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Melody Breyer-Grell Headshot

Please Don't Feed the Narcissist: The Fantasia Barrino Follies

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Here I am, writing another piece regarding an American Idol spawn, and hating myself for it. In a world full of pressing global emergencies, beautiful art and great Chinese restaurants, why am I doing this? I resolve that this will be my last one.

When Fantasia reached the finals of 2004's competition I was blissfully ignorant 'til my phone rang and I was commanded by my cultural advisor, Peter R., to view her pronto, as she was the "new greatest thing." I was immediately unimpressed. I felt she had rare vocal talent but was excessive and insincere. Her over the top, affected, raspy high register set off alarm bells and seemed to me that she had no core in her singing or personality. But IMHO, as the kiddies say.

After winning the show, having hit recordings, playing Broadway (The Color Purple) and starring in a reality show, it seemed as if Fantasia had the world on a string. But yesterday, following a suicide attempt, she stated:

" I didn't have any fight in me. I didn't care about anything. I just wanted out [...] At that moment, I wanted out. I wanted it to be over with - all of it, all of that [expletive].

What did she want out of? A career that one in a billion can have even after she did everything she could to ruin her voice? Did she want a way out of being a mother leaving her child alone feeling abandoned the rest of her life? Was she clinically depressed? It seems she had an affair with a married man and was overwhelmed by the attention she was getting - or not.

Why should I care about this Idol? Perhaps I would have left it alone if she (or the staff at American Idol) had not used her alleged religious faith and her holy single motherhood card as her raison d'être. Just because she fashioned herself as a gospel singer/wailer did not mean she was ever singing for God, just for celebrity. Perfect - in an Oprah influenced world where feigned emotion works as a palliative for people who are unable to experience anything authentic.

In a taped interview at church, just two weeks after vocal cord surgery,(please check out this link, it is surreal!) she got on the stage and whispered dramatically and gave of herself so completely to her flock that she even sang just a bit for them risking her recovery, God bless her. The creepiest of all was when she put her arms around a group of small children and offered them golden nuggets of timeless advice.

A great many mental health practitioners feel there is no easy cure for clinical narcissism (surprisingly, the condition is not recognized by the afflicted). But what happens when the public gets involved with the afflicted? Allegedly a very high percentage of entertainers and politicians are afflicted by this condition. Seduced by TV, movies and music, we put ourselves in the hands of these people every day. We feed them literally and figuratively. Is it an addiction on our part; are we as sick as they are?

I believe we are (at least in my case). We make icons out of a Tiger Woods, Rudy Guiliani or Bill Clinton and are always shocked, shocked, when they are caught with their pants down.

Why do we do this, why are these people so irresistible to us and why do we do it over and over again? As I was having a psychobabble session with a pal of mine today I was going over this phenomenon again and again. Pontificating like a park bench Freud I spewed that all these people represent our parents, those original "Idols" of ours, who eventfully became human to us and have disappointed us in their mortality.

Worshiping people as idols is so part of the human condition that it is even a cliché to talk about it, but this Fantasia situation had forced me to speak. We have a built-in resistance to recognizing the narcissists as a danger to us because we need them as we needed our parents. They make us feel whole. Until that inevitable moment of truth. "Can you believe that Governor Spitzer, of all people blah, blah, blah." Even the newscasters were dumbfounded regarding this solid citizen's escapades with a prostitute.

I have been in cahoots with these folks since I decided that TV should be my main solace in a world that I wanted to escape from - filled with bed bugs in theatres to having my luggage trashed at the airport because I did not take off my shoes fast enough.

I was especially inspired by my first wide screen plasma TV. It almost worked for a while in those halcyon days of the X- Files, Battlestar Galactica, General Hospital and the like. But becoming dependent on TV is no longer working for me. My favorite shows are canceled while they are still good, or left on well after they jump the shark. Verizon does not (last time I checked) have Turner Classic Movies in HD. I have heard all the operas, watched all the Bergman movies, and fear there will never again be a new Star Trek spin-off.

Perhaps I can stop feeding the Narcissists and avoid all media completely --- except for Hoarders. At least the that show scares me enough to turn off the tube and clean up my semi-cluttered apartment. Maybe I could become an exercise addict (not likely) or perform charity work, perhaps distributing TV's to the needy.