I read the recaps on my favorite shows, the TWoP encyclopedia or cultural references, and both affiliated blogs. It was TWoP that encouraged me to try 30 Rock, Project Runway, even How I Met Your Mother [FYI on that show: it has its moments, but seriously, I have trouble understanding what TWoP sees in the program. Of the sample episodes I have tried, only one has been truly, consistently funny. And it involved slapping and 80's mall pop, which is hard to beat, comedy-wise]. I have TWoP to thank for hours of entertainment, saving me from long days and nights at work, and giving me ideas, not just concerning what to watch, but also how to watch. Before I took any cultural theory or criticism classes in college, I read TWoP, and it was one of the many outlets that taught me how to view pop cultural through a critical, theoretical perspective. Oddly enough, I've only ever really been a reader of the site. There is a vast, intensely-committed community surrounding the TWoP forums, but I prefer to watch from the sidelines. I feel there is a great responsibility undertaken when one becomes an active participant on the boards, and I'm just not ready...
Anyway, this is all background. My confession is that about two or three weeks ago, I started reading the recaps of American Idol, because it occurred to me that a) I had never, ever seen the show, b) I wanted to understand how it worked without having to actually watch it, and c) the possibility for hilarity seemed inevitable. Well, all three points have been hit. The two guys who recap AI, including Joe R., one of my favorites, are damn funny (despite actually being into the competition). As described, I can't imagine sitting down and watching an entire episode. So many cheesy songs, so many ridiculous judging sessions, so much ridiculous Seacrest. The recaps allow me to get a fix of just how insane the show is, to what extent its crappiness reflects the general crappiness of American contemporary culture, without ever having to rid myself of the memory of some eighteen-year-old slaughtering the Beatles.
My revelation came just a short while ago, while reading the recap for the latest episode. This may be one of the greatest paragraphs in TWoP history:
America is awesome. When you trot out this bullshit sentimental warmed-over brainless hateful crap, you are seriously disconnecting yourself from America and why it's great. It's like Hallmark cards: the opposite of caring. You cannot let somebody else tell you what your heart says. Just by singing this song, the Colonel is saying that she hates America. The real America that is made with blood and bravery and strength and love, the real America that demands that you draw your circle as wide as you can and spend every day serving it with your hands, that goes right out the fucking window when you pass the buck to some stupid shit song like this. And you know who eats it up, because it's always the same fucking people that eat this vomit, are the people who are too lazy to think about America or love her in the first place. I hate this fucking song, I hate this stupid girl, and I hate that this is happening, because my whole theory about how this show reflects the wider culture cuts both ways and I don't want to think about that. These are our people and they deserve to be loved, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let anybody tell me that this is the best that we can be. We are more than this.
Jacob has astounded me. In the midst of a routine, snarky recap, he pulls out this giant whopper of a cultural critique, and it left me reeling. I'm not going to say it's a perfect argument against "God Bless the USA" (the song he's referring to), although honestly, I don't need convincing, and neither do most patriotic Americans. Do you think the troops are listening to "God Bless the USA" as they remain (for God knows how long) far away from their home in a war-torn, chaotic unrest? You're fucking kidding if you think that's what is pounding through every tank and Humvee and military vehicle. And if the troops can't stand a song like that, what hope has it got to affect the rest of us? It takes a bottom-of-the-barrel, pop-star wannabe on the most artistically and culturally empty show on television to celebrate a song like that. And that it moved anyone to do anything besides use the toilet is a reminder that we are absolutely shit nowhere when it comes to the genuine belief in one's country. But you know, I can't put it anywhere near as well as Jacob has.