May 3, 2009
A late Idol convert
By Fiona Chan
Like everyone else, I like to think I'm a pretty open-minded person.
I support minority rights. I laugh at all kinds of potentially offensive jokes. I listen patiently when my boyfriend waxes lyrical about how polygamy could theoretically make the world a better place.
But the liberal attitude that I present to the world is merely a front.
Hidden behind it is a deep-seated, all-consuming, heartfelt prejudice that I have harboured for seven years now.
Actually I haven't hidden it very well. In fact, I've often shouted it from the rooftops (and even in this very column).
Here it is: I really, really hate American Idol.
This may not sound very prejudiced at all - after all, I'm sure lots of people watched it once and never tuned in again. But the thing is, I've never actually seen a single episode of the show.
That hasn't stopped me from dismissing it, from the moment it began in 2002, as a completely asinine production that exists only because wannabe singers are delusional and TV audiences are morons.
Even though many of my friends are fervent Idol worshippers, I always turn my nose up at the slightest mention of it.
This means I spend a great deal of time in a very uncomfortable facial contortion, as American Idol dominates a ridiculous number of my meal-time conversations.
But I never really thought of myself as being biased about the TV show until recently, when one of my aforementioned Idol-worshipper friends accused me of being an Idol bigot.
'You are actually quite narrow-minded, you know,' he said - rather judgmentally, I thought - after I had again given vent to my distaste for the show.
'You think your views are very liberal and cutting-edge but you're not really open-minded at all because you're unwilling to change your ideas on anything.'
To prove him wrong, I decided to entertain the possibility that he could be right about this.
And after many hours of unfamiliar soul-searching, I concluded that he may have had a point after all.
So that night, I decided to put aside my prejudices and just watch the show for the first time ever.
It turned out to be one of the most enlightening moments of my life.
I'm far from becoming a worshipper - on the contrary, I still think it's a bit of a false Idol.
But the prancing, shrieking marvel that is a certain contestant named Adam Lambert opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for entertainment I had been inadvertently avoiding.
If you've been hiding under a rock - or, like me, burying your head in the sand - for the last few months, Adam Lambert is widely tipped to be the winner of this season's American Idol.
His over-the-top performances, in which he yowls at the top of his voice or sashays down the stairs, consistently earn unanimous praise from the judges. He even coaxed a standing ovation out of the notoriously scornful Simon Cowell.
In short: He is totally awesome.
Once I got over my newfound Idolatry, I began wondering what else I had been missing out on by mistaking my prejudices for educated opinions.
So now I'm hooked on America's Next Top Model, Hell's Kitchen and a whole slew of other amazingly addictive reality TV shows I would never previously have touched with a 10-foot pole.
I've also learnt not to instinctively discriminate against people who have low PSLE scores - some of them are actually more intelligent than me.
And, after a lifetime of eschewing activism in favour of peaceful laziness, I started to avidly follow the recent drama that is going on at the women's group Aware.
But while in the past I would have been a default firm supporter of the old guard and against the new exco on principle, my new enlightenment has made me question my so-called 'liberal' stance.
Thanks to American Idol, I've realised that whatever my personal views are on polarising topics such as religion, race and showbusiness, they should not automatically colour every decision I make in my life.
I'm still rooting for the old guard, which is the decision I would have made in the first place. But now I can say that I've really thought through each group's position, and not just made a snap judgment based on their political or religious affiliations.
And I am heartened to see that among the masses of new Aware members who most likely would have voted along their own religious or non-religious lines, there were also Christians rooting for the old guard because they truly thought they would be better leaders.
A recent poll by The Sunday Times found that more than half of the Singaporeans surveyed don't really care about what's going on at Aware.
But they should. Because, as I found out, taking an interest in something you habitually disregard as unimportant could well lead to meaningful discoveries - and true open-mindedness.