Person of the Week: Kelly Clarkson

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Kelly Clarkson performs after winning Fox's American Idol

Let's all raise our glasses to Kelly Clarkson, the power ballad queen of the land, the American Idol of the moment. She took a weary nation (or about 18 million of us, anyway) away from our collective anxiety for an hour or so each week, no Idol feat, and for this, she is our Person of the Week.

Clarkson didn't do it alone; she had help from 10,000 other contestants, as well as from three judges whose commentary and antics pushed the whole program into the realm of absurdist satire. And then there was Justin, as in Justin Guarini, her fellow finalist, who was so ridiculously good-natured that even perennially cheerful Katie Couric seemed befuddled by him; she tried (unsuccessfully) to get a rise out of him when he appeared on the "Today" show Thursday morning. Guarini just sat there, smiling his blindingly white smile, insisting Kelly was the rightful winner.

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The "American Idol" producers should have called their show "American Dream." Even Disney couldn't come up with a better story line: the 20-year-old cocktail waitress from Burleson, Texas who sings her cheerful little heart out to capture the hearts (and votes) of the 100 million Americans who cast ballots over the course of the 13-week contest.

Americans have never been averse to mindless entertainment, but has there ever been a better time for a bit of farcical fluff? The economy's shaky, we may be headed off to war in Iraq, and as we near the one-year anniversary of September 11, we are all being forced (either by our own actual experiences or by an omnipresent media campaign) to revisit the pain and horror of that day. We could all use a break. The executives at Fox were lucky enough to have hit on the perfect programming to capitalize on our emotional exhaustion, providing us with a glorified talent show and an unstinting display of Fox's trademark cheese. Just what the doctor ordered — pass the pork rinds.

All this effort was not wasted, especially not as far as the country's newest little Kellys are concerned. In the moment it took to announce Kelly Clarkson's name on Thursday night's finale, thousands of pre-adolescent dreams of fame were born, and parents everywhere grimaced as their children launched into glass-shattering renditions of "It's Raining Men."

Never fear, Moms and Dads: Clarkson, despite her cherubic appearance, has an unusually powerful voice, even if, as was reported, she was at one point reduced to drinking olive oil in an attempt to save it. Chances are, your kids will run out of steam after a few bars and go back to peacefully watching television. And if they keep insisting on showcasing their "talent," give Simon Cowell a call; a few cruel words from the reptilian British judge will surely crush your child's dreams of fame.