Topic: Sports & Entertainment

More “American Idol” Ethics: Simon Stands Up for Integrity!

It’s another “American Idol” season, and the producers have decided to limit the show’s exploitation of awful and/or demented auditioners, as well as opportunities for judge Simon Cowell to be gratuitously cruel. Never mind: “Idol” still managed to violate ethical values on its second night, as the auditions in Kansas City neared a conclusion.

A contestant named Dennis Brigham sang in undistinguished fashion, not terrible, but clearly without professional-caliber talent or presence. Nor did he display the kind of quirky personality that has occasionally prompted the judges to lower their standards and let a whacko amuse the TV audience until he or she self-destructs. It was clear that none of the four judges thought Brigham was worthy of passing through to the next round, and Brigham sensed it too.

So he began to beg. He really, really wanted to go to Hollywood, see. (as if the other auditioners did not.) This meant everything to him. His parents had flown up from Florida. Please? Oh, Pleeeeeeeeease? PLEEEEEEEEEEASE????

It was a pathetic and humiliating display.

And, incredibly, it worked.

Randy Johnson, Paula Abdul (who would probably pass a singing rutabaga through if given any encouragement) and the extraneous new judge, Kara DioGuardi (what, exactly, is she supposed to be adding to the mix?) quickly capitulated to the emotional blackmail and voted a grudging “Yes.” Simon Cowell was aghast, and held to his initial “reject” vote, the only honest one in the pack. By a 3-1 score, Brigham got his ticket to certain defeat in Hollywood. Unless, of course, there’s a begging round.

Not that American idol has ever been awash in integrity, but this was a new low. Yes, the judges have often been soft touches for pretty girls who sing off-key, men in uniform, and inspirational stories. But anyone can beg. This is advertised as a talent competition; if contestants can overcome their lack of talent by pleading, then all aspiring Idols should be informed of that fact and given a chance to grovel. It is not inappropriate for a job applicant to tell an interviewer, “I really, really need this job!” and for the interviewer to take that into consideration, if the candidate is qualified for the job and if nobody else is clearly better qualified. But dozens, maybe hundreds of audition rejects were superior to Brigham, and the fact that he was willing to prostrate himself beyond all dignity should have given him no advantage at all.

The judges, minus one, abandoned integrity. Their standards are exposed as arbitrary, their dedication to their tasks negligible, their sense of responsibility and accountability is nil. If the process lacks integrity now, why should anyone trust it later? Those “Idol” conspiracy theorists who think the voting is rigged may not be so crazy after all.

Simon Cowell, at least, knows the importance of integrity. Cruel he may be; feckless he is not.

Comment on this article


Business & Commercial
Sports & Entertainment
Government & Politics
Science & Technology
Professions & Institutions

The Ethics Scoreboard, ProEthics, Ltd., 2707 Westminster Place, Alexandria, VA 22305
Telephone: 703-548-5229    E-mail: ProEthics President

© 2007 Jack Marshall & ProEthics, Ltd     Disclaimers, Permissions & Legal Stuff    Content & Corrections Policy