On this season of American Idol, contestants have to have amazing voices – or a tearjerker of a personal story. Chris Medina has both, but some are beginning to question the exploitation of his disabled girlfriend, Juliana Ramos, by the Fox hit show.
In a recent Facebook entry, Juliana Ramos’ mother wrote about Juliana’s experience watching the Oprah show, in which footage of Juliana was shown. When Oprah showed Juliana’s post-car-accident footage, Juliana “began to slap herself…. It is her way of expressing self-loathing.” [Source: “Juliana Ramos’s Mom Talks About How Uncomfortable Juliana Feels Being on Television,” Votefortheworst.com, 2/12/11. Downloaded from: http://www.votefortheworst.com/story/666901/juliana-ramoss-mom-talks-about-how-uncomfortable]. The same footage that caused “self-loathing” for Juliana, however, probably did a lot to help boyfriend Chris Medina’s chances on American Idol.
Obviously, seeing herself on television is traumatic for Juliana Ramos. Unfortunately, the story of her horrible car accident and Chris Medina’s continuing loyalty to her is pretty compelling television. Consequently, we can probably expect American Idol to show her (post-accident) every chance it gets.
Is it unethical for American Idol to show footage of Juliana Ramos alongside Chris Medina’s performances? Absolutely yes, in my opinion. Here’s why:
1. The clips cause Juliana Ramos pain. The first time Juliana was shown on camera, it was part of the public’s initial exposure to Chris Medina, so it was natural for American Idol to air the footage. The producers of Idol did not necessarily realize that it would be painful for Juliana to watch the clips of her on the show. But now the Idol producers are aware, and they should stop doing something that they know harms her.
2. The clips exploit Juliana Ramos’ story. Fans may argue whether Chris Medina is over-playing the story of his girlfriend’s tragedy, but there is no doubt that American Idol is milking it, and from what I can tell they are not paying Juliana one penny. Think about it: How many millions of dollars will the show make from the compelling story of Chris Medina and Juliana Ramos’ romance? When you write a book about someone else’s personal story, you generally pay that person for the rights to their story, but here Idol is selling Juliana’s story while paying her nothing.
3. The clips reduce a real tragedy to a sound byte. Juliana Ramos was seriously hurt in a car accident, and I am sure the 60-second clips we see on American Idol do not begin to cover the extent of the personal tragedy she has felt. By repeatedly showing snippets, as if Juliana’s story can be simplified to a 60-second time frame, Idol takes lightly what is a very real tragedy for a real human being. I am sure that is not the outcome Chris Medina intended by going on the show, but it is the outcome that seems to be occurring.
I think the easiest answer to this problem is for American Idol to offer to pay Juliana Ramos for the right to air footage of her. I do not know whether Juliana would agree to that concept, and I am not sure what a reasonable dollar amount should be, but I am absolutely certain that she should benefit in some way. I’m not saying that a cash payment is required by law, but it seems like the right thing to do. At an absolute minimum, Idol’s producers need to devote a segment of their “Idol Gives Back” episode to Juliana and do something to make a serious difference in her life.
“Juliana Ramos’s Mom Talks About How Uncomfortable Juliana Feels Being on Television,” Votefortheworst.com, 2/12/11. Downloaded from: http://www.votefortheworst.com/story/666901/juliana-ramoss-mom-talks-about-how-uncomfortable