So its official, American Idol 2010 has a winner and it’s Lee DeWyze. DeWyzes’ victory over the other finalist, Crystal Bowersox, came as no huge surprise to many of the show’s fans and followers in the media. Even though many of them have been saying that Crystal deserved to win, they were often just as certain that DeWyze was more likely to win. Why?
America, show-watchers say, is just not ready to embrace Crystal and her rough and wild look. More Janice Joplin than Kelly Clarkson, she simply was not going to be embraced by America like the more clean-cut DeWyze. Both are incredibly talented, but it seems that the more typical candidate was destined to take the prize. That’s where the Bible comes in.
Looking at the stories of Genesis one sees the reverse pattern. In an ancient world where first sons were destined to take over their father’s control of the family, the greater share of its wealth etc. (a norm called primogeniture), the Bible tells of a reverse trend. The unlikely candidate, the younger and often physically weaker son, the one whose lineage is at least as much about mom as it is about dad, the son who would not normally be destined for greatness – that is the son who takes the prize, inherits the power and becomes the next link in the chain of “winners”.
If American Idol were judged by Biblical standards, Crystal Bowersox, not Lee DeWyze, would have likely won on last night’s finale of American Idol 2010. Whether that would be better, or even make any real difference in a contest in which runners-up often have greater career success than winners, I don’t know. But it provides an opportunity to see how facts beyond our control (like birth order) and matters of surface style can determine decisions of substance, even if they should not.
The stories of Genesis have a clear pattern: how you come into the world and the expectations of others should not determine your life. Our destiny, the Bible seems to be telling us, is not something that should simply happen to us, it’s ours to make. We don’t need to be typical to be successful. Norms are meant to broken, if in breaking them; we are creating new opportunities for more people who would not otherwise get them.
That was a radical notion in the time of the Bible, and seems to remain one today. I guess we have to wait until next year, at least in terms of American Idol; to see if it’s one America is really ready to embrace.