American Idol: The American Dream Or The American Exploitation?

1630 words - 7 pages

In spring of ’09, I won Liberty High School’s most likely to become the next American Idol. Receiving the award-winning T-Shirt in front of the whole graduating class was a great honor. However, I never envisioned reality television in my future; especially not a show with Judge Simon Cowel’s vain insults. Fox’s American Idol phenomenon still soars high a decade after its initial premiere in 2002. The remains popular even with Cowel retired. 29.3 million viewers, 21% more than the previous season, tuned in to hear Ryan Seacrest announce the winner of the tenth and latest season of American Idol. The viewers of the show wax and wane year to year, but for eight straight seasons it remains America’s favorite evening entertainment (Bauder par 3, 10). Viewers never seem to tire of the audition episodes aired at the beginning of each season. Through learning of a contestant’s life story and hometown viewers connect with their future American Idol. Besides showing contestants with amazing talents and touching stories, they also feature an assortment of crazies, oddballs, and just plain weirdoes. It is easy to be amused by these people when watching from afar. However, if one stops to think about these exploited contestants as real human beings, one can imagine how embarrassing being portrayed as a nut job on national television must be. The owners and producers of the American Idol brand exploit and control their contestants, finalists, and winners in order to increase viewers and therefore increase profits.

The Idol brand’s owners increase in wealth each year. Simon Fuller, British talent scout and manager of the Spice Girls, and Simon Cowel, director of the recording studio BMG, founded UK’s Pop Idol in 2001. Together the two Simons began a national talent search for undiscovered singers across the UK. Each season’s Idol champion wins a managing contract with Fuller’s 19 Entertainment and a recording contract with Cowel’s BMG. Since its founding the Idol brand expanded into over 34 versions including our own American Idol. Combining the Idol’s across the world, the brand generated approximately $1 billion in advertising revenue in 2004. Then in 2005, Fuller sold 19 Entertainment to CKX inc. for $196 million. With the help of this transaction, Fuller became both the second richest “millionaire in film and television” with $540 million and remained a top executive of Idol (Franck and Nüesch 213-14). Many others became millionaires off of the Idol brand as well. Simon Cowel made approximately $35 million as a judge per season before he left at the end of season nine (Flint 3). The host of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest, trails only shortly behind with a salary of $15 million per season (Battaglio par 13). According to the research firm Kantar Media, American Idol earned more than $800 million in advertising revenue for the past few years as of 2010 (Flint 2). Despite the generous salaries and revenues described above, only the top 12 finalists of...

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