(8.26.02) This past week, my vacation was almost ruined by the devastating news that my favorite American Idol competitor Tamyra Gray was eliminated from the competition. For those few of you who have missed this summer's biggest pop-culture phenomenon, American Idol is a televised talent search for the next big expertly-produced Top-40 hit music success story. Unlike the Star Searches and beauty pageants of yesteryear, Idol ushers in a new generation of talent competitionswe, the home viewers, decide who wins, based on weekly telephone voting. All summer, we've helped narrow down the field from 30 finalists to the remaining three, as of this writing. The winner will be announced on Sept. 4, and he/she will receive a recording contract and an almost guaranteed hit single.
American Idol came to my mind when I began to ponder the significance of the Jupiter-Neptune opposition, continuing to intensify with its current indecipherable promise for eventual positive realignment. As I mentioned last week, I view this aspect as highlighting the relationship between our own individual steps toward growth and a larger, unseen, boundary-dissolving power that unites us all. With Jupiter newly in Leo, our actions turn passionate and expressive and are centered around helping us feel truly ourselves. We seek attention and affirmation for our performances of self, and we'll gladly shower love on those who give it to us. Opposing this energy is Neptune, the slow-moving dreammaker who drops a cloudy curtain around whatever he contacts, obscuring its clarity with confusion and romanticism. When the curtain finally lifts, we are more compassionate and in line with our potential fate.
On American Idol, the most successful competitors have been those who freely let their true souls come through in their weekly performances. While I'm sure they all want to win, the sign of a great performer is someone who simply delights in expressing themselves in front of an audiencea perfect symbol of the Jupiter in Leo principle. Meanwhile, the Idol performers' fates lay with the American viewing public. The performers' lives have changed, and will continue to change, in ways out of their control, due to the fanciful will of the collectivethat is, the influence of Neptune in Aquarius, the sign of social groups and the whole of humanity. It's clear (particularly since Tamyra's dismissal) that singing talent alone does not guarantee victory with the fickle Idol watchers. Instead, the winner must possess the "X factor," a term that "mean" Idol judge Simon coined to describe the elusive charismatic quality that makes someone a star. I suggest the key to star-making, in the Jupiter-Neptune sense, is the combination of a performer's "X factor" and the unpredictability of the audience's tastes (the "Z factor" perhaps?).
For our self-concerned purposes, the Jupiter-Neptune opposition teaches us to have faith that merely being ourselves to the fullest will carry us to where we need to be. None of us knows what our ultimate role in humanity will be. But we do have an innate sense of who we are. By showing ourselves to the fullest, those around usfriends, lovers, business associates, enemiesunsuspectingly nudge us toward our destinies through their reactions to us. Everyone has their part to play. And while none of us are able to design our roles in the grand scheme, somehow everything always works out perfectly (though it doesn't always seem so from singular perspectives). Our favorite competitor may not end up winning on American Idol, but perhaps she will end up more famous and successful this way. Or maybe, unforeseen circumstances in her personal life might make it strangely fortuitous that she lost. The winner, on the other hand, could end up hating fame, or overvalue its importance and turn horrifyingly shallow. One never knows until later.
Though the larger Jupiter-Neptune opposition does seem to favor faith in the power of self-expression to ultimately carry us to meaning, there is another astrological influence that can annoy our ability to do so easily or completely. We have recently entered the Sun sign of Virgo, the detail-oriented, duty-driven perfectionist. This week, Mars joins the Sun in this earthy sign, producing a desire for conscious precision and design that runs mildly counter to relaxed faith and fun-loving expression. I recognize this tension in the media debates about voting practices on American Idol and whether the producers' pre-sanctioned contractual right to change the final results for any reasons runs counter to some platonic ideal of talent-competition integrity. Come on, people. This is an entertainment show, not a legally binding election. As disconcerting as Virgoan types might find it, this will all work out the way it should. I, for one, have already grieved Tamyra's untimely Idol demise and realize that it's probably best for her. (Now let's vote off Justin!)