And the winner is…

In the foreword to “Public Opinion” by Walter Lippman, Ronald Steel cites the author as saying people define “according to ‘stereotypes’ imposed by our culture”.  Most of the media reports regarding the final of American Idol clearly reflect this as:

The All-American, married boy next-door defeated the glammed-out, leather-clad rocker.

Or is that:

Clean-cut country boy Kris Allen knocked glam god Adam Lambert off his pedestal Wednesday night, becoming the series’ eighth title winner.

In making the choice between “flamboyant musical theater actor Adam Lambert and laid-back acoustic guitar player Kris Allen“, the 100 million votes supposedly cast reinforced a stereotype of American culture.

The ongoing issue of the MPs’ expense claims in the UK, is said to have exposed a bipartisan culture of greed in the parliament.  But, rather than leading to revolution, the British people shrug collectively as we’ve had our stereotype of politicians confirmed.

One reason why Lippman’s classic text is a must read for any public relations professional is his reflection on the role of citizens and the media – which reminds us of the “public” nature of modern communications.

The finalists on American Idol and British politicians are in the public domain, and that world defines people by stereotypes.  Whether public opinion is filtered through the media, bloggers, chatrooms or our own preconceptions (did Americans really just vote for someone like them?) – we don’t see the individual behind the conventions of whichever stereotype fits. 

Despite all the claims for online communications and social media offering more personal and unmediated channels, the public narrative is the same old stereotypes of heroes and villains, winners and losers, that have always underpinned human communications.

Although in terms of American Idol, there really were no losers in the final.  As Adam Lambert is quoted as saying: “For me it’s not really about what happened tonight, it’s about tomorrow. It’s about next.”

Or is that another stereotype, that the ‘losers’ often go onto win?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

3 thoughts on “And the winner is…”

  1. I don’t mean to be rude, but… has Heather Yaxley been abducted by aliens?

    I’m struggling with this brand extension into American Idol groupie and not taken in by the veneer of academic respectability (the Public Opinion reference).

    What’s happened to one of our most esteemed public relations educators? Have you been over exposed to celebrity-obsessed undergraduates? Have the travails of the motor industry got you down? It’s far too early to start the silly season in mid May. Get a grip!

  2. It’s marking madness. My brain is so full of literature reviews, methodologies, critical reasoning tests, planning assignments, etc etc – with zillions of hand-written exams due to land any minute. So I’ve been reduced to blogging about American Idol to save me from ranting about the appalling misuse of the apostrophe by the yoof of today or 500 words on the difference between affect and effect.

    Normal service will be resumed shortly, I promise. Britain’s Got Talent just isn’t in the same distractive category for me.

  3. I’m with you all the way (and couldn’t resist a rant about bad-on-paper undergraduates recently).

    My distraction from all this is to tease you over American Idol. Thanks for taking it in good spirit.

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