Richard Rushfield, Yahoo! News, April 8, 2010
It will be generations before scientists fully understand the impact text messaging has had on our society. Accelerated communications, the condensing of complex thought into compact, emoticon-enriched half-phrases; these effects can merely be speculated upon now. But the fallout from one edge of the texting revolution is already stunningly clear and already having far-reaching effects on American culture; text messaging, it can now be definitively said, has transformed the electorate of American Idol from a diverse microcosm of the nation’s broad middle, to a playground for willful 11-year-olds seeking to reshape the world in their image.
Armed with their text messaging superpowers, able to tirelessly deliver hundreds of votes each to a grown-up’s five or ten, in the past few years, tween girls have stormed the ramparts of Idol democracy and–depending on your perspective–either wreaked havoc upon our national pastime, or given an aging show a fresh wind of underage relevance. Either way, they have made the Idol stage a very different place, and nowhere was the heavy hand of the tween dictators felt more strongly than at the Idoldome during Wednesday night’s elimination show, where in the first big shocker of the season, Michael “Big Mike” Lynche found himself with the week’s lowest vote total for the week.
The evidence for the rise of the tween voting block is anecdotal; Idol sadly releases no voter information beyond the number of ballots cast, and no independent study has been conducted of the electorate. However, careful study does point to an irrefutable fact, that in the past few years, “cute boys” have come to dominate American Idol to an unprecedented degree.
The show’s knowledge of this trend was on display in the elimination rituals Wednesday night. In a bit of gotcha showmanship, the show began by bringing the three sole remaining females of the top nine to the stage, teasing with the notion that after women have been eliminated three weeks in a row, cutting their ranks in half, the voters would dispatch yet another to oblivion.
This week, however, the wrath of the tween girls did not fall upon their own gender, but upon another quirk in the block’s predilections. Not only do they seem to prefer their Idols be male, but they also seem to prefer them to be white.
In making it as far as the number nine slot, Big Mike traveled as far as any African-American male has gone since Nikko Smith was eliminated on this same week in Season Four. Prior to that, no African-American male has made the Top Five since George Huff in Season Three, a good six years back. This despite the fact that every year, a sizable number of critically favored African-American men emerge from Hollywood Week, only to crumble like cannon fodder in the semi-finals rounds.
Such are, apparently, the whims of America’s tweens.