Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Gayest Show on Earth

Okay, I'll admit, I was just looking for an excuse to post this picture of American Idol contestants Chris Richardson and Blake Lewis. Apparently I'm one of the last people in the blogosphere to have discovered it being only an occasional reader of Towleroad, who posted it last week. The picture is photoshopped to death but I don't care. It makes me happy. AND it happens to tie in perfectly with an article I read this morning in the April 25th issue of Advocate magazine titled "American Idol's Big Gay Closet." (Not available online yet.)

Anyone who has been a regular viewer of Idol knows that the show can sometimes have homophobic overtones yet appeals to a huge gay audience. Last season it led to a reprimand from GLAAD of the show's producers after particularly homophobic remarks were spewed by Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson regarding a couple of effeminate auditionees. This season my biggest issue is with host Ryan Seacrest's desperate attempts to deflect rumors about his own sexuality which amounts to Seacrest and Cowell exchanging insults about the other's supposed gayness. It boils down to the locker room mentality of attacking another man's masculinity by implying that he's gay. (Because we all know there is no bigger insult to a straight man than insinuating he's gay and gays are never masculine. Right?) But frankly, Ryan, I'm not buying it. Methinks thou doth protest too much. But that's another story.

As a viewer, I would advise the Idol producers (like they'll listen to me) not to bite the hand that feeds. Everyone knows that the biggest market for American Idol is gay men and 13 year-old girls. (Incidentally, these two demographics are often the same market--I ask you, who else is buying Hello Kitty stuff?) Last night I happened to watch the results show with my 13 year-old niece, Katie who, unlike me, knew unequivocally that Sanjaya would not be in the bottom three but also remarked that she is turned off by Seacrest's constant insults hurled at Simon.

But back to the Advocate article. In it they comment on the show's large gay appeal, gay (but closeted) contestants and the frequent appearance of gay icons like last night's J-Lo and Diana Ross a few weeks ago. The show has also given rise to a whole new crop of gay icons, Kimberly Locke, Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson among them. Yet there seems to be an unspoken rule on Idol that gay contestants remain in the closet at least while they are competing on the show. Season 1's Jim Varraros confirmed as much in the article saying that when he confided to Idol producers that he is gay, he was advised to keep the fact to himself.

But some argue that delving into contestants' sexuality--strike that--GAY sexuality, would be detrimental to the show's clean-cut image. Last year when a 40-something, anonymous, online hook-up of Clay Aiken's outed Aiken with "evidence" of their liaison in order to jump start a porn career for himself (aim high!), legions of wholesome Aiken fans, known as Claymates, threatened to sue Aiken for fraud and misrepresentation for claiming to be straight.

Unfortunately, that's the climate in America today while finalists and winners of both Britain's Pop Idol and Australian Idol have come out as gay and have been virtually unscathed by the news. The UK's Will Young (Pop Idol season 1) came out immediately after winning the competition and still managed to sell over a million copies of his first single in the first week. Australian Idol's runner-up, Anthony Callea who confirmed he is gay after being accidentally outed by a radio DJ, has the highest-selling single in Australian history. As usual, the US lags shamefully behind the rest of the world where progressive social issues are concerned.

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At 3:41 PM, Blogger Joey P. said...

Excellent points.

I wonder who from the current crop will wind up coming out later? I have my suspicions -- based on "friends in the audience."

The Ryan-Simon banter has got to end. Poor Ryan: Watch closely his non-verbals toward the male contestants. I don't know what it means, but it's something to watch for. If he is gay, I feel bad that he can't be himself. I really don't think people would care one bit.

Remember: This Saturday, 10 years ago, Ellen came out on the cover of Time magazine.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Y | O | Y said...

Remember Manbeasta and her proseletyzing last week? She was out the next week. If the gays ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Red7Eric said...

"... the show can sometimes have homophobic overtones yet appeals to a huge gay audience."

This happens a lot in the gay community -- I wonder why. Is it internalized homophobia, or what?? It seems really counter-intuitive that we would repeatedly embrace those who mock and scorn us.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Joe--Yes, we've come a long way since Ellen's coming out ten years ago. Thank God. And YES, the contestant "friends" in the audience are always a dead giveaway as to who's gay and who's not. Remember Ace's entourage from last season? ;-)

Gavin--You're right, Mandisa learned the hard way the clout gay audiences have. Eat your heart out,!

Eric--Internalized homophobia may be part of the reason gays seem to overlook some of the remarks being made on a show like AI. But primarily that homophobia only comes from Seacrest and Cowell. If a contestant seems homophobic, we retaliate swiftly, as Gavin pointed out in the case of Mandisa last year. Utimately I think it's the genre of entertainment that appeals to the gay audience (variety, talent competition, pop music) which outweighs any homophobia we might sense. At least for me anyway.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous BlogBlightBuster said...

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At 10:55 PM, Blogger john said...

I'm a huge Idol fan!! I use to watch the show religiously, but this years contestants have me somewhat flabbergasted. There seems to be less talent on this year's show.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Thanks for posting the picture of Chris and Blake ... I guess I must have been in a cave somewhere since I hadn't seen it either.


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