Each year in its audition episodes, American Idol establishes the purest of Horatio Algerian, rags-to-riches paradigms: from the vast throng of striving humanity, the less talented fall away until only one chosen talent remains.
Except that for some in the Idol tent, the door to this road will forever be barred.
Click Image Below to See Our Cast of 14 Anti- Idols
The golden-voiced stars-to-be are not the main attraction during the auditions, which are often the highest-rated episodes of the season. In this gigantic culling process, the day belongs not to the wheat but to the chaff—to the man in the white furry top hat and to an old man with a little ditty about ' Pants on the Ground.' Even as Season 9's auditions came to an end Wednesday, America fell in love with a singer who called himself Man Flower.
• View our coverage of American Idol Season 9 • Secret Rituals of ‘Idol’ Auditions Exposed Yet for Idol's underclass, the auditions are not the first step down the road of destiny, but a short trip to the glass ceiling. And while these people may play a huge role in preserving the show's popularity, once the auditions end, Idol is done with them and their journeys are suddenly out of the runway.
They are the freaks, the misguided, the bizarre alternatively talented, who each year parade through to provide Idol's comic relief as they go before the judges to have their dreams shattered and mocked.
That their fame is so fleeting is one of Idol's great tragedies, and one we demand, at long last, be corrected in the name of justice and entertainment.
We call for Fox to grant equal competition rights to these stars who bring Americans such joy. We propose that as the truly talented move forward into the semi-finals, the network begin a parallel reality Idol where the non-talented compete to become America's anti- Idol. That would truly be giving our age the competition it wants, and the competition it deserves.
Just as the main show features the full spectrum of American singing talents—from country to R&B, from serious musicians to electrifying stage presences—so too could the anti- Idol competition showcase the full rainbow of our national non-talents. The flamboyantly tone deaf, as Idol viewers know, are quite different from the quietly deluded.
And they could live in a house together. Like on The Real World. Or The Bachelor.
The producers of American Idol have over the years shown superhuman adroitness at milking every last ounce of amusement out of every single ingredient of the show: We ask for their ears on this proposal. Here, then, is our all-star line-up for the first season of American Anti-Idol, subtitled Justice for the Freaks, culled from the lowlights of Idol history.
Richard Rushfield is a four-year veteran of the American Idol beat and the author of a recent memoir, Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost.