Let the record show that I gave up on American Idol weeks ago. Unlike last season, when there was some real competition, this time around I lost interest when the final 12 emerged and turned out to be a single great talent surrounded by 11 mediocre wannabes. I didn’t tune in again until the two-part season finale, when I saw Adam Lambert predictably leave Kris Allen in the musical dust on Tuesday night. Of course, when the dust settled the next evening, it was—appallingly—Kris who was left standing.
I want to believe this absurd decision is simply another example of bad taste in a country where Lindsay Lohan is a big star and nobody’s ever heard of Patricia Clarkson, where Dan Brown’s pablum sells millions of copies while Philip Roth languishes on the top shelf. But this time I think there may be more going on.
Much has been made of Adam Lambert’s ambiguous sexuality—the eyeliner, the flamboyant costumes that make him part Gene Simmons, part Elton John, and a whole lot of Freddie Mercury. So I suppose, in this age of Carrie Prejeans whose fake breasts are bigger than their brains, we should consider it a breakthrough that someone so probably gay made it even this far on today’s ultimate homage to conformist Americana.
But in the end, America in its infinite wisdom decided it was willing to go only so far in its political correctness, and musical taste once again lost out to intransigent homophobia. And so Adam Lambert becomes the bridesmaid instead of the bride—and in a state where the likes of Miss Prejean have decreed that he shall never marry at all. Runner-up status is, one could argue, the reality-show equivalent of domestic partnership: Adam is equal, but separate.
Or perhaps it’s a lot simpler than that. Perhaps the tween girls who make up the supposed majority of American Idol voters just wanted to vote for someone they could imagine kissing who might actually kiss them back. One hearkens back to the 2000 election, when many people preferred to vote for the guy they’d want to have a beer with (even though he was a recovered alcoholic) rather then the one who might actually do something.
I have nothing against Kris Allen per se. He’s certainly talented, easy on the ears and the eyes. But the gap between his talent and Adam’s is huge. Picture Halle Berry competing in the Miss America pageant against Janeane Garofalo—pretty, but hardly a beauty queen: who would you vote for?
Will Young, the very first winner of Britain’s Pop Idol, all the way back in 2002, was gay. Now, seven years later, America still can’t catch up—even when the truth is glaringly obvious.