Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Psychodrama lecturing kicks into Italian X Factor

I started to watch the Italian X-Factor a couple of years ago, only to please my girlfriend, when she got home from work and we both chilled on the couch watching tv.

At the beginning I had a total disregard for this talent-show, until last year's edition when I noticed one of the judges really put some serious energy on his scouting job.

Indeed for the first time in my lifetime as tv-watcher, I was experiencing something meaningful was taking place on the screen and it didn't affect just my emotional sphere as a viewer but also as human being.  

Marco Castoldi aka Morgan is an Italian singer, song-writer, music-composer and record-producer, whose band Bluevertigo was popular during the 90's as he embodied the archetypal figure of "Poète maudit" which apparently is not applicable nor usual in Italy' gerontocratic music scene, whose reputation is stuck on Neapulitan melodies and Opera singers like Pavarotti and Bocelli.  

Both Morgan and his former wife, Italian actress Asia Argento they are more suitable to a more lively British/American setting where "lost soul" musicians dealing with inner daemons are not only tolerated but more than welcome. 

Although Morgan's contribution to X-Factor is not only a matter of an underground musician' shenanigans nor of grungy atmospheres like My Own Private Idaho. The story is much more complex than that. 

Indeed what really impressed me about his work as X-Factor's judge, was the care and the complexity of his mentoring as talent-manager, which can be summarized in one word: Psychodrama. Or to be more specific: κάθαρσις (Catharsis). 

Morgan as X-Factor judge, is able to immediately spot his contestant's major psychological weakness and in the best mentoring tradition, he leads these kids to face their worst possible enemy: themselves. Then like in a magic show he's able to sublimate that conflict into an aesthetic joy for those who see the unraveling of the miracle, whilst the victim (the poor kid) undergoes a psychological transformation process which is a real initiation into the world of music and not only that. These wannabe-singers start a real journey inside of themselves.

As all this takes place, the viewer has the unique chance of listening to the greatest music ever, not just because of the aesthetic value of his playlist nor for his almost encyclopedic (not in the Jean Paul Sartre's meaning) knowledge of the subject or his Old fashioned intellectual appeal, but because his playlist always deals with psychological customization. 

His contestants are always fitted with the perfect song according to their personal story, their inner forces, their major unconscious needs. Like a made-to-measure suit, Morgan crafts the musical outfit around his/her customer of the moment. Basically he's a music tailor who customizes the production around the singer's psychological story and gut. In terms of professionalism and passion, he reminds me of one the greatest music producers of our times: Andre Romelle Young, a man who always starts from the human matter he's got in front of himself. Then like in a God-like production he crafts his work like a Renaissance sculptor.

In practice the viewer is being led by the hand into a psycho-mythological journey which is indeed a real psychodrama and not just a talent show. To make you an example, yesterday he assigned to his contestant Andrea Peter Gabriel's "Digging in the dirt"  The reason behind such an assignment relies on the fact this kid does not know enough about himself and his hidden potential.

What Morgan really thinks is Andrea never investigated his inner forces, especially the darker ones. That's the whole purpose of assigning such an introspective song, which under Morgan's POV it could help the contestant in facing his dark side and transform himself into something musically awesome other than frightfully meaningful for the performer himself. 

Until today, psychodrama on tv was shown to the audience as the tv final product in a sort of ready-to-eat package. It has never been shown how the whole drama was structured. Instead what Mr. Castoldi is showing to the lucky Italian speaking audience is a real lecture on how to set up but most importantly how to undergo a psycho-mythological transformation process, plus we can enjoy the final product. Did you ever think this might have happened? On tv? On X-Factor???? C'mon!!!!  

I don't think the X-Factor Production ever expected such a complex talent-managing working-pattern from any of its judges. I mean they're looking for a simple pop-star!

Besides it would be simply impossible unless you hire Roman Polanski and Phil Collins combined in one person as X Factor judge.

Also you have to consider that in order for such a transformation process to take place you need to know the basic mechanisms of Psychodrama, you have to perfectly master Aristotle's three act structure and most of all you have to know how mythology and human catharsis work. And don't forget the musical know-how.

I think the show within the show that Morgan was able to build up thanks to his genius goes well beyond the very nature of X Factor as a plain vanilla talent show. 

I never seen such a display of beauty and complexity combined and such a wise handling of sub-text, except in some rare Hollywood movies of the past.

This is a hyper-tv-show, something that still at today it has to be invented and certainly this is something that the average viewer is unable to understand nor to perceive unless he/she has a background in Humanities, Psychology with a focus on Greek Philosophy and Storytelling Theories or unless we explain the audience we are providing them The Knowledge. 

What Morgan did was indeed an outstanding work which only a real genius can do. Period. And he's doing it for free, because certainly the X-Factor's producers completely ignore what catharsis is, unless they are into storytelling like Robert McKee or they know how to apply subversion on a massive level like Quentin Tarantino. In practice Marco Castoldi wrapped X-Factor with a mythological aura, like in the Western Culture's best oral tradition. We warmly wish this approach to continue and maybe to become the X-Factor main production's attitude on a global scale. I wish Mr. Cowell is a good note-taker. 

The most important thing now is to take notice that a new height has been reached within Reality tv production and this must be a new start.

From now on, the audience would start asking for Psychodrama lecturing within every show. Why? Well because as Dostoevsky once said: "Beauty will save the world". 

Is that enough reason?

Gianluca D'Agostino

For the Italian version of this article click here

Gianluca D'Agostino worked for CNN in Washington, D.C. and for Associated Press Television in Rome and Tirana. He is mostly known for his interview to Larry King and for questioning Bill Gates on the Microsoft antitrust case. He writes for  Atlantic Free Press, Yahoo Voices, Addicting Info and