I DON’T WATCH AMERICAN IDOL.
Show’s almost over now. So I guess I missed my chance.
Although I’ve spent absolutely no time watching American Idol, I am well aware of some of the show’s winners and contestants: Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert, Taylor Hicks, Katherine McPhee, Sanjaya, Chris Daughtry, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Fantasia Barrino, Bo Bice….
You get the idea.
Heck, I even know about William Hung.
I wish I could forget that guy.
Honestly, I am still mystified how I know about these people.
Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s because I watch TV all day.
Now, I know that some folks think that a TV show like American Idol is the epitome of mindless entertainment (mindless entertainment is our business), but even in the most mindless entertainment there may still be a philosophical nugget to be found.
A philosophical nugget like when a former American Idol contestant releases a song quoting Friedrich Nietzsche.
First off, if you’re unfamiliar with German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Nietzsche famously said in Twilight if the Idols (1888) “What does not destroy me makes me stronger”.
In German, that phrase would be Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.
Nietzsche wrote Twilight of the Idols in response to what he saw was the spread of decadent and nihilistic values in Europe. Nietzsche blames Christianity for convincing people to believe that strength and power are immoral and that weakness is a virtue. Nietzsche argues that society needs a transvaluation of values (he wanted to throw out life-denying values of Christianity in favor of what Nietzsche described as life-affirming values).
On the subject of Christianity, Nietzsche wrote
Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in “another” or “better” life.
Nietzsche also wrote…
This eternal accusation against Christianity I shall write upon all walls, wherever walls are to be found – I have letters that even the blind will be able to see… I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct or revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough, – I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race…
Nietzsche wanted a return of strong leaders like Julius Caesar and Napoleon.
Unfortunately for Nietzsche, Christianity is still around.
Apparently, God’s not dead.
Not that any of that matters when paraphrasing Nietzsche, anyway.
Although Friedrich Nietzsche died over a century ago, he remains a popular (and oft misquoted) philosopher.
Nietzsche’s influence is everywhere.
…including this guy’s T-shirt.
Have you seen Fight Club?
The Big Lebowski?
Listen to David Bowie?
If you have, then you’re plenty familiar with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Like I said, I haven’t watched American Idol. But, when Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson released her fifth album Stronger in 2011, one song not only confirmed the unavoidable, god-like omnipresence of American Idol contestants, but also confirmed the unavoidable, omnipresence of Friedrich Nietzsche paraphrasing in popular culture.
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”.
In the hit song, Kelly Clarkson sings,
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Stand a little taller. Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone. What doesn’t kill you makes you a fighter…”
She also sings, “You didn’t think that I’d come back. I’d come back swinging. You tried to break me but you see”.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche wrote
Behold, I teach you the overman. The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poison-mixers are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying and poisoned themselves, of who the earth is weary: so let them go.
Ok, so maybe they don’t mean exactly the same thing.
Kelly Clarkson’s self-empowerment anthem is all about resilience and overcoming haters, not necessarily about overthrowing Christianity.
But listen: even though Friedrich Nietzsche and Kelly Clarkson aren’t talking about the same thing, the fact that, in 2011, a song by a popular artist quotes Friedrich Nietzsche AND that the phrase has remained popular more than one hundred years after it was written, proves that philosophy is still relevant in our popular culture.
So take that, Marco Rubio.
….At least relevant enough for the title of a Kelly Clarkson song.
Friedrich Nietzsche. The Birth of Tragedy. 1872 Trans. Walter Kaufmann. p. 23.
Friedrich Nietzsche. The Antichrist.
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”. Composers: Jorgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin, and Ali Tamposi. (From the album Stronger ).