by Guest Contributor Bao Phi, originally published at the Star-Tribune’s Your Voices
Let me tell you, I have an almost supernatural (some would say neurotic) capacity for remembering the most embarrassing moments in my life. Walking into a women’s bathroom by mistake when I was about 7 years old and lost at the mall, crying for mommy. Bursting into tears of hunger at Taste of Minnesota when I was 10. In 4th grade I sat next to one of the few other Asians I saw at a class assembly because I thought she was so friendly, cool, and cute – then being told I couldn’t sit there because it was for student council members only. I can’t remember my own parents’ birthdays, or which days to put out the recycling. But that time I walked face-first into a brick pillar in broad daylight on a busy shopping day? Yep.
My extreme discomfort towards public embarrassment is why I avoid reality television like the plague. I don’t get any pleasure or joy from watching humiliating public spectacle, even when it doesn’t involve me. Shame is something I have in spades, but is not something I enjoy.
Shows like American Idol are horrifying to me. Because if someone embarrasses themselves or does poorly, I feel terrible for them. However, I’ve been watching the pop phenomenon in recent years because my partner, who doesn’t enjoy reality television either, happens to enjoy watching American Idol: not to laugh at people, but because there’s always a chance that someone unique, and with genuine talent (hello Adam Lambert) will make it on the show. I’ve been trying to watch it with her. It’s only fair. If I ask her to watch trash like Ninja Assassin and Iron Man, I can suffer through some bad singers and mangled songs with her.
Someone I always think about when I watch American Idol is William Hung. A Berkeley student, Hung auditioned in 2004 with a pretty terrible rendition of Ricky Martin’s She Bangs. Even though I wasn’t watching much television at all during that time, I couldn’t escape the notoriety of this pop culture disaster. Continue reading