I successfully avoided American Idol for its first 9 seasons, only to turn it on to follow a favorite with a family link to our office. But I'm turning it off once again. Here's why. Take 1: If any of you saw the movie, "A Beautiful Mind" about the brilliant Princeton mathematician, John Nash, may remember the famous bar scene. In the scene, Nash argues that in order that he and his two friends each get a girl, that they should avoid the beautiful blonde among the group of four women. That kind of strategy is known as "Game Theory," and it plays a role in every election in which there are greater than two candidates, such as American Idol. There are books and studies on it. And John Nash won the Nobel Prize in Economics. Many voting systems have been devised to cope with the fallacies of multiple candidate elections, such as choosing 8 of out 9 last night. But they all have weaknesses. In political elections of 3 candidates, a common concern is that the least popular candidate will win because voters are divided over the top two. Even my ophthalmic assistant's suggestion that people vote off "the worst" candidate are biased, because those who want others to win will vote against the most threatening candidate. Take 2 America, and increasingly the rest of the world, is obsessed with competition and winning. But art and music, in my opinion, are things that shouldn't be scored as is a football game that have a clear numeric outcome. The performing arts are subjective because each member of the audience has a unique and personal interpretation. One musical performance is not better or worse than another, it simply is one that a person prefers. Competition among the performers on American Idol makes for high television ratings and for our staff at Huntington Eye Care(rooting for Pia Toscano, the niece of our optician). But at its core, it sends the wrong message to the American public about music and the arts - namely, that the value of an artist or performance can be measured by the opinions of millions of people placing fifty votes apiece from their personal computers. Our own local orchestra, the Long Island Philharmonic, gave up many of its performances this season because of a shortage of money.Ultimately the orchestra members were unappreciated despite prodigious talent. Does that mean that classical music is dead? One visit to Vienna, Prague and Budapest will quickly quell that hypothesis. What bothers me most about this is that people by the thousands are concocting reasons why Pia was voted off - "...not enough variety...the young girls are voting for the boy contestants..the judges were trying to manipulate the outcome..." And implicit in that argument is that "there was something wrong" in one or more of Pia's performances. Ridiculous! Pia is gifted and poised, yes, but is also clearly a passionate and dedicated artist. For the staff in my office, her performances were inspirational. But she was not better or worse than the others, inasmuch as blue is not a better color than green. Parents who have seen the beauty of their six year-old's performance in a school play can recognize this fact - that the beauty of art and music lies in the ability to reach the audience. So, I will again turn off my television to the show with which America is obsessed. Objective measures of musical performance, such as showcased on American Idol, provide a rare opportunity for a few individuals to promote their talent. But in doing so, the show insidiously dumbs down our own ability to appreciate, on a highly personal level, the very thing that art and music should do, which is to reach us. Pia reached me. [Click off.] Paul Krawitz, M.D.
Why I am again turning off American Idol...
- by Dr. Paul Krawitz
- 08 April, 2011