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Summary:

Well, America, 2010’s first round of schadenfreude, courtesy of Fox, has finally come to pass. Wednesday night, the second aired episode of talent competition American Idol introduced a nation hungry for distraction from the destruction in Haiti and the late night wars to General Larry Platt. […]

Well, America, 2010’s first round of schadenfreude, courtesy of Fox, has finally come to pass. Wednesday night, the second aired episode of talent competition American Idol introduced a nation hungry for distraction from the destruction in Haiti and the late night wars to General Larry Platt.

The 62-year-old contestant auditioned in Atlanta with an original composition entitled Pants on the Ground — lyrics: “Pants on the ground / Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground” — that is just as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s a high energy performance, though, and Platt genuinely seems like a nice guy, albeit one who doesn’t quite recognize that he hasn’t been invited to perform because he stands a real chance of making it into the next round of the competition. (In fact, he was never even eligible — the show’s age cut-off is currently 28.)

Pants on the Ground is notable because it’s the first real viral hit from the season so far, one that not only has penetrated YouTube with over four thousand illicit versions, but other shows.

For example, last night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Fallon covered the song in the guise of Neil Young, complete with harmonica interludes. And the 96.1 Kiss FM Morning Freak Show put together a remix that actually transforms the song into a pretty tight hip-hop track, proof that a solid bassline makes all the difference in the world.

However, as potentially entertaining as this rising meme is, I can’t help but find it depressing. Much like William Hung, whose cover of She Bangs made him famous but also made him the laughingstock of the nation, any success Platt receives from this appearance will be tainted by mockery.

There’s value to American Idol‘s championing of young singing talent during later rounds of the show, but the early audition stage of the competition — where you’re far more likely to get some screen time if you’re willing to completely humiliate yourself on camera — frankly just makes me feel dirty. So don’t look for me to complain here about the fact that the American Idol website is poorly designed, or that it’s hard to pull up functioning embed codes for videos. I’ll save that for later, when I’m able to stomach watching the show.

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  1. Embarrassed itself? The song is funny, catchy, and yes has gone viral. So I’d say AI has done it’s job.

  2. i say lighten up. it was fun, and a tad bit inspiring for someone who’s doing this at 62. and the covers were funny, especially fallon’s.

  3. Thanks for the write-up, Liz. Otherwise I don’t think I ever would have seen this clip. But I can’t help notice this guy Platt is refreshing, not depressing. The fact American Idol is still on air would seem more depressing to me. Platt is no Hung and Hung is no Platt. And if we all need a “distraction”, then we should all try reading a book next disaster. Those LCD’s and iPhones have Off buttons for a reason, ya know.

    By the way, why is it so easy to cover the Haiti disaster for Fox News and CNN, but no one can seem to drop food, water, and civil defense to the people?

  4. Liz Shannon Miller, You should know that General Larry Platt touched on a nerve in the nation with his song pants on the ground. If you took it as a type of Amos and Andy performance you couldn’t be further from the truth. He touched on the buffoonery that many older adults feel about the thugged out style of wearing your pants way below the waist, jail house style. General Larry Platt actually got his “General” nickname from prominent civil rights leader Reverend Hosea Williams, who was impressed by his valiant efforts in the ’60s, when he was a teenage crusader for the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia. Bet you didn’t know he was a student of Dr. Martin Luther King and remains a community activist to this day, working with the United Youth Adult Conference (a volunteer organization set up to find missing children in the Atlanta area) and fighting public foreclosures. This is no William Hung. He was even beaten while participating in the infamous “Bloody Sunday” protest march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. So do some research get a clue for he is the only one now speaking out about a style many folks just don’t like in our youths.

  5. Liz Shannon Miller Friday, January 15, 2010

    Thank you all for your comments, and John, I did actually come across some of that infornmation in my research, though I couldn’t verify it prior to print. The problem is that Platt was not treated with the dignity his age and life story deserve on the show, and his accomplishments have not been singled out. If you feel that he was treated with respect by the “American Idol” producers, then that’s totally fine — but I can’t agree.

  6. I absolutely agree, Liz. Laughing, pointing and making light of Platt’s song and message is not respectful. They put the song on their air because they knew that Fallon and the millions of viewers who would see it would have a good laugh at (not with) Platt at his the expense.

  7. Much respect to you Liz, for Platt may not have received the dignity his age commands at the hands of the “American Idol” producers, and yes some my laugh at him as you say. But his message is clear, yes. Pull your pants up from around your ankles. Kids can’t get a corporate job dressing like that or the respect they should get. Some folks in parts of the country don’t have a clue what pants on the ground is all about so they laugh at him. Not even knowing why they are laughing. And yes some have never seen the hip hop style of dress where you show your underwear by wearing the pants on your thighs. But you know Liz, it doesn’t matter. Respect will come to him no matter what, his message is clear and change in style is coming. Mark my words. I’d wear a bozo costume if I needed to if I need to communicate the dangers of aids. I say let them laugh as long as the message is clear. You rock Liz.

  8. Think about it. The whole thing was staged. There’s NO WAY an audition that size would let in people are obviously over 28 for any reason. They already have too many auditioners to listen to, so they wouldn’t even let someone with no chance to get in the door of the waiting room… unless they had a reason. And you know the reason will never be to really listen to them sing, since they won’t allow anyone over 28 into the contest.

  9. Eric Andersen Friday, January 15, 2010

    Just want to let you know, there’s a bit more to the story: Larry Platt played a role in the civil rights movement, here’s an article about it:

    http://j.mp/7LaCt8

    And there’s more…quoting from the article: The Georgia General Assembly proclaimed Sept. 4, 2001, Larry Platt Day in Atlanta, because of “his great energy and commitment to equality and the protection of the innocent and for his outstanding service to the Atlanta community and the citizens of Georgia.”

  10. Eric Andersen Friday, January 15, 2010

    Ah, just noticed the other comment on this as well, and your response. I think the producers felt that giving him his “15 minutes of fame” would be something uplifting for him, and I believe it was. I don’t think he came away feeling ashamed, regretful, or the laughingstock of the country, but rather excited and proud that he could spread his enthusiasm and energy with America!

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