Brett Abrams

American Idol: Part Four

Filed By Brett Abrams | May 25, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Media
Tags: Adam Lambert, CBS, Clay Aiken, Elton John, Gay Lesbian and Bisexual, Larry Craig, Washington Post

Like many others, Adam Lambert's loss on Tuesday spurred thoughts about eyeliner, gayness and cultural acceptance. Two friends commented that they "were not surprised, just as they would not have been surprised but were disappointed, as they would have been if McCain had won the Presidential Election.

I enjoyed Alex's queer music piece on this site from a few days ago as one way to deal with disappointment. My own cynical response was, thank God he doesn't have to crow that he's going to Disney World and Lambert doesn't have to sit on the hood of Ford's latest model and shill. However, seeing a guy in blue eyeliner posed across the hood of the car a la Michelle Pfeiffer in the Fabulous Baker Boys would have been a cultural watershed!

My friends clearly thought Adam lost due to his image vis-a-vis Kris Allen's Middle America, teenybopper appeal. Republican strategist Todd Harris went on CBS's The Early Show the day before the vote and framed it in terms of red and blue states. He argued that "You've got these more liberal elites who live on each coast, represented by Adam, and then Kris represents what those on the coast refer to as the flyover states."

This response made me more intrigued by Out Magazine editor's Aaron Hicklin's opinion piece in the Washington Post's Sunday section this morning.

Hicklin noted the continued existence of the closet in the worlds of Hollywood and in the entertainment worlds. Certainly, there is significant truth to this. Despite the actions of Ellen Degeneres and Rupert Everett (who he does not mention) and Clay Aiken and Elton John in the music sphere, there are limits to the number of people who have exited the closet and some real and perceived constraints constructed by both of these industries (note the homophobic questions that James Franco faced about men kissing in Milk when he appeared on talk shows.)

However, I was disappointed by the article for a few reasons. As Alex's Queer music Friday series observes, there is a whole arena of queer music. With this platform, why not take the opportunity to discuss some of the many people in the industries who are out? Rufus Wainwright and Pansy Division may lead the parade, but check out this website.

I thought the article's reference to politicians such as Larry Craig, was an intriguing link about the Hollywood and Washington closets. However, it also made me think we need to be careful about who we consider gay, lesbian, queer, and someone who has sex with a member of the same sex. Doesn't a person have to embrace the culture and lifestyle of queer to be queer? Similarly, to be lesbian, gay or bisexual? Isn't such an acceptance a critical component of being and significantly different from craving a sexual activity with a person of your sex?

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Sure, we have to be careful about who we assume might be gay, lesbian, trans, queer or bisexual in the world of the gitterati. Honestly I tend to wallow in the "gay ghetto" of entertainment merely because of a preformers perceived sexuality. The last time I even watched AI was the last episode of whatever season it was when Clay lost to Ruben. My reasoning is that I spent more than twenty five years of my life translating the straight world's entertainment into gay terms and now that I don't necessarily have to do that because of movies, theatre and music that deal embrace us without negativity, I'm enjoying the freedom.

Still, like Clay, like Lance Bass and countless others, I'm not going to hold their insecurities against them concerning how or when they come out. It's a little disappointing when, at times, it's patently obvious, but it isn't my life and I don't have to deal with the high wire that famous people have to walk when they admit their sexual proclivity. I'm not judging anyone. Too much of that crap has been done to me over the years, often to my own detriment, so how can I justify judging others?

As for Adam's loss, I more than half expected it. Not only did the religious and conservative right fall in step behind Kris, but I'm sure many of Danny Gokey's loyal fans followed Kris rather than Adam. But please, let's not forget our own GLBTQ population who often have the tendency to turn on members of our own community. No one missed Clay Aiken's reaction did they? (Which he's since recanted. Poor schmuck for speaking out in a knee jerk reaction and then not having the balls to stand behind the idiocy of his words.)

It isn't the 70's anymore when solidarity was was essential, because it was a fight against a tremendous majority of people who hadn't known our community long enough than to have any other reaction except fear of an unknown and unseen population, and then hating us for forcing them to change.

So I wasn't surprised when I saw more than one comment on gay blogs lashing out at the popular AI contestant. As a community I've noticed that while we love to elevate some entertainers to iconic levels, once they're on the pedestal, some of us immediately want to push them off in the most negative way possible. We eat our own. (That's so going to come back to haunt me.)

I was upset when Adam didn't win. The exposure will benefit him though, one way or another. We have to settle for what we get. I hate to quote song lyrics, but I'll be gay and do it anyway. "You can't always get what you want...But if you try sometimes, you get what you need."

Hi Steveck:

Your comment is rich so I'm only going to address a few elements in it.

I agree that the person's life is there own and we can wish for someone to come out but can not make them. However, as the movie Outrage points out, if their efforts are dangerous to the community then, outing is an action that some GLBTQ people support. Celebrities do exist in a different portion of the world than the rest of us so it is hard to compare coming out for ourselves with a celebrity.

I interpret the point you make about the choices for entertainment that are available, as a support for my contention that it would be nice to focus on the performers in the music and movie world that are out and in many cases making art the reflects GLBTQ experiences.

Brett, I seriously would never have taken you for a PD or a Wainwright fan. :P

I don't much like American Idol, obviously - the show is not set up to look for the best singer, the best vocalist, the best musician, the best showperson, or the best anything really, other than the person who can get the most votes. I'm sure that if we put any of the best singers of the last century up there, only one or two would even make it to the audition before Simon and crew.

Would Janis Joplin have won American Idol if it were around in her day? Doubt it. What about, I dunno, Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Bjork, Frankie Valli, or Dolly Parton? I so doubt it, no matter how many Idols get compared to any of those people.

So why do we care so much about that dubious honor? I don't particularly. I try to honor/shed some light on the queer musicians out there with the QMF each week, and I don't think that any of them so far are Idol material, other than Clay Aiken. And that should be read as a compliment (not to Aiken).

your instincts are accurate about my taste and the tastes of the viewers of American Idol. I'm more of a rocker than a folker in my tastes.

It seemed that the article was ignoring all the advancement that has occurred in the music world in particular. Would rather that some mention of the queer that are out in these arena appeared than a reiteration of the closet. Does that seem fair or am I off base?

Yeah - but how many albums will Adam Lambert sell vs Rufus Wainright?