If you watched last night’s episode of American Idol, chances are you’ve spent at least a little time today thinking about Milwaukee auditioner Chris Medina and the story of how his fiancee, Juliana Ramos, suffered a traumatic brain injury and was confined to a wheelchair just months before their wedding. Hearts melted and tear-ducts got activated as Chris shared with the Idol audience how he stuck by the side of his ailing love, becoming one of her two primary caregivers, along with Juliana’s mother. “What kind of guy would I be if I walked out when she needed me the most?” he asked.
And yet while it’s damn near impossible not to admire Chris’ commitment to Juliana, a number of TVLine.com readers and internet pundits have questioned the guy’s decision to bring his wheelchair-bound fiancee to his Idol audition, to be complicit in any way in the wave of sympathy-related votes that might be gained from sharing such a heartbreaking story with a national TV audience.
Personally, I think Chris’ story is difficult to digest at least in part because it represents the deepest, darkest anxieties that most of us tuck away in the backs of our brains and try not to acknowledge: Is there any point at which the people in my life would abandon me? What if something terrible happened that made me a potential burden to my loved ones? If some kind of accident took away some inherent physical or mental aspect of my persona, would I want my significant other to feel bound to me nonetheless?
Confronting these questions about the intersection of love and selflessness requires a level of unflinching intimacy most of us tend to avoid even with those closest to us. (Plus, as I mentioned in my Milwaukee audition recap last night, there’s the unanswered question of how aware Juliana is of her surroundings? Did she knowingly consent to the Idol cameras capturing her in this fragile state?) Indeed, it’s jarring and more than a little discomfiting to see these questions get posed in the reality TV arena, a place where even the most genuine emotions can get muddied by producer manipulation and our own deep storehouses of cynicism.
This might also explain why I’m having a hard time watching the YouTube clip of Medina singing “What Has Become of Me,” which he apparently recorded to mark the occasion of what was supposed to be his and Julia’s wedding day. (It’s embedded below.) Just tuning into the intro, I feel like a peeping tom sneaking glances into a hospital room or a therapist’s office. Was this really meant for my eyes? And even if it was, should it be? Note, I’m not even confronting the question of the artistic merits of the track, because when I start to go to that place, a voice in my head chides, “What are you? Some kind of monster?” Perhaps I am, but by virtue of auditioning for Idol, Chris himself has invited us to shine the most critical light on his voice, his body of musical work, and yes, even his personal life. Should he make it far into Idol‘s tenth season, he’ll need to brace himself for a scrutiny unlike any he’s experienced.
I’m curious how you’re feeling about Chris Medina’s audition almost a day after it aired. Did the initial airing make you cry? Do you have any negative feelings about it, and if so, who are they directed at: Idol‘s producers, the judges, or Chris himself? Do you think the guy is good enough to make the season 10 semifinals? And are you curious about the pre-Idol output of Chris’ band, The Able Body? Sound off below, and for all my Idol news and opinion, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.