Full Show Index
Advertise With Us
Write For Us
RNO Roundtable: Should ‘American Idol’ Have an Age Limit?by RealityNewsOnline Staff -- 01/28/2003
View Printable version of this article
You may have recently heard about a lawsuit filed against American Idol producers for age discrimination. Drew Cummings, a lecturer at a Florida community college who is 50 years old, says the show’s rules against people above the age of 24 violate federal age discrimination laws. He said age should play no role in becoming the American Idol and even cited statistics to show that a majority of record sales and concert revenues come from artists over the age of 40.
A debate on the merits of his lawsuit – and the age limit in general – ensued in the RealityNewsOnline writers’ lounge. After all the thrown chairs were put back and a new coffee maker had been ordered to replace the one that was broken (we won’t go into the gory details), we decided that perhaps a better way to settle this question was a new RNO Roundtable.
So that’s what we did. Below you will find responses from several different RealityNewsOnline writers (David Bloomberg, C. Brian Devinney, Brian James, and Peggy Keller – in alphabetical order) addressing the following questions:
Does this guy's argument hold merit at all? And should there be age restrictions on people to participate in American Idol?
Let’s cut to the chase. Does this guy’s argument have any merit? No. It’s their show, they should be able to do what they want. He doesn’t like it? Fine. Don’t watch. Boycott the advertisers. Throw a hissy fit. But don’t freaking file a frivolous lawsuit like this. Don’t the courts have enough real work to do? Second, should there be age limits? In a perfect world, no. But then in a perfect world singers would be judged on their singing, not on how well they bop around the stage in a skin-tight outfit that they are almost wearing.
Just to be clear – the above two statements are not contradictory. Just because I don’t happen to agree with somebody doesn’t mean I think they should be sued about it. I was annoyed last season when Simon booted out one woman just because she was overweight. I am hoping he will not make the same mistake again this year. But if he does continue to have that particular blind spot, do I think he should be sued? Again, no. It’s their show, their choice. I’m free to change the channel.
Let’s dig a little deeper. First, let’s point out that American Idol is not the only show that has a maximum age and also offers a prize. How many 50-year-olds have we seen on Road Rules? Are they forbidden from applying or just weeded out early? Does it really matter either way? Are we going to say that MTV has to start casting people completely outside their demographic? That would be ridiculous. But that’s the same thing that applies here.
So what about those demographic arguments? What about Cummings’ claims regarding how many albums are sold by older artists and the like? To that I simply say: Who cares?
Yes, who cares? It's not up to him to determine who American Idol’s target audience should be. If the producers want to alienate a segment of their audience, that's their decision. But I can tell you that if my e-mail is any indication, everybody from teenagers (and below) to grandmothers watched the first American Idol, even with the age restrictions.
Let me provide some examples that have nothing to do with show business. Before anti-smoking regulations took hold in many restaurants (and even now in restaurants that consider one table without an ashtray to be a “non-smoking section”), I dealt with the problem in a simple way. If an establishment allowed smoking in a way that I didn’t like, I didn’t go there. Wow. What a concept. I didn’t sue them or demand that they cater to me. I just didn’t go. They were the ones losing business. The same is true of a local business owned by a guy who has had multiple drunk driving offenses, but kept getting off somehow. I didn’t want to support somebody like that. So what do I do about it? I don’t eat there. Furthermore, I tell other people why I don’t eat there. The same is true of businesses with owners who hold political positions I don’t like or those that have hiring procedures I don’t agree with. It really is quite simple, and it doesn’t clog up the court system.
So if I really felt that American Idol was being discriminatory in their process, I wouldn’t watch. Furthermore, I wouldn’t cover the show – except perhaps to rip on them for being that way.
If this guy has any legal footing whatsoever, I have to wonder what’s next. Will the Miss America pageant (and other similar ones) be sued because they only accept women of a certain age and marital status – not to mention gender? Will Bob Hope sue because he can’t get a role as a five-year-old in a movie? Maybe I should sue because they actually base American Idol on talent and I consider myself to be singing-impaired (I guarantee a jury would agree with that).
The lawsuit is frivolous and should be thrown out with prejudice. Cummings should be made to pay the producers’ legal bills as well, to discourage this type of thing in the future.
C. Brian Devinney:
Should there be an age limit to be a contestant on American Idol – no. However, are the odds stacked against someone of more advanced years being on the program – yes.
American Idol is one of the only reality programs on TV that offers a prize but has a maximum age restriction. The belief the producers of the show are working under is that only singers between the ages of 16 to 24 are worthy to compete to be considered an “American Idol.” Does this mean that performers who are past the age of 24 are over the hill and should quit performing? Should this person (or band for that matter) just hang it up because there is no chance in the world of them breaking through into the music business at their advanced age?1 2 3 Next-->
View Printable version of this article