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January 25, 2006

American Idol's Mean Streak

I was just talking about this with Boston Irish. And yet we're both straight. Go figure.

Also in Chicago, a man with a high-pitched voice got Cowell's brutal career advice: Shave your beard and try wearing a dress.

In the Denver audition, Randy Jackson couldn't hide his surprise that a slightly built, long-haired contestant was male, not female.

"Wow," Jackson said. When the young man said he intended to sing Whitney Houston's "Queen of the Night," Jackson responded with a second "wow."

"Atrocious. Confused," was Cowell's post-performance comment.


Cowell and host Ryan Seacrest are known for their faintly gay-mocking banter, but the limits have become so stretched that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation contacted Fox to voice concerns over the show's treatment of "sexual orientation and gender expression."

"The real offense here was in the producer's decision to add insult to injury by turning a contestant's gender expression into the butt of a joke," spokesman Damon Romine said in a statement posted on the group's Web site.

On Tuesday, GLAAD said it has started what it hopes will be a productive, ongoing conversation with Fox. The network declined comment.

Jackson and especially Cowell really seem to have stepped up the venom, to the point, I think, where it's just not funny sometimes. Some people deserve it, some people can take it, and when they cut on such people, it's funny. But other people are so obviously... damaged and fragile that the insults just seem cruel and nasty.

The low point was the gender-confused boy-girl mentioned above. As a genuine reaction, sure, it's excusable to be a little surprised. Most people couldn't figure out the gender of the contestant. He was pretty much a true hermaphrodite. But for Cowell to pile on with his "Confused" line -- with the double-meaning not even subtly smuggled in there -- just was vicious.

A lot of this stuff can just be handled with a blank look or a quick eye-slide over to the camera. Message sent, and no one has to be told to shave his beard and wear a dress.

Idol has always drawn its share of painfully gay contestants (or at least the producers make sure to serve them up for the judges and, of course, America). I'm not sure if they just like the show, or are appearing as a goof, or what. But by this point I'd imagine that gay men who can't hide it like, um, some previous contestants "just aren't right for the competition."

(It doesn't help, of course, that homosexualtiy causes one to greatly overestimate one's talents as a singer. At least this is what I have learned from American Idol.)

Not to be a liberal or anything, but I always thought the show was borderline homophobic, and it seems to be getting worse. It's almost like Seacrest and Cowell know everyone thinks they're gay, so they're doing their damnedest to announce, "Nope, we hate homos."

Then again, last night's show was hilarious, so I'm not boycotting anytime soon.

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posted by Ace at 12:43 PM

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