Most Americans have never heard of Adam Lambert, much to the disappointment of the singer’s publicists. Earlier this year, he finished as runner-up on American Idol, the TV talent show that has, after eight seasons, long since lost the novelty it had in 2002 when Kelly Clarkson won top honors in the program’s series debut.
In an evident effort to rescue himself from obscurity, Lambert decided last week to turn ABC’s American Music Awards broadcast into a political publicity stunt. While performing the title track from his new album…well, here’s how MTV.com described it:
In addition to dragging a female dancer around by the ankles, pushing a male dancer’s head into his crotch and simulating oral sex, walking a pair of male hoofers around like dogs on a leash, and furiously thrusting his hips at every opportunity, Lambert took a moment mid-song to fervently make out with (an allegedly straight) male keyboard player.
Those who recall previous “spontaneous” events of this nature — e.g., the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show — will not be surprised to learn that Lambert subsequently asserted that kissing his keyboardist on prime-time TV was “in the moment.”
Nor will anyone familiar with the increasingly repetitive rituals of 21st-century sexual politics be surprised to learn that (a) the editor of a gay magazine had recently claimed Lambert’s managers were trying to downplay his homosexuality, (b) Lambert’s failure to win American Idol had been blamed on homophobia, and (c) in the wake of Lambert’s prime-time stunt, a gay-rights group accused TV networks of “discrimination.”
Ho-hum. Another televised awards show, another politically correct kowtow to the gay agenda, another predictable “outrage.”
At some point, reasonable people might expect an end to these épater les bourgeoisie gestures, as the bourgeoisie have long since ceased to be shocked by such routine public exhibitions. Except for the fact that Lambert’s stunt was performed on live TV during prime-time — raising parental concerns about children being exposed to his lurid act — it is unlikely there would have even been any publicity value in it. He could (and perhaps does) engage in frottage with every member of his band during non-televised concerts without generating a single headline or indignant e-mail.
More than four decades have gone by since Philip Larkin poetically joked about sex having been invented in 1963, “Between the end of the Chatterley ban/And the Beatles’ first LP.” Nevertheless, there stubbornly persists within the self-styled “artistic community” the assumption that middle-class Americans are a bunch of repressed puritanical hypocrites badly in need of the liberating influence that only pelvic thrusts, gay kissing and the choreographed simulation of sadomasochism can provide.
If there had ever been any validity to this conception of Middle America as hopelessly benighted about sex, surely the stereotype is now as obsolete as a 78-rpm vinyl record. Anyone with Internet access is just two or three clicks away from as much explicit pornography as the most degenerate pervert could ever desire.
Why, then, did Adam Lambert — who is arguably both degenerate and perverse — insist on shoving his sexual politics into the faces of TV viewers who tuned in to a music-awards show? Why are complaining viewers accused of “homophobia,” while TV networks are accused of “discrimination” for editing out or digitally obscuring the man-on-man kiss?
There is a whiff of totalitarianism in the implied insistence that TV networks can be compelled to broadcast such stuff — lest they be charged with violating someone’s rights — and to further insist that viewer complaints are inherently illegitimate.
From the standpoint of pure entertainment, however, the more important fact is that there was nothing really sexy in Lambert’s performance. Because these “outrageous” stunts have now become so routine, what Lambert did was no more erotic than it was artistically innovative, which it most certainly wasn’t.
Lambert neither aroused nor shocked his audience. Rather, he bored them — and in show business, that’s the biggest sin of all.
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