*When something rises to a philosophically significant level of socio-cultural import, I write about it. And this year’s American Idol production defines the middle of our mass-media bell curve. This is one of the rare occasions in which popular entertainment rises to the level of fine trans-global public art.It’s clear to me that mass media and popular entertainment are the dominant art forms of the 21st Century. Acknowledging this requires a restructuring of our aesthetic conceptions toward an understanding of large-scale collaborative spectacle as the dominant paradigm of our postmodern world.Over 63 million votes established the soulful Taylor Hicks as our iconographic paragon of contemporary performance. This fact inspires me toward a greater acceptance of the value of the aesthetic will of the people.American Idol’s two final contestants, Taylor Hicks and Katherine McPhee, represented pop culture polar opposites. Katherine is a valley girl born and bred in a Hollywood suburb. Besides having the requisite vocal talent and exquisite appearance of the standard starlet, McPhee is expert in sexy poses, toothpaste-commercial smiles, and pouty coolness to which we’re so accustomed in mass media. On the other hand, Hicks, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, reflects the presentation and values of the majority of American citizens. The final contest was a duel between the ideal and the real.Aesthetics exposes a culture’s conception of the beautiful and desirable. Wednesday’s finale, in which the victor of the competition was revealed, exhibited a contest between the coolly presented and the soulfully rooted. In this instance, America chose what’s most real – inner vs. outer talent and beauty, the heart over the body, and the ineffable soul over the physical self. As an observer of contemporary culture, I’m encouraged by this turn of events. Hollywood is an interesting place to visit but I’m proud to live in Hicksville.*Image from graycharles.com.