Unless you were living under a rock or doing other things like, say, following the presidential debate, you’re already familiar with the other debate that’s been going on this week: Team Mariah vs. Team Nicki. Well, I’m here to say that I’m not taking sides in the “American Idol” battle royale between alpha-female judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. Because really, there is no winner of this battle, only losers. And the biggest losers of all? Anyone who’s loved and watched this show for years, and anyone who’s actually trying out for “Idol” Season 12.
Why? Because if this controversial and altogether icky tabloid-fueled feud continues the way it has been, it will ultimately be the downfall of the entire “Idol” empire. “AI” has survived the exits of Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, the hiring and firing of Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi, and countless scandals (from Corey Clark to Jermaine Jones)…but I don’t know if it can survive this mess. And honestly, if this is how the new-but-not-improved “Idol” is going to be from now on, I don’t know if I want it to survive.
So for all you under-rock-dwellers and non-“Idol”-watchers, here’s the situation in one nutty nutshell: This week, TMZ posted “leaked” flipcam footage of a nasty catfight between “Idol’s” two new judges, Nicki and Mariah, who’d been rumored to be bickering for weeks. (Rumors that the Fox powers-that-be steadfastly denied, while probably secretly relishing the free publicity that such gossip generated.) That video was scandalous enough, but then the next day, Mariah spoke to “The View’s” Barbara Walters, and she shockingly claimed that Nicki had threatened to shoot her with a gun. Nicki’s response in this she-said/she-said fracas was to go off on a Twitter rant refuting Mariah’s wild story, and even implying that Mariah and Barbara’s report was racist. Later, it was reported that Mariah is now showing up at “Idol” audition tapings with a fleet of security personnel to protect her from Nicki; that Nicki felt “blindsided” by Mariah’s accusation; and that Mariah was furious that the telltale video footage had “leaked” in the first place. (Side note: I will probably always insert quotation marks around the word “leaked” when using it in this context, since I have a feeling that video was meant to get out. If it wasn’t, then some member of the “Idol” production staff has surely been fired by now.)
As of this writing, Nicki has not made good on these reported “death threats,” no metal detector has been installed on the “Idol” set, and the Season 12 judges have made it through at least two more audition tapings and one photo shoot unscathed. This, of course, is a good thing. But, speaking of getting fired…also as of this writing, none of the judges have quit or been handed a pink-slip. And that may not be such a good thing, because I really don’t think this panel is going to work out as-is. I’d rather have Ellen DeGeneres rejoin the show or have Fox re-hire former “X Factor USA” judge Nicole Scherzinger than watch an entire season of Nicki and Mimi’s silly, possibly staged catfighting.
Right now, it’s still up for speculation as to whether this entire blowup was just staged for publicity–as The Hollywood Reporter and “The Voice’s” Cee Lo Green have claimed–or if it was the real deal (or a bit of both). And I am not really sure which scenario would be worse. All I know is, this isn’t the show I signed up for. This isn’t the show that Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood signed up for. This is not “American Idol.”
Here’s why I think Fox has to get this situation under control before Season 12 premieres, or else the show is doomed:
This is not what “Idol” is supposed to be about – At the end of the day, “American Idol” has always been an uplifting, inspirational program, focused not on overpaid and entitled judges brawling like a pack of feral cats, but on talented contestants following their musical dreams. That’s what “Idol” was when it started out, and that’s what’s made it a show that parents have watched with their children, and grandparents have watched with their grandchildren, for more than a decade now. So the only F-words that should be associated with this show (unless the F-word is uttered by lovable ex-judge Steven Tyler, who somehow could get away with it), are “fun,” “feelgood,” and “family-friendly.” If viewers want to rubberneck at a bunch of crazy ladies fighting, there are plenty of other programming options on Oxygen, Bravo, VH1, and MTV. Which brings me to my next important point…
This perpetuates negative stereotypes about women – The reality television airwaves are positively clogged with lowest-common-denominator shows starring women behaving badly: “Bad Girls’ Club,” “The Real World,” “Teen Mom,” “Real Housewives,” “Mob Wives,” “Basketball Wives,” “Baseball Wives,” “Football Wives,” whatever Wives. It. Is. Too. Much. The disturbing (and, frankly, untrue) message behind all of these programs is that women can’t really be friends, only frenemies at best, and that if two females with strong personalities are stuck in the same room together for more than five minutes, it’s inevitable that they’ll end up at each other’s diamond-encrusted throats. Now “AI” is turning into “The Real Housewives Of Idol.” I do not approve. Come on, female contestants already have a hard enough time standing out on this male-dominated show. Don’t make it so that not even the female judges have a chance of being likable.
This also perpetuates negative stereotypes about rappers – When Nicki defended herself on Twitter after Mariah’s “View” bombshell, she tweeted: “Hey yAll. Lets just say nick said smthn about a gun. ppl will believe it cuz she’s a black rapper. Lmao. I’ll then hit up Barbara n milk it.” You know, regardless of whether or not Mariah’s claims were true, or partially true, Nicki did have a point. There are many closed-minded and conservative people out there–some of whom have already declared that they won’t watch “Idol” if Nicki is a judge–who erroneously believe that all hip-hop artists are hardened gangstas and thugs who carry concealed weapons and will eventually meet a Tupac- or Biggie-like demise. Crazy rumors of Nicki death-threatening Mariah will hardly help dispel such unfortunate stereotypes. I would prefer to see Nicki putting a fun and lovable face on hip-hop–like her arch nemesis Lil’ Kim once did when she competed on “Dancing With The Stars” and picked up a whole new fanbase. This ugly “Idol” feud is not a good look for the show, for Nicki, or for hip-hop in general.
This just feel icky – Yes, the past couple seasons of “Idol” were way too nicey-nice, with judges who refused to actually judge and just told everyone they were “beautiful.” But let’s not have the show swing too far the other way, now, and make it all about bad blood and bad vibes. Sure, a bit of friction is good for shows like these. In “Idol’s” glory days, we all enjoyed the old-married-couple-style bickering between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. And the playful, friendly rivalry between the current “Voice” coaches is a lot of fun. And seeing a little bit of squabbling between Nicki and Mariah could be good TV. However, their squabbling has already gone too far, three months before “Idol” Season 12 is even set to premiere, and it’s going to backfire in the end. Please note, in the past, when the tension between talent-show cast members became genuinely tense, it was always a turnoff to viewers. Few people really liked it when Ryan Seacrest got all up in Simon’s face on Season 9 of “Idol,” or when Drew Ryniewicz became an unwitting pawn in the nasty game-playing between Simon and L.A. Reid on “The X Factor” Season 1, or when the Tony Lucca-centric feud between Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera on Season 2 of “The Voice” took an unexpectedly dark, mean-spirited, and personal turn. And what’s going on with “Idol” is already worse than all of that. It needs to stop, before it’s too late.
Well, maybe it will. On Friday, the “Idol” producers released a statement that read: “This is one of the best, most passionate, dynamic and invested judging panels we’ve ever had. We love and support all of the judges and the fantastic work they are doing, and we can’t imagine a better group to find the next American Idol. Despite all the accusations and media speculation–much of which is inaccurate–production is going extremely well today and the judges are focused on finding the best talent here in Baton Rouge.”
Do you think this media hype will good for “Idol” ratings, or will it be damaging to the “Idol” brand? I encourage you to share your thoughts on the message board below. – Lyndsey Parker