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Monday, September 13, 2004

Taking shots at easy targets.

I've gone and done it. I've used William Hung as an example in class. It's just that he seems like such a perfect example of the absurd-everyman Thomas Nagel describes in his essay, "The Absurd," a guy whose view of himself and his talents seems wildly at odds with reality. This, I think, is the kind of person Nagel says we fear being, but cannot help but be; we all want to be brilliant at something, but we secretly fear that we'll actually end up being horrible failures.

So, why is William Hung an object of our derision rather than our sympathy?

Is it that he opened himself up for derision on such a large scale (primetime TV)? But surely that takes guts, and I ought to admire that. Except that I feel like he should have had a better grasp of what his singing talents were (or were not) before he set those guts in motion.

Obviously, he saw himself as a talented singer. It seems (to me, anyway) like he was badly mistaken about this. But how could he tell? Was he supposed to just go by what others told him about whether or not he was a great singer? What if they were wrong? (Oooh, what if they told him he was a great singer??) What better way to find out the facts then to strut his stuff for an audience of millions?

But then, when the "celebrity judges" called him out, it's not like he showed any signs of changing his mind about himself. He kept singin'! He cut a CD! He made TV and radio appearances!! According to the rumor mill, he even charged money to sign autographs for other students at UC-Berkeley!! While the world may have viewed William Hung's appearance on "American Idol" as a disaster (albeit an entertaining one, in an airshow-disaster kind of way), William Hung apparently viewed it as the impetus he needed for his future as an entertainer to really take off.

So, shouldn't he be admired? Hasn't he found a way to take the vortex of evil that is reality TV and use it for his own purposes? Could it be that his appearance on "American Idol" was intended to be horrible, on the theory that it would make him more memorable than someone delivering a servicable but bland performance?

I'm not sure I can buy it. There's something about exposing oneself to such scrutiny from the public at large, while showing no signs of engaging in any real self-examination, that makes me uneasy. It's hard enough living an authentic life in private. I'd imagine living a life that centers around how others respond could threaten to remove one's own interests or goals. At best, the public-you and the private-you would have to be compartmentalized to keep them from destroying each other. At worst, it would be all public-you with no trace of private-you remaining. How could that be a good life.

Reason #39 I'd be a lousy famewhore...

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