First of all, let me just get the confession out of the way. Yes, I watch American Idol. I blame my friend Rachel for getting me hooked, but I’ve thought long and hard before writing this about what it is about the mostly insipid reality show that appeals to me (and how I can justify it to you and to myself). I came to realize that it makes total sense that I enjoy it. I mean, yes, it’s about the contestants’ singing talent, but more than that, it’s about their stories. As a writer I am a hoarder of stories. I will get into deep conversations with a stranger online at the supermarket and leave having gathered a bit of their tale, a glimpse of their life (maybe I’m closer to a story vampire).
Well, American Idol is about watching and rooting for the people you get attached to and hissing at the ones that annoy the shit out of you. It’s about learning their stories, bit by bit every week, and feeling you know them. And this past week I have gotten very attached to the first Puerto Rican to make it to the top twelve (or this year, thirteen), Jorge Nuñez. But along with my attachment I’m also very concerned about the beginnings of what I see as the show’s Charo-ization of him.
If you aren’t familiar with the history, during the marathonish Hollywood week the judges told Jorge he should work on getting rid of his accent. That was bad enough; I for one was relieved to hear a slight (very slight) accent in his singing voice after years of Ricky Martins and Robi Rosas who have no discernible accents while singing in English. But then the poor guy works with a dialect coach, does a beautiful job of singing Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” and Simon says he should sing with his accent because it makes him different. ¡Ay Dios mío! But the worst part was yet to come…
After Simon’s 180 degree turn, Paula Abdul tells Jorge to speak so they can hear his accent as if he were a performing poodle or something. Not that anyone would say that Paula Abdul is the brightest bulb in the batch, but it sure raised my hackles. As my jaw fell to my chest I was reminded of Charo. A stretch, I know, but hear me out.