“Idol”izing Role Models

I’ll admit it: I’m an American Idol watcher. I love the show. My husband is extremely musical and desires to be in the industry, so we watch it together and critique the contestants as though we were the judges.

 I do not, however, love the commercialism of the show. The quantity of advertising annoys me (I doubt anyone likes it), as does the vague uneasiness that whoever becomes the #1 American Idol becomes a sellout. I doubt that David Cook is living the rocker life he imagined before being on Idol.

This season, one other thing that bothers me is the number of single moms that have run through the show. For a while there were three – now we’re down to two. And if I am doing my math correctly, they were all teen moms. Why does this bother me? I think it has to do with how American Idol is focused around “creating” a new pop star to become a package deal “role model” for the American public. The judges always talk about “likeability” – those higher on the scale make it further in the competition. And that means that the winning Idol is chosen because America loves him (or her) and wants that person in the spotlight as an example of success. What is America going to do with Alexis and Megan?

At W4YM, we spend a lot of time encouraging teens to believe that marriage is not only an excellent institution, but that it is necessary, and a very attainable goal for them. I have no doubt that these two single moms work hard and desire a great life for their children. Alexis actually said that she was pursuing this competition because she wanted the best life possible for her child. And I know plenty of great single moms – my own mom was on her own a while.

But I don’t want either one of these women to win. I wonder what kind of great life is in store for their kids if they fall victim to pop stardom. If one of them is chosen, what message does her example send to our teen girls in relation to teen pregnancy, motherhood, and success?