What writers can learn from American Idol

I’ve watched American Idol since it started. The auditions and Hollywood week are my favorite parts. However, since Simon Cowell left the show, the show has become harder and harder to watch.  This current season was breaking point. I can’t even bring myself to watch Hollywood week which is usually the most drama filled episodes of the whole season.
It was during the last episode of the auditions when lighting struck me! There is no longer a villain in the show. There are instead three characters who are all trying to be positive, reassuring, and caring main characters.  The closest the show comes to a villain is Randy Jackson and it’s a far cry from the days of Simon Cowell. There has to be a judge who has the guts to kill their darlings.
Every story needs a villain. 
Without a villain, there’s no tension, no surprises, no plot twists, no story.  This year’s auditions were some of the most bland to date. Although contestants were sometimes turned away, it often seemed as if even the blandest singers were given the golden ticket. It was eye roll inducing, as if the grand snappiness of Cowell was coming through me.  
The sob stories are even worse. Despite what American Idol thinks, you can’t force sympathy on a viewer. After the tenth kid down on his or her luck, I no longer cared. I had become immune to their tears and hardships. I wanted one judge to say that a sob story doesn’t equal talent. I can only dream of what truths Simon would’ve said to contestants this season. My heart warms at the very thought. Young people have to learn they can’t cry their way through life. It’s a tough lesson but things don’t always work out. Katy Perry said it best a few seasons ago. 
“Don’t put someone through because you feel bad for them.”
Please make Katy a judge!
Why not watch Simon’s new show the X-factor? Simon is not the villain on the show. It’s like he’s in a bizarro singing competition where he’s the nice judge. All his wonderful quips and chest rubbing ways have faded into memory. He seems uncomfortable and unsure of what to do. The auditions themselves seem less intimate and are eerily similar to America’s Got Talent. Watching X-factor is a strange and confusing experience, it’s like lord of the flies. Kids running around the forest and arguing over leadership responsibilities. Maybe if they had a conch shell the show would run smoother.
There has to be a clear antagonist who is making your hero’s journey difficult. I myself, prefer antihero’s to hero’s but that’s for another post. There has to be someone who is keeping your main character from reaching his or her goals. Make the reader shake their fist when your villain is dastardly and cheer when your MC wins. Simon Cowell was the villain on American Idol. Without him, there’s only perfect Pollyanna judges who weep when they have to do their job.
I dare you to watch one episode of American Idol this season to see what your story would look like without a proper antagonist. Watch the light criticisms peppered with praise from the judges. I predict once the show gets to the live episodes, it will echo last year’s judging. No contestant fears the judges wrath like they did with Simon. No viewer will be on the edge of their seats when the judges speak. Critiques will consist of back patting, coddling, and no plot. 
Think about your work in progress. Is the villain strong in your story? Is he or she doing their job of trying to thwart your MC from their goals? Who are some of your favorite villains?  

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