Sunday, October 02, 2005

Australian Idol and the Meaning of Style

I’ve never been shy about admitting I’m an avid watcher of Australian Idol. I’ve been in social situations where people have dismissed the top thirty contestants as ‘no-talent wannabees who can’t hold a note’ and demurred. While I don’t have any Christina Aguillera or Anastasia in my CD collection, there’s no doubt that Roxane Lebrasse and Kate DeAraugo can do those artists’ songs justice. Clearly the lengths to which people seek to distance themselves from admitting to enjoying Australian Idol and the talents of the ambitious young performers is premised on the perennial high/low culture distinction. I’m still surprised by how much work I have to do in tutorials before students will admit to the guilty pleasure of Australian Idol. I have to create an Oprah Winfrey-like environment where I reveal the identities of the contestants I vote for on a weekly basis before anyone will confess to rushing home on Monday nights to watch the elimination show. I’ve been even more surprised in conversations with academics in the fields of media and cultural studies, when sms voting fans are discussed as curiosities, and admitting to voting oneself feels like a career-damaging faux pas. Then there was the time on an email discussion list that I was charged with encouraging political apathy amongst my students for talking about voting for the Australian Idol in the same week the Australian Federal Election was held (in a subject with the subtitle, Developments in Mass Media, I might add(!?)).

Despite my unabashed enjoyment of Australian Idol, even I felt despair tonight when I listened to self-identified punk Lee Harding admit that the lyrics of the song he performed—'Holiday' by Green Day—meant nothing to him. What! Has anybody ever heard of an apolitical punk? Sure, so-called punk politics are often individualistic and sometimes nihilistic, but to have no thought about the lyrics of a Green Day song, not even in a half-hearted sort of ‘Yeah! Stupid George Bush’ way is... Well, words fail me. At this point, surely all of those people who have been voting for Lee, thinking his colourful hair and piercings signified some sort of refusal to conform to an established music industry mould will be disheartened? His ‘style’, both musical and sartorial, means nothing more than Emily Williams’s suit; in fact his style is vacuous in comparison to her’s because she at least declared her outfit suitable for her song choice.

‘Just cause, just cause, because we're outlaws, yeah!’


‘Here we are now, entertain us...’

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