America is a meritocracy and a democracy, at least on reality TV. The best performer on The X Factor wins a million dollar recording contract and a starring role in a Pepsi Commercial. How is “best” determined, by a vote of the viewers. Certainly, there are behind the scenes machinations, but here is one place where the poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to pursue life, liberty and happiness can do so unrestrained by race or class. Given this graph from The New York Times showing how long it takes to get from poverty even to near an average income, pinning one’s hopes on reality TV might make sense.
And since family wealth also affects SAT scores (see New York Times graph below), finding a competition not affected by class as a route to the future works well.
However, since so few people (one a year) can take the X Factor route, is it more a form of propaganda giving the audience the hope, at least for one night, that the American Dream lives and is just one soulful ballad away?