Who wants to see a bunch of good singers performing? Not so many hands.
Who wants to see a bunch of good singers competing, with the losers sent home and the winner crowned as champion? I see lots of hands, and you people might be big fans of a TV show called The Voice, which just completed it’s finale for this season.
A man named Jermaine Paul was the overall winner, and everyone else from a huge field of singers, was not the winner. The stage from one of the earlier shows says it all. The singers were competing against each other in a boxing ring. They are hitting each other with notes. This is the art of war. The image at the right was from one of the early shows this year. I saw a few of the shows, and my family kept me posted about the shows I missed.
Although this post is about singing, it could have been about most anything in America. We are a country that insists that we rank things from bad to good and that we need to have a best, a winner. To have a winner, we’ll need some dejected competitors, some sad tears.
I thought of The Voice two weeks ago, when I attended a poetry reading by 50 seventh graders chosen by their schools to present their work. No, they didn’t compete against each other at the reading. They merely stood up (many of them nervously) and read their work. We in the audience applauded them all because they were all admirable.
To keep most people interested in anything, however, you need a good overall story. World class art hanging in a museum doesn’t get loud applause. It turns out that conflict provides its own story. All you need is two people struggling over something, even something stupid, and you’ve diverted attention toward the struggle from every angle, like laser beams. While at work today, I glanced at the TV in the lunch room–it’s always on and it forces me to see what corporate garbage (not always, but often enough) is pouring out. I glanced at the tube in time to see the beginning of the Wolf Blitzer “news” show called “The Situation Room.” The opening graphics appeared to a series of images from around the world viewed through a gun site from a fighter jet. I suppose this isn’t too surprising, given that the show airs in a country that is always at war, and would lose any sense of identity were it not at war. Our national anthem fits us well. Just keep giving us enemies or else we’ll create them. If we weren’t currently obsessed about the Middle East, we’d be demonizing China (actually we already are demonizing and provoking China).
Would a TV show that simply featured excellent singers singing get good ratings? Not likely, but this is true even if the performances were much the same as one would see on The Voice. That is my assumption, and I based it on the powerful and highly addictive effect of gratuitous conflict, of conflict pornography.