Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

What Constitutes Meaningful Participation?, Part 1

Posted by nathanpowers22 on March 29, 2017

I found the essay “Soulja Boy and Dance Crazes,” interesting, but after completing a project that focused so heavily on similar themes—even discussing the song and dance, specifically—I thought I would write about something else. Going back to a discussion about soap operas in “The Moral Economy of Soap Opera Fandom,” I honestly wasn’t expecting any new insights into pop culture, but this article made me think about similar trends in network television. The greatest example I thought of as I read about the three factors dictating fans’ sense of ownership, specifically the line about how “[m]any long term fans have been invested in their show(s) longer than the people creating them,” was the pop culture juggernaut American Idol. I was never a huge fan of Idol, but my mother was, and I usually enjoyed watching the first week of auditions (mostly for the off-key and/or outright bizarre performances). However, what was interesting to me over the years was seeing participants that grew up watching the show transition into being on the show itself, especially considering how much the show must have changed since they became fans. While the frequently changing panel of judges (post-Paula and -Simon) may not have been enough to deter these fans (or at least diminish their desire to participate), it almost definitely must have contributed to the show’s decline over time. Additionally, fans always had a voice in terms of deciding the winners in late-season competitions, but Idol may have failed to provide “a sense that [fans’] opinions could make a real difference” because their “complaints and concerns” could never be voiced beyond votes for their favorite contestant. Considering this idea in conjunction with the break in continuity associated with variable judge selection, fans may only have remained attached to Idol because it had a long history compared to other reality TV shows.

This article provides a more in-depth analysis of what contributed to Idol’s waning popularity:



2 Responses to “What Constitutes Meaningful Participation?, Part 1”

  1. katemilner9 said

    I like that you pointed out how, while many people see fan participation as a bonus, to some shows survival, it’s a necessity. American Idol needed that interaction to last, and it makes you wonder how many shows could have been saved if they had just looked to the fan every now and then.

  2. emilyfalicaa said

    I didn’t even think of TV show participation being so important. It is on a whole new level when you think of game shows and TV competitions. To survive they literally need you on stage doing the participating. And when it comes to your participation it is so much bigger than just a dance craze. That is probably the most meaningful form of participation.

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