Talent Shows are more than just entertainment.

In part one being vulnerable came up as the inherent nature of entering a talent show. In her book on the spectrum of human emotions Atlas of the Heart. Brené Brown categorised  Stress, Overwhelm, Anxiety, Worry, Avoidance, Excitement, Dread, Fear and Vulnerability as the “places we go when things are uncertain or too much”. That is the heart of trying out for a talent show, things are uncertain. Which brings about risk and emotional exposure for hopeful contestants.
I think it’s valuable to state that the vulnerability is not characterised by just a single factor like being concerned about being “good enough”. In the context of significant media attention people suddenly have a lot of attention on them. Those who take part in talent shows have opened themselves up to thoughts, opinions and reactions of others. The recurring interaction with the judging panel whose delivery of feedback can be a tough pill to swallow is another way vulnerability shows up.
In 2009 Britain’s Got Talent introduced Susan Boyle to the world and she immediately become an internet sensation. This is not without an unkind or unfair amount of scrutiny concerning her age and appearance. Much was reported about how Susan Boyle was struggling behind the scenes during the course of the show. Leading to her even being taken to hospital as her physical and mental wellbeing were seriously compromised. Speaking on BBC Radio Fred O'Neil, Boyle's friend and former voice coach, described her plight as "a tragedy", claiming fame had not brought her happiness. It's such a tragic situation, a woman who really just loves to sing, an innocent woman really, who is just caught up in this fame game”. It’s wonderful that her story did not end there. And she became the professional singer with great success she desired to become.


18 years ago Paula Goodspeed shared her inner thoughts myspace 5 months after trying out for American Idol in Austin Texas. "It's very hard reading such awful things being written about yourself," she wrote. "Not like alot [sic] of people would understand what it's like having so many haters just because I made the mistake of trying out for a singing competition before I was even ready vocally, emotionally and physically". "I have to believe there is something good about me," abcnews.go.com. These feelings from someone who had an unsuccessful audition indicates the risk and emotional exposure inherent in mega talent shows. Attempting despite the emotional risk and exposure is no small feat. And also gives weight to insights by assistant clinical professor of psychiatry John Lucas for Reuters.com that  “emotional stress can depend on baggage (people) bring into a show”. Some contestants may already be vulnerable to depression or expect a show “will change others’ perceptions of them or ... their ability to contend with their ordinary day-to-day existence. And neither is likely to happen”.
Talent shows (especially the mega media production kind) are complex. There is no one way to view them on account of the vulnerability, risk and emotional exposure. It require us to embrace the grey. Personally, exploring this theme around the popular media format has given me a few things to process. To eventually get clear about the “ethics” of talent shows as the entertainment spectacle we know them to be, would be worthwhile.Although that seems so out of reach.The gamification through public votes, intense elimination cycles and the general toll all that can take on contestants is important to explore continuously. To explore in productive ways that seek to improve the experiences of those courageous to enter.It’s not wise to just categorise talent shows as mere entertainment…
More to come.