Topic: Sports & Entertainment

More ‘American Idol’ Ethics

This week’s “American Idol” ethics controversy comes to us from Brian May, the guitarist for the classic rock group Queen. May coached the Idol contestants into their universally mediocre-to-awful renditions of the band’s greatest hits. His blog has revealed that his interaction with pretty-boy Ace in his coaching session was positive and constructive, but that the show’s editors, in classic reality show fashion, chose to edit the footage deceptively, making it look like May disapproved of Ace’s truncated take on “We Will Rock You.”

Not that he shouldn’t have. But May’s point is that he didn’t:

…It was edited in such a way that it looked as if I was purely negative – they very naughtily inserted a bit that I said about “not on my own song” so it appeared that I said it AFTER we had played together, which was not the way it happened …making me look like I was against the whole thing. But this was not the case… the version of WWRY that ACE performed on AI last night was a DIRECT RESULT of his own ingenuity and the advice we gave him, with our full encouragement and blessing. And he definitely rocked.

May is concerned that the editing made him look like a hyper-critical jerk, and also that the implication that one of the song’s creators didn’t care much for Ace’s performance of it cost Ace votes. And his complaint is justified. Film editing to create a storyline is the essence of reality TV, and anyone who has observed how deft editors make villains, drama queens, weenies, pigs and heroes out of participants in shows like “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “The Amazing Race,” “Blind Date” (the master of the technique), and “Big Brother” knows that personalities get routinely distorted in the name of entertainment. But “American Idol” is different, because public votes determine the winner, and intentional distortions like the one May is complaining about can skew the voting and change the results. Using creative film-editing to imply conflict where none exists is fair enough as the reality show genre has defined itself, but when it threatens to tilt the results of a talent contest that is supposed to be determined on merit, that’s an ethics foul.

Let’s hope the producers take Brian May’s complaint to heart.

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