Erik Rutherford

“I’m Unique! Woooooooo!”

Sarah Goldberg, “American Idol Audition” (American Idol, 2009)

Personality is the individual socialized, says Durkheim. Amazing how well Sarah Goldberg reveals the prevailing modes of being in the world. She’s a narcissist by inheritance. Countless derived guises of self-awareness compete at every moment for expression, binding her very power to think while supplying the disjointed substance of her persona.

The celebrity she wants to have (there is nothing else to want) is already alive inside her. By wanting it she achieves it, at least provisionally. She does not think to emulate any one hero. It is enough to cloak herself in dreams of invulnerable stardom.

Achievement molds, desire without fulfillment warps. Alone, she hardly discerns her own poses from those of the celebrities. TMZ, Entertainment Tonight and People have become foundational narcissistic supports.

But the world is unfair. The gatekeepers will not send her to Hollywood. So she turns with terrifying ease into a martyr — martyr to her own beautiful and commendable dreams: “I just wanted to be the next American Idol…” Words to put her beyond reproach, to justify her inability to sing. She has been taught to value herself, to claim her personal rights; she has been taught that it is enough to aspire.

Once the scene is played out, she is left to seethe against the injustices of the world, and her coarsest stuff pours forth. But she is always safe against rejection. Infusions of approval are a dime a dozen. Self-pity is the sweetest emotion; it runs through her like adrenalin and she is libidinally eager to mourn for herself and rage at her judges, who are everywhere.

Paula and Randy have betrayed her, of course they have (and she’d thought they were friends!). They have betrayed her just like her last boyfriends and for the same reasons: They are corrupted and too selfish to give her the attention she is entitled to.

Amazing too how familiar this person is, born in 1986, even to those of us who are older and who go light on TV. We are all, in some way, entangled in the same stuff, which is also why this fantasy version of the audition is strangely joyful.

American Idol, “Sarah Goldberg Mashup: ‘The Real Audition'” (2009)

-Erik Rutherford

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Erik Rutherford is the creator and editor of Ryeberg and a sometimes contributor. He's written for radio, newspapers, magazines, and the big screen. More about him here.