Friday, March 30, 2007

SANJAYAMANIA

Well, another week over for American Idol, and that Sanjaya Malakar guy is not only still around, but he's threatening to be a real factor in the competition.

What happened this week is that Sanjaya showed up on the show with some crazy hairstyle and his usual bad singing, and not only did he survive the week but he escaped the "bottom three". So he's not only safe, but comfortably safe. Instead, some other guy got the boot. Who cares who he was, apparently he was pretty bad anyway. But Sanjaya is still around.

Meanwhile Sanjayamania keeps on building. It's pretty remarkable. People are jamming the phones trying to get him to win. This guy is literally building a path to victory with the support of various wide-ranging, fanatical constituencies, some of them pretty dubious.

(1) Apparently a lot of teenyboppers and teenage girls love this guy and think he's cute, and are ringing the phones for him. Most notable was the presence of one teary-eyed girl in the audience who was shown crying during one of Sanjaya's performances--- a sure sign that certain people take this American Idol contest way too seriously.

(2) The South Asian community is said to be behind Sanjaya bigtime and are ringing the phones so that one of their own can win--- no matter how bad a singer he really is.

(3) The Votefortheworst people have not only backed Sanjaya bigtime, but they are getting tons of free press from all the people reporting on their efforts to get Sanjaya elected. Moreover, the interest in the site is so widespread now that the site is getting hit with web attacks. In fact the site actually crashed this week because it couldn't deal with all the denial-of-service attacks it was getting--- from people who actually thought Sanjaya was a good singer and who were offended by his endorsement from the Votefortheworst website!!! Sanjaya's own supporters were the ones trying to get this site pulled! The site is now back up again.

(4) Not to be outdone, Howard Stern has endorsed Sanjaya and is a big fan and supporter of the Votefortheworst website. Whoever they vote for, he'll vote for, and so will the legions of no-lives type people who are fans of his show.

(5) The impact of bloggers-- both supporters and enemies. For instance, me. All of us are making him the most talked-about Idol contestant in history and are helping him win.

This is pretty remarkable. You have these fools out there who are genuinely taken by this guy and want him to win, and then you have everyone who is hoping this guy will win so that he will destroy the credibility of American Idol as a singing competition. As someone who understands politics and elections I can tell you this is a strategy designed to win an election. You need to mobilize the various constituencies and get out the vote in order to get elected and Sanjaya is doing that. He's got a cross-section of people from different racial, ethnic and cultural groups backing him, for widely differing reasons. But that's how you win an election.

And the Idol-haters are a powerful constituency to have in your corner. Face it, lots of people hate this show and hate the widespread impact this show is having on the music industry and popular culture in general. This show seems to promote the most bland talent imaginable while the edgy and the truly gifted musicians routinely get the shaft. TV fans hate the fact that so many shows are being cancelled or moved to make room for this crud. I am sure there are a lot of music industry-type people, these musical artists and so on, who want to see this show cut down a notch. So all these folks who hate this show and its power are trying to get it sabotaged by voting for Sanjaya.

To them, Sanjaya is the anti-establishment contestant. A vote for him is a vote against Idol and everyone associated with that show. Never underestimate the power of protest voters bent on sending a message to the powers that be. Sanjaya's Idol campaign has turned into a steamroller.

It's working to the point where Sanjaya is now being targeted by people who badly want him to be defeated. There's apparently some website up called voteagainsttheworst.com, urging people to get Sanjaya ousted. And there is some Myspace blogger who has gone on a hunger strike and who vowed to continue the hunger strike until Sanjaya was kicked off, and after she failed to update her blog a wild rumor spread that she might have died. But the blogger announced she's still alive.

When you have people targeting you with negative campaigning against you, and hunger strikes in protest of you, that's a sure sign you're a threat. And keep in mind, this is a singing competition we are talking about.
Maybe these anti-Sanjaya efforts will eventually bear fruit. But not for a while. Sanjaya's voters are too strong and too many right now. In fact, the anti-Sanjaya crowd may need to call on Oprah and her fanatics for help before long if they have any hope of seeing Sanjaya defeated. This American Idol show has set itself up for a big fall, folks; friends and enemies of this shows are latching on to this utterly mediocre singer with a passion that I haven't seen before, ever. It's insane, what's going on.

The credibility of the Idol show is taking a deserved hit. I watched Showbiz Tonight on CNN last night and they ran a piece that basically asserted that American Idol was turning into a "big joke". Actually, this show has been a joke since it premiered. Simon's crankiness, Paula's loopiness, Ryan Seacrest's unknown sexual preferences, the various controversies surrounding these contestants who were disqualified, the weird success of William Hung---- all this nonsense has been the target of ridicule from TV fans and comedians from coast to coast.

I read the Jump the Shark website and an overwhelming number of people there say American Idol "jumped the shark" on Day One. That's pretty bad-- usually they point to something else that happened in the second or third season, like someone leaving the cast or something else happening. But you know, if Sanjaya does win, whatever credibility this show has left as an arbitrer of talent will be up in smoke. Which is why I wouldn't put it past the producers to try and pull some stunt where people get to "vote against the worst singer" one of these weeks, in order to get Sanjaya booted from the show. It might backfire, though, if they tried to do something like that. What might happen instead is that Votefortheworst might target a genuinely good singer and give that person the boot. Of course, fans who love Sanjaya will get upset and claim he was made to be a fall guy, and will quit watching the show. They might even protest the show and scream about Sanjaya's unfair treatment. It will be yet another Idol controversy. American Idol just cannot win.

Maybe they'll disqualify him, or get rid of the audience vote and have the judges alone select who moves on one of these weeks. If they can't find some way to get rid of Sanjaya, this show risks going right off the cliff. A Sanjaya victory on American Idol would be the greatest jump the shark moment of all time--- ahead of Fonzie himself.

Maybe during one of these next Idol shows the cameras will pan around and show Ted McGinley in the studio audience.

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