The picture of a 13-year-old blonde girl crying helplessly in the studio audience while watching American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar charmingly butcher another unchallenging song was oddly riveting television. She was bawling as if he were clubbing baby pandas to death -- two at a time. It's a puzzlement.
I'm sure she was actually happy, and I'm equally sure she couldn't tell you exactly why she was crying. If she could just meet him, just hang out with him, just be friends with him, all her problems would disappear, she would be the most popular girl in school, her parents would suddenly understand her, she would no longer need braces, she would be forever confidant and secure.
She could tell Sanjaya anything. Sanjaya would never call her metal-mouth, Sanjaya would never let the Simon-like bullies at school tease her. Sanjaya's not scared of them.
Sanjaya would come over to her house after school and they would spend endless hours fussing with his hair. She's so embarrassed by the way her mother has decorated the house with all this "old lady Martha Stewart stuff" instead of Gwen Stefani and Lindsey Lohan posters that she's ashamed to invite any of her friends over, but Sanjaya will understand. He understands that when she gets her own place, in a year or so, it will look a lot more like her room than that awful dining room with all that old-fashioned '90s furniture her parents bought. They are practically antiques! How can they live that way?
"Have you met Fergy? What's she like? Ohh, that Simon. Someone should just give him what for. How many friends do you have on My Space? Half a million? Wow. I have, like, six.
"No, not 6 million, silly. Six. And two of them I don't really like that much. OK. Ready to look at your hair? I like to call it the 'Poodle.' What do you think? Here, hold the mirror up so you can see it in the back.
"It kind of looks like Paula Abdul's hair. That would be so now, you could go out next week with Paula Abdul's hair!
"What are you going to do after you win American Idol? You should make a movie. A movie about a 13-year-old girl who meets a big star, but their parents won't let them date because they aren't old enough. Her parents haven't got a clue. But in the end, she gets her braces removed and is really beautiful, and they run away to live happily ever after at the mall."
There are some people who think that 1 billion Indians are jamming the phone lines to vote for Sanjaya each week, or that radio host Howard Stern is sabotaging the vote just to be a provocateur, and some blame a Web site -- votefortheworst.com -- for trying to skew the vote, as Sanjaya is obviously not the best singer yet he seems to hang on each week.
But since when was American Idol about singing? Who put that silly idea into your head? The world does not need another fake diva who sounds like Mariah Carey with her hand stuck in a blender. The world does not need a younger, less talented Justin Timberlake. American Idol is about one thing and one thing only -- ratings. I think millions of crying 13-year-old girls who don't live in Bombay, who have never heard of Howard Stern and don't know about "vote for the worst" are voting again and again and again for Sanjaya because he understands them. Worse things could happen.
Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo." You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.