Little girl crying over Sanjaya: Teen idol and bishonen phenomena

First posted at Jersey Goddess, March 2007, but had to replace video. Posting here in preparation for the 2009 American Idol, that includes at least one Bishonen.

I know why the little girl cried.

little girl cries american idolOkay, so the little blonde girl, Ashley Ferl (Ashley’s story), cried for Melinda Doolittle too, which proves nothing. Melinda’s good. And at the end when they brought the girl up on stage, she cried over all the American Idol contestants; well, she’s young and stricken by stars, but did you see her the first time the cameras caught her as she cried over Sanjaya Malakar tonight (<--recap)? He performed "You Really Got Me Going" by British group The Kinks.

The girl appeared to be about 10 or 11 years old (I’ve since learned she’s 13). They asked her did she like Sanjaya. She shook her head to a definite “Yes!” (This would be a good time to read my article on child temperament. Some are more excitable than others.) The little blonde girl’s probably too young to vote for American Idol without her parents’ permission, but America has millions of teenage girls, I’m sure, who affect AI voting and who probably worship Sanjaya.

“I’ve been saying it. I’ve been saying it. Miguel, ain’t I been saying it?” (a quote from the movie Independence Day).
Yes, I’m going to quote myself on Sanjaya.

sanjayaWhat I’ve been saying is that American Idol contestant Sanjaya is bishonen. While he’s not necessarily extremely capable, a trait associated with the Japanese anime concept of bishonen, he is a beautiful boy, which is a required Bishonen trait.

And it’s not just Japanese girls that like bishonen/pretty boys. American girls have a thing for them too. My daughter tells me young girls come into her bookstore all the time to buy anime and manga about Bishonen males. When it comes to music, the bishonen appear in the form of male teen idols. When was the last time you saw a teen idol who wasn’t good-looking?

Many teen idols are pretty, and they aren’t necessarily the best singers or performers. Sanjaya is ripe for the teen idol worshiping crowd; he appeals to young girls, period.

I didn’t just say this tonight after I saw the little girl crying so desperately over him on AI. I also said it in my comments last week at the Elisa’s recap of AI at Blogher:

I think Sanjaya is still there because he looks like a teen idol. As young girls in Japan adore bishonen males, American teen girls like pretty boys, and since young girls have telephones attached to their earlobes, they vote for Sanjaya. That’s all conjecture on my part. (from last week’s comments at Idol Recap)

That little blonde girl crying tonight reminded me of young girls at concerts when their idols perform or descend to the tarmac from an arriving jet.

We’ve seen this madness with the young Elvis, and an even younger Michael Jackson as well as with his brothers as The Jackson Five; we’ve seen it with the Beatles back in the day, and Prince also (young Prince photo), who is still pretty, plus Fabian and Donny Osmond. We’ve even seen it with David Cassidy and also his brother Shaun Cassidy, remember them? We’ve seen it more recently with little girls screaming over boy bands like NSync.

bobby shermanAnd of course, Bobby Sherman was quite the pretty boy. I wasn’t into Bobby or the Cassidy boys much, but I had friends who were.

An article at talks about teen idols and male beauty:

1. Male beauty. Without these boys, we might have thought that the boys that we grew up beside in grade school & in the neighborhood were healthy & attractive kids. But once we’d seen the teen idols, with their straight white teeth, their symmetrical cheekbones and their blow-dried hair, we realized physical perfection is attainable & that we should treat any man who did not live up to those standards as if he were second-class goods. In order to deserve such beautiful men, of course, we would have to become their female equivalent. Thus, obsession with ideal standards of beauty led to self-examination and … well, girls, you know.

2. Obsession and the cult of celebrity. Once, we actually believed that after the TV was turned off, or the song stopped playing on the radio, it was OK to stop thinking about the actor or singer. We’d already rewarded him with our attention & the transaction had been successfully completed; we should have been able to get on with our lives. We didn’t know, until trained properly, that we were supposed to keep thinking about him, that we should purchase objects with his face printed on them, that we should want to read about him, learn about his personal life. Teen idols taught us proper merchandising and consumption and People-magazine-reading habits. (Ape Culture)

If you want to see real teen idol mania, look at the fans on this video of the Beatles singing “Twist and Shout.” (The OutKast music video “Hey Ya” spoofs this phenomena.)

The Beatles are an exception under the teen idol mania banner, as are Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Prince: they all later transcended teen idol status to become mega-adult stars for many years beyond their youth.

Sanjaya’s performance was much better tonight. He’s really trying to tap into the Bishonen trait of charisma, but I still don’t think he should win. Some speculate that a website called may be influencing votes and contributing to Sanjaya’s avoiding dismissal. Click this link for video at According to the video story, Howard Stern is among people encouraging people to vote for Sanjaya.


Also click here for CelebTV video of “Sanjaya’s Sob Story” and other clips of last night’s performances on American Idol (added March 21).

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