Class is far too complicated to be reduced to a term like “paint salesman.”

Nonetheless, Cowell’s summation seemed like an odd, almost forced insistence on such a simplified storyline. Especially given runner-up Crystal Bowersox’s own rags-to-riches storyline accolades.

Here are some observations of the two finalists regarding their presumed class stories, and Mr. Cowell’s paint-stained obsession with the myth of the American Dream, and his and Idol’s place in it.  Continue reading

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Filed under American Dream, Class, Economic Opportunity