Soundbites

16Apr08

Welcome to anyone finding this blog from NPR, where I was just interviewed about American Idol. While I thought the story they put together was pretty good, especially in interviewing a range of fans of the show, I’m usually struck by how the soundbites producers pull out of my mouth rarely convey the context of what I was trying to say. But since I have my own platform here, I might as well clarify for myself.

One of the quotes you can hear me say involves my claim that the appeal of American Idol boils down to romantic attraction and “teenybopper swooning in front of a pop star.” Yes, I said that, but in the context of the multiple appeals of the show – the key quote was that AI offers “something for everyone,” with the possibility of teenybopper swooning, alongside the pleasure of watching people humiliate themselves early in the audition process, alongside the competitive thrill of any well-staged contest, alongside the nostalgia for remaking classic pop songs from past decades, etc. So I wasn’t claiming that everyone who watches the show is a swoony teenybopper – and I wasn’t trying to say that swooning was a shallow or problematic pleasure, or any less legit than people who focus on singing talent or musical ability.

Another quote refers to the idea that the show offers opportunity for “anyone to rise up and be the next pop star – that’s the American dream.” I then went on to talk about how good the show is in creating that myth of the land of opportunity, and that it is a myth, not actuality. Of course, that more critical reflection didn’t soundbite well. So it sounds like I’m promoting American Idol as a bit more utopian than I really did.

I guess the lesson is to always embed caveats and clarifications mid-sentence, creating challenges for producers looking for snappy quips – and that the next time Robert Thompson says something that sounds too simplistic, there’s a decent chance that complexity was pared down in post-production.



2 Responses to “Soundbites”

  1. I see this piece as an interesting example of what we’re studying in class about the strengths and limits of different media and their different rhetorics. I think I am correct in saying the NPR piece ultimately made the same point you would have made if they had played the full teenybopper clip. The point you were making was that American Idol had something for (nearly) everyone (note: not 20 year old male college students!). But their rhetoric for making this point was different than yours–they had the audio clips of different people enjoying the show for different reasons (including your scholarlyness). Although you probably made this point explicitly, it wouldn’t have make for good radio especially in the context of a piece like this one on American Idol which isn’t as highbrow as many NPR pieces.


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