08 June 2012

Idols: I have a dream

Everyone needs to dream, but at what point does it become a total nightmare, asks Susan Erasmus?


Everyone needs to dream, but at what point does it become a total nightmare, asks Susan Erasmus?

I think the sight of three Idols judges collapsing in hysterics while you belt out something they assume you wrote yourself (you didn't: it's by Mariah Carey, but they just didn't recognise it) would be a good start to a nightmare that could be revisited for years.

The blind determination of some of the Idols contestants has to be admired on a certain grim level, but there seems to be a very strong element of delusion involved.

It's nothing new. And it's certainly not just a local phenomenon – anyone ever watch the auditions for Poland's Idols? But we do seem to have a more intense form of entitlement and delusion locally. Maybe people here have just had fewer opportunities.

There seem to be two main assumptions behind the phenomenon of entitlement:

  • I must have it, because it’s always been my dream
  • You have to accept what I do, because I am just being myself

Er, no. Just because I have always wanted something, doesn't mean someone must make it happen. I'd love to be rich. I have always dreamed of having my own island. I'd like to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Sorry, not today.

And on the topic of just being yourself: the Yorkshire Ripper was just being himself. So were Idi Amin and Al Capone. There's a point where just being yourself and doing what you want to do sort of clashes with what other people want. So what now?

A head-on collision

For many years I was involved in selecting students from many applicants for a bridging course for tertiary education. I do have a certain sympathy for the Idols judges. And for the students.

However, there is a point where you meet the 16th person of the day who clocked up a G for Science and an H for Maths (on the Standard Grade), who confidently states that their aim is to be a doctor, that it's difficult not to become exasperated. And to show it.

Especially if the very act of making the statement is followed by a certain air of self-satisfaction, as if it was now merely a matter of administrative formality before it would happen.

And this is the sad thing: there's a point where the heady dreams of youth have a head-on collision with reality. It's not pleasant when you're the person who has to be instrumental in making that happen. (But you still don't need to be nasty. Randall, are you listening?)

The tone-deaf entrants to Idols have chosen to have this head-on collision on national TV in full view of thousands of unsympathetic viewers. Of course it makes for brilliant TV.

I blame their parents and friends. There's a point where these people should support and encourage you, and there's a point where they should take you aside and gently tell you the truth: we love you too much to let you make a laughing stock of yourself. You can't sing, and no amount of training is going to change that. But you're good at maths, or hockey, or acting. Stick to what you can do. We still love you.

And for the few brave but misguided souls who nevertheless push on in the face of defeat, the moment of truth is a harsh one. It's the point at which one can choose to grow up, or to pursue a life of insanity and self-delusion.

Before I rain on everyone's parade, rest assured that true brilliance will find a way to the top eventually. It doesn't need an Idols stage.

Delusions, hopes and dreams are probably what youth is about. Reality is what growing up is about. And maturity is knowing when you can actually make something happen by throwing everything at it – and knowing when to give it up.

(Susan Erasmus,, updated, June 2012)


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