Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Kyle and Australian Idol: burying a history of gleeful abuse

Kyle Sandilands, professional thug and serial ridiculer of children, well at least vulnerable teens, has lost his post at Australian Idol. Now. Finally.

Not back when he was on Idol, ridiculing teenagers or commenting leerily on their looks. Back when I thought the big scandal he was risking was a suicide. A poor, pathetic, low-esteem teenager humiliated on stage, told everything they loved was beyond them, going into the dressing room and picking up a belt...

The producers of Idol have long sat by while judges indulged in rudeness and worse. They left Kyle on the panel, despite his clear lack of anything approaching useful musical insight, lapping up the ratings, ignoring what must surely have been thousands of complaints.

I, a long time tragic viewer of this pulpy show, enjoying as many do the flashes of brilliance from the talented contestants themselves, found myself cursing and telling the living room what I'd do if that was my daughter and he spoke that way to her. I'm sure I wasn't alone. I don't think that much of any of the judges on Idol, but being annoyed because Dicko is a generational bigot who swoons at mediocre prog rock from the '70s while ridiculing anything vaguely interesting written after 1990 is different to feeling a bit sick as you watch a 17 year old being humiliated and ridiculed for fun, Kyle-style.

Why wasn't something done? Would those producers have feigned surprise if one of their charges had burst into tears and revealed some horror from their past during a vicious tirade at Kyle's hands? I'm not sad to see him go now but it's a bit rich to suddenly discover that he's a bogan pig when a long-term habit of indulging in ridicule and nastiness belatedly backfires on him.

While we're here, why is it the So You Think You Can Dance franchise can score big ratings while using judges who actually know their stuff, and while allowing for experimentation, individuality, and some cutting-edge artistry in their format? Could the next Idol judge possibly be vaguely musically literate?

Myf Warhurst?


Tim said...

it's a bit rich to suddenly discover that he's a bogan pig when a long-term habit of indulging in ridicule and nastiness

Exactly. Nastiness is, in fact, the sole aspect of KS's talent and presumably the reason he was hired as a judge in the first place.

Masterchef and SYTYCD have shown that treating contestants like human beings isn't ratings poison. In fact it might have the opposite result. (I initially avoided Masterchef because I assumed the judges would be Idol-esque arseholes.) What I don't get is the Dicko/Holden/Sandilands rationale that their bullying behaviour is justified simply because the music industry is a serious (in money-making terms, anyway) business.

Angie said...

I totally agree with Tim. Masterchef and SYTYCD are so much nicer to watch precisely because the judges are humane in their treatment of the contestants. I let my kids watch masterchef when they are not allowed to watch idol. Kyle has always been an idiot and I can only hope he fades away into obscurity now and we no longer have to endure him in the public sphere.

Ann oDyne said...

There is one really FUNNY aspect to this horrible fiasco - the AUStereo Mission Statement -

"Our values are the standards which people across Austereo share.
They guide our day-to-day decisions and shape our individual and collective behaviour.

Recruit and Retain The Best;
We only hire the best or those with the potential to be the best.
What keeps our people here is a drive to stay out in front and on top of their game.
Talk Straight - Listen Hard No crap, just respect! Open, honest, meaningful exchanges that are as constructive as they are informative;
Empower and Trust - We provide our people with opportunities to develop and use their skills. We coach them and allow them to take risks ..."

please visit Veni Vidi Blogi aka Phil, for the rest

Anonymous said...

I agree that KS is an arsehole. Indeed, his next appearance on television would deservedly be on some grainy video footage of him sitting down whilst a religious extremist armed with a particularly sharp blade read out the closing statements...

However, I fail to see how having judge's treat contestants with a "hooray for you" mantra makes reality television any less of a poison. For Idol, the art of music is commodifed at the most base level with winners and losers and a selling of a homogenous product which is quickly forgotten. This kills off local/original music; the worldwide idol industry is not dissimilar to fast food companies competing for custom whilst the local/original tuck shop (that lacks the economy of scale) dwindles.

For reality television in general, I think these words are apt:

"T.V. it

satellite links

our United States of Unconsciousness

Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive

The methadone metronome pumping out

150 channels 24 hours a day

you can flip through all of them

and still there's nothing worth watching

T.V. is the reason why less than 10 per cent of our

Nation reads books daily

Why most people think Central Amerika

means Kansas

Socialism means unamerican

and Apartheid is a new headache remedy

absorbed in it's world it's so hard to find us

It shapes our mind the most

maybe the mother of our Nation

should remind us

that we're sitting too close to... the television"

Armagnac Daddy said...

Spearhead, drug of a nation, early 90s I believe.

Yes, much truth in this, however I'm not calling for "hooray for you", but rather a bit less "you pathetic loser you are wortheless". Contrasting the worst of Dicko's rudeness with the worst of Kyle's helps draw the distinction between tough criticism and outright ridicule and nastiness.

TimT said...

I guess the Idol producers, have been trying, with less and less success, to imitate the relatively successful American format (I think that was the original, wasn't it)?

Small problem: original nasty guy, Simon Cowell, actually has some idea what he's talking about. He's also smart and has some idea of how to read an audience (go back to the Susan Boyle video and contrast his reactions before and after her big number). And his nasty comments do, by and large, form a sort of constructive criticism. (I was impressed by his answer in an interview with, I think, Parky, when questioned about his on-screen persona: 'I can't bear the hypocrisy of telling someone they're going to make it in this industry when they're not.')

Kyle doesn't tick any of those boxes. He's just pointlessly nasty.

Tim said...

Anon: I wasn't calling for a "hooray for everything" approach, just for less contrived arseholery.

Guy said...

I've never really watched Idol, partly because pop musak is not really my thing at all, and partly because the "negativity for the sake of it" style that Sandilands so thoroughly embodied.

I am at least pleased that there is now even less likelihood that I will chance to flick between channels and sight his ugly mug.

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james said...

I'd never seen or heard Kyle until I heard this sketch replayed on media watch, and boy, did I ever spit caviar and cognac all over the TV screen when the girl dropped the bombshell.
Reality programming bites back.

Helen said...

Anonymous, all of what TimT said about Simon Cowell also applies to SYTYCD. It's not all fluff and fairies. But they behave like human beings and treat their contestants like same.