America’s Got Talent is all about showcasing the nation’s best and brightest singers, escape artists, magicians, comedians and other talented individuals. Given the name of the show, the expectation is that its judges and contestants will have resided in America for a significant period of time, right? That’s not exactly the case for a lot of the show’s contestants, however, and according to many viewers, this reality TV diversity is a real problem.
The phenomenon is exemplified by this year’s judging panel, which does not include a single person born on American soil. Heidi Klum is from Germany, Simon Cowell and Mel B grew up in the United Kingdom, and even Howie Mandel got his start outside of the United States (he’s from Toronto).
The contestants represented on the show are even more diverse than the judges. This isn’t exactly new; many of the best acts from previous seasons were from other countries. For example, when Kenichi Ebina won, people took issue with his Japanese heritage. Since then, many other contestants have been plagued by similar critiques, with annoyed viewers completely ignoring their amazing talent and instead choosing to focus on their ethnicity and immigration status.
The argument about who is American enough for America’s Got Talent is nothing new, but the tweets are nastier than ever this year. A few people have been content to simply gripe about the judges’ respective accents, but others have decided to shift their focus to the contestants. A handful went out of their way to insult Estonian contortionist Vello Vaher.
I can see why people want America’s Got Talent to be more representative of America, but really, inclusiveness is what America’s all about. I like that the show is just as diverse as our country. I have no problem with people travelling from afar in hopes of making it big on the show. Many would otherwise never reach a significant audience. Vaher is the perfect example — he wanted to show off his talent on a greater scale than was possible in Estonia. Is that so terrible?
I’m glad that every aspect of America’s Got Talent is diverse. It makes the show less predictable and more fun! Here’s hoping that future contestants from far off aren’t scared away by the negativity.