Judging the Judges

My jaw dropped while watching this week's American Idol auditions--and not at the horrible performances of contestants. I was astonished at the horrors committed by the show's judges and producers. When did it become okay to mock, bash, and cruelly tease people who clearly have social, mental, emotional, or intellectual disabilities?

It was as if the short yellow school bus pulled up in front of high school cheerleading tryouts and let the special education students out to line up, try out and be ridiculed. Some of the American Idol contestants displayed what appeared to be textbook symptoms of disorders on the autism spectrum, such as Asperger's Syndrome, which makes one oblivious to social and emotional cues. People with Asperger's have difficulty making eye contact or using appropriate facial expressions and body language.

Okay, everyone was old enough to sign a waiver authorizing the show to do what it wants with footage of them. But a minimal amount of common decency should prevent the American Idol producers and the judges from publicly mocking and taunting people who clearly are burdened with disabilities that impair their self-awareness and block them from judging their own talent. Of course everyone should have the right to audition. A person with an autism spectrum disability could be the greatest singer in the world. But if he sucks horribly yet still believes he is talented despite being humiliated by the judges, couldn't they eliminate them from the competition without hanging them out to dry from coast to coast?

Many of the most ridiculed contestants said on the air that their friends, coworkers or family had encouraged them to try out. The people who sent these vulnerable contestants to the firing squad are no better than the judges who shot them down.

The finale on Wednesday's episode said it all. They showed a montage of the ridiculed contestants singing the Pussycat Doll lyrics, "Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend Was A Freak Like Me?"

Is this what Americans want to watch? Has American popular culture regressed so much that the nation gets its jollies re-enacting an adolescent nightmare of social rejection in the high school cafeteria?

There's only one way to handle this embarrassing situation. I think the American Idol judges and producers should all be given wedgies and then stuffed in lockers.