New York Times critic Charles Taylor argues that while the popularity of the popular American Idol television show has grown significantly in the last decade, it is no better than a popular American cartoon.
In a column for the Sunday Times titled “America: The Greatest Country of the World,” Taylor writes that while American Idol has become a phenomenon in its own right, the show is also emblematic of a broader American decline.
While the show has gained global appeal in its prime, Taylor writes, it also has the effect of diminishing the potential for American artists to earn a living by selling their work internationally.
American Idol is “not an expression of a genuine love for America, nor is it an expression, at all, of patriotism, or of love for the country,” he writes.
“In fact, it embodies the opposite: a deep and profound sense of loss and a longing for something more.”
Taylor is particularly critical of the way in which American Idol, which he calls “the show for young people, for teens,” has taken on the role of a cultural phenomenon.
“In its present form, American Idol is just a product of the present moment in American culture,” he says.
“The show is a product in its current form of the same kind of cultural production that America used to have before its first serious cultural revolution.”
Taylor is referring to the first wave of cultural revolutions, the “Great Wave,” which swept the country during the American Revolution.
As part of the Great Wave, American musicians and artists staged a number of massive public performances, such as the Civil War Centennial Concert in Boston, which featured a crowd of more than 2,000, and the Boston Tea Party, which attracted more than 5,000 people to Boston Common.
The rise of the American Idol show, Taylor argues, is an example of the “dire need” to turn the American cultural landscape around in a way that will “save the country from itself.”
In his column, Taylor suggests that America is in the midst of a “trend of cultural decay” that will make the show “a thing of the past.”
American Idols popularity has exploded, and Taylor argues the show’s popularity has also helped to create a new kind of American culture.
Taylor notes that American Idol “has become a cultural artifact, a national treasure,” that has “created a sort of cultural zeitgeist, a culture of nostalgia, and a nostalgia for an American past.”
In his piece, Taylor says that the show does “nothing to advance the cause of democracy” because it “stalls the progress of American democracy.”
He also warns that the popularity “of American Idol” has led to a decline in American intellectual culture and a “perverse political philosophy” that is “dangerously anti-intellectual.”
“The decline of the country’s intellectual culture has made the country a pariah in the world, and, as a result, the country has lost a chance to advance its own democracy,” Taylor wrote.
Treating American Idol like an expression or product of patriotism or love of the nation is, Taylor contends, “as misguided as it is harmful.”
“The very fact that a show of such a nature is a cultural product that Americans consume and love, that Americans celebrate and enjoy, that American culture is so valuable and is so universal and universal in scope, should make us question the idea that this is a genuine expression of patriotism,” Taylor concludes.
“It is also, in fact, a product that has the potential to destroy the very notion of the United States as a nation, and that we, as Americans, as citizens, are ultimately responsible for it.”
Charles Taylor is a columnist for the New York Daily News.