Posted by: dutchimport | January 15, 2009

Hard to watch

My sister is mentally disabled. I won’t go into details now about her abilities, her life, growing up with her, and how her disability affected my family and myself. I extremely happy that my sister lives in The Netherlands with the support of my family and the health care system which is taking care of her special needs.

Here in the States this support is lacking. Many homeless people are mentally disabled, and left alone without the care they need. Mentally ill people are often left on their own in this country, alone without a support system, family, friends to look after them, and to prevent them from making the wrong decisions.

I cried last night. I felt sick to my stomach watching one of my favorite shows…my guilty pleasure. I normally start watching American Idol after the weeks of audition episodes. I start watching when there is just a small group left. Only last season was the first time I actually watched the Hollywood audition part of the show. Of course I have watched auditions before, but there’s a reason I don’t watch them, and I was reminded about this last night.

For our entertainment, for the networks ratings, we are shown the good, but especially the bad. Many of the contestants, the people standing in line forever to appear in front of the American Idol judges, thinking they are good singers. You have group of people who just want their 10 seconds of national television time, and know they are bad, but hey, they’re on TV! Many of the people who’s auditions we are shown for our entertainment, to laugh at how bad they are, exploited by the network, what they were thinking going out there to audition, the response of the jury, sometimes brutal, and tough…many of these people are obviously mentally ill.

For some reason, these mentally ill people were able to get to the city where the auditions are held, they get there audition number, and perform in front of the judges, and they truly think they are good. These people can’t be denied to can’t do that, that would be discrimination…singling out a specific group. These people did not have friends and family stopping them from getting to that point, that point to give the network the chance to feature them in a show watched by 20 million or so, to laugh at them, and be entertaint by mentally ill people who are painfully destroyed by the judges who laugh at them, and critizise them in words that can be hurtful to anybody. I like Simon Cowell’s opinion, cause he’s the only one who’s honest. But everyone can clearly make out who is mentally ill, standing there in front of them. And then after the audition they are distraught, and we are shown them walk away…alone…back to their lives. Crushed and made fun of on national television, and they don’t realize that this is being done to them. They are mentally ill. I won’t even go into the former mentally ill contestant who killed herself in front of Paula’s house.

Last year I visited my family for the Holidays. I don’t go back often, so whenever I’m back, there will be a large family gathering to celebrate some birthdays, and family members come out in large numbers because they don’t get to see me at many of these family gatherings. Last year, to my surprise, my sister performant in front of all of us. She sang a song she’s been practicing in one of here many activity groups. Groups for mentally handicapped people. My sister and her boyfriend one many medals at ballroom dancing events held for people with mental disabilities. I’m proud of her, and we, her family were proud of her when she stood in front of us and sang her song.

While watching some of the auditions last night, all of the sudden I thought about my sister singing in front of us, the joy she had for singing for the first time in front of her family, dedicating this performance to me, her brother visiting from the States. She was nervous, and is a shy person, so it was a huge deal for her and my family. We were so proud of her, and it was an awesome, touching moment.

In The Netherlands we have the same show, called simply Idols. I can’t say I’ve watched the show, and I don’t know if mentally ill people are shown during the audition episodes. Please, my Dutch friends who read this, leave me a comment to let us know if they do. I just know that my sister will never appear on that show, because she has us around, her family, her friends, her counselors who visit her every week, everyone to keep her from going on a show to be made fun of, exploited for the the rating and the money FOX is making of the show.

The exploitation is hard to watch. I cried and could not stop feeling sad and worried for these mentally ill people…seeing them walk away, not knowing how they will be dealing with the experience they just had. My sister will be safe of this embarrassing experience, the exploitations and humiliation. I wish I could say the same for all the mentally ill people trying out for American Idol.

I love my sister!

Jolanda & myself at my graduation from college

Jolanda & myself at my graduation from college



  1. I know what you feel, my younger brother is mentally handicapped too, his pride and joy is playing keyboard in the Josti-band. Sometimes he plays on them for family and close friends or when NCRV makes a broadcast of the band. He would never go to such an audition like Idols, and if he would the people around him would advice against it.

    About Idols in the Netherlands, or the X-Factor which is almost the same format I can’t tell you if handicapped people join in the auditions. The real crazy people are mostly the ones without a handicap, the tone-deaf ones.

  2. I have a cousin who is mentally handicapped as well and i would totally against it for him to go to the audition.

    American Idol is an addiction and for this year they didn’t exploit the bad/aweful singers that much.

    But i have to agree with Peter, most of them are tone-deaf, i dont see them as mentally disabled/handicap.

    I am glad that the guy who is blind made it to “Hollywood week”, he has such a beautiful voice.

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