For me, as a YA writer, I’m seeing dystopian worlds everywhere these days (my only excuse for this conspiracy-theory-esque post). It’s the next big trend in YA fiction after all!
Recently pubbed and soon to be pubbed YA novels are brimming with repressive societies, strict rules, and evil forces pulling the strings while smiling and trying to convince everyone that they know what’s best.
Hello, Nigel Lythgoe!
Many years ago, I stopped watching American Idol because it became increasingly obvious an attempt was being made to influence how I, as a viewer, felt about certain contestants. Some singers were getting “pushed” on me by the producers of the show, and some were being thrown under the bus. It bothered me that the manipulation was so obvious…and that it seemed to have so little to do with actual vocal talent. Maybe that string-pulling was intended to make more dramatic television but, for me, it just took all the fun out of experiencing the performances and coming to my own conclusions about the contestants.
Well, this year I was sucked in by new, interesting (and pretty) judges and audition episodes that seemed to spend less time putting terrible singers down and more time actually finding good singers.
Oh, oh how I was fooled!
Last night, watching the judges slam the best, most interesting singer on the show and spout shameless drivel (taken from notes supplied by the producers) about far less accomplished contestants, I suddenly realized why it all seemed so familiar….
Maybe the contestants aren’t actually trying to kill each other to “win”, but they are trying to survive a world in which an evil, shadowy presence is attempting to manipulate the outcome of a “game” to suit his own purposes.
Check it out, and tell me these don’t sound like the characters in a dystopian novel:
(Disclaimer: I think all the AI contestants are really talented and I don’t think the roles they’ve been forced into are necessarily their fault. This is not meant to be a commentary on them as people.)
The Girl “The Company” Wants You to Love: Lauren Alaina has been shamelessly pimped by the producers, judges, and mentors. They’ve done everything possible to give her a “story”…to twist her inexperienced superficiality into a shy, humble inability to believe in her own greatness. The brainwashing of the viewers began in her first audition, when one of the judges said he thought he’d just heard the next American Idol. She’s pretty, she’s safe, she’s reasonably talented…but more than anything, she is a contestant the puppeteer can control. So she’s pushed on us Every. Single. Week.
The “Face” of the Rebellion: James Durbin is loud, he’s angry, and he’s singing songs about uprisings and fighting the man. Only thing is, he’s got a sob story and a decent voice…and is the puppeteer’s choice to draw in the more “rebellious” voters. He’s got just enough edge to seem genuine, but he’s got a weakness – his family – that the The Company can exploit. He’s just as much a part of their game as the sweet, little girl they want you to love.
The Winner: Scotty McCreery is just good enough, and just arrogant enough, to give the impression that he’s already infiltrated “The Company.” They’re throwing screaming girls at him, literally, and putting his grandmother on stage to shore up his fanbase – the old lady vote. He’s another safe choice, and while I genuinely feel that he’s a great singer, and a great performer, the increasing smarminess indicating that he knows it is getting on my nerves. If he were a character in a novel, I’d be on the look-out for his comeuppance right about now.
The Expendable: Jacob Lusk’s been ready to go home for a few weeks now. The judges continue to feed his delusions, I think, because the puppeteer has been setting him up for a glorious, high-drama implosion….a trainwreck of a performance that will provide a little entertainment as he’s shuffled out the door (For me, it was his first performance last night, but his voters are tenacious, so we’ll see). You’ve got to have an expendable, less fully developed character or two in every dystopian…and he’s it.
And finally, The Fighter: If this were really a dystopian novel, Haley Reinhart would be our heroine. She’s feisty, beautiful, and incredibly talented…and NOT who The Company wants to win. For whatever reason, they’ve done everything they can to tear her down, marginalize her, push her out. What makes her our heroine is that despite the lack of back story, the ridiculous critiques from the judges, and the obvious lack of airtime compared to the other contestants, Haley has said “fuck you” to the man, sung her heart out with a calm, earthy consistency and charm every week…and rocked it, with no help from anyone but herself. She takes the knocks and keeps on going…and has begun leading a resistance of her own. I know I’m not the only one rooting for her in part because the producers seem to hate her so much. She’s one badass chick, and for that – and her gorgeous voice – I salute her.
If this show were a YA dystopian novel, Haley would win. She would kick that evil, shadowy government’s ASS.