WATCH: Did 'American Idol' Exploit Contestant Symone Black's Tumble Off Stage?

Cheap move or brilliant ratings booster? Producers ended Wednesday's episode after the 16-year-old contestant's alarming fainting spell

As American Idol's 11th season ramps up, we're sure about one thing -- Hollywood Week always brings drama. On Wednesday night's episode, the FOX show (Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 8 p.m. ET) closed out with a contestant, Symone Black, fainting and falling off the stage. The credits rolled as crew members (and Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson) gathered around the prone 16-year-old, calling for a medic and ruminating about whether she'd hit her head. Viewers were left wondering if she was all right. Watch the clip here: 

 
Fortunately, Black turned out to be fine, though required treatment for dehydration. Allowing the show to end as a cliffhanger was a tacky move at best. But if she had been seriously hurt, would the producers have used her fall to ratings-boosting effect? Let's hope not.

On the other hand, no one made the girl faint -- producers merely captured the moment, which was a legitimate part of the show. Black's fainting spell demonstrated how stressful these auditions can be for the real people who come in off the street and step in front of TV cameras, and that's part of what makes this show so dramatic. Still, was the moment exploitative? Producers would no doubt deny it.

Throughout the years, American Idol has certainly been accused of being mean. Some critics have long complained about its practice of giving a spotlight to embarrassingly tone-deaf auditioners, especially in the show's early years. These people had no business being on stage -- except to be ridiculed by "mean" judge Simon Cowell and his carefully crafted zingers. 

There's a lot less of that on Idol these days, and obviously, Cowell has since brought his snark over to The X Factor. Last season, new judges Steven Tyler and Lopez were actually accused of being too nice.

It just goes to show that there's a fine line between drama and exploitation, and Idol doesn't always get it right.

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