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Idol thoughts...and rants

Idol thoughts...and rants


Singling out homophobia on American Idol overlooks the latest season's most disturbing aspect--it's just plain mean!

American Idol is homophobic. There, I said it. Now GLAAD can stop debating it, Fox can stop denying it, and everyone can stop acting as if it's a surprise to anyone. I'll qualify that by saying American Idol is as homophobic as any show hosted by Ryan Seacrest can be. Come on, he may not be admittedly gay, but he is by far the most metrosexual man on the planet.

Of course it's homophobic when a judge tells a male contestant that he should shave his face and wear a dress, or when the show previews promote how the gender of one contestant is not readily identifiable and then have a judge simply blurt out, "Are you a girl?" Yes, telling male contestants they look and sound like Sylvester Stallone's younger sister or the Incredible Hulk in a dress is homophobic. What's worse, it's downright mean and not even very good television. But these are not the halls of Congress, where far worse things are done to gays and lesbians, but the airwaves of Fox, where snide patter is par for the course--so why is everyone so surprised?

I've been asked this year to be an Idol correspondent by Bill Press on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, by WOAI News 1200 in San Antonio, and of course by KGO-AM 810 in San Francisco. So I'm paying attention. And what I've found is that the audition shows are no longer about singing at all. They have become fully sanctioned freak shows set up to allow America and the world to laugh at others in the cruelest of playground fashion. These shows are not merely homophobic; the judges and indeed the entire production in its final edited cut repeatedly make fun of every stereotype, every shade of individual, every human foible or oddity, and every difference or any uniqueness that any of the hapless contestants may possess. And more often than not, the pronouncements of the judges are comparable to the ramblings of someone who has a disease that prevents the brain from censoring whatever first wants to pop out of the mouth. All barriers to good taste, let alone any spirit of fun and togetherness, have been stripped away for something one step short of Survivor meets Star Search.

And America likes it that way. So stop all the babbling about how mean or homophobic American Idol has become. It's the least of our worries. What we need to be concerned about is how the show's current season reflects the mood of the country--and most certainly the spirit of American politics right now.

Never before in our history has it been more chic to be mean, or have the politics of character assassination been more prevalent (on both sides of the political aisles, thank you very much). Nor has propriety ever been at such a low point. In a time when war heroes can be called cowards and spin is accepted for news, anything is possible. And what the hell should we expect from a talent show, when the mainstream network news only scratches the surface of issues, when the "C" in CNN seems to stand more for "Christian" than "Cable," when politicians on C-SPAN maintain that same-sex marriage would destroy the very institution of marriage while just a few channels away couples are swapping wives or a group of fawning women tries to snare a rich bachelor--and such behavior is not only acceptable but highly rewarded.

American Idol believes it's giving America what America wants, and it got that idea from what America watches and the very tone of the country. All we really need from American Idol is to discover some great singers. I love Bo Bice--have his new album. Love Kelly Clarkson too. So what? Cheesy? Maybe, but I love a good pop star. And at its best American Idol can give us that. But at its worst it takes sport at the very thing that drives most people: their dreams. Crushing people has once again become a spectator sport, just as it was in ancient Rome. Except this time the participants are willing. It's no longer good enough to be better than someone; being better means destroying the competition, not just competing.

As for GLAAD and the demands for Idol's producers to meet with them, sit down and shut up, please. We don't need to fight this battle. The public knows when someone steps over a line. Whether it was on my talk show or just in conversation, most people I've spoken with realize that some of the judges, namely Simon and Randy, went too far (Paula's trying to be good). We don't need to point out blatant homophobia to America; viewers aren't that ignorant about it anymore. And when something is just plain mean, people pick up on that a lot more. So let them fight this battle for us--the good, middle-of-the-road America that gave the first few Idol shows this season a resounding "that was uncalled for." Those same viewers will desert the show if it stays mean and doesn't remember it's a talent contest, not a night with Don Rickles.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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