Is 'American Idol' homophobic?

144127__idol_lI’m not sure what to make of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s complaints about perceived homophobic comments by Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson on the first two episodes of the new American Idol season. On the one hand, GLAAD is not the only observer to bristle at remarks like ”Shave off the beard and wear a dress, because he’d be a great female impersonator” (Simon, regarding auditioner Charles Berry) or ”Are you a girl?” (Randy, to auditioner Zachary Travis); PopWatch’s Mike Slezak winced as well in his first Idol TV Watch column last week. On the other hand, such insults may just be part of the larger efforts of the Idol team to make the audition episodes look like a freak show. (Not to excuse Simon’s equal-opportunity cruelty, but his scorn for nearly everyone makes Idol feel inclusive, in a perverse way.) Besides, given the show’s often disco-fied musical choices and all-around diva-licious behavior, how much more gay-friendly could the show be?

What do you think? Has Idol gone too far?

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Comments (48 total) Add your comment
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  • Ruckus

    Idol has gone too far… just being on the air… okay okay – I watch the auditions, and then stop at the Top 12.
    That said, I happen to be brokeback, and the only one that went to far was the guy that showed up wearing women’s clothing and then complained that they asked if he was a girl… no support from me on that.

  • Dee

    I mean really who cares if you are gay but if you are a man that acts like a woman what do you expect. Why does being a gay man have to equal being overly feminine at times. I don’t know women who act that way. I love the kind of gay men in Brokeback.

  • Ep Sato

    Aren’t Randy and Simon gay? If so, they can make all the comments they want to, just like the Boondocks characters can drop N-Bombs left and right.
    As for if Idol’s gone too far, well, at least ISAAC from E hasn’t been chosen as a guest judge

  • Robin

    I didn’t catch the female impersonator comment, but by pure chance I did see Zachary, and I have to say, I was as confused as Randy. I honestly thought that was a girl, and when he said he was a boy I was shocked.
    But, that aside, I really don’t think that Zachary’s not advancing had anything to do with homophobia. His audition was mediocre.

  • jim

    I agree with Ruckus, although I haven’t heard Brokeback used that way. I don’t watch idol, but liked it better when it was called the Gong Show.

  • Andy

    I think GLAAD’s reaction has less to do with a speficic comment than a pattern that has emerged, a pattern that started with the gay-baiting between Simon, Randy & Ryan (particularly between Simon & Ryan)in Season 2 or 3. It also has to do with how Simon reacts to the more effeminate contestants as if they were untouchables who just gross him out, a reaction that strikes me as different in kind than his usual badgering of contestants.

  • Stef

    People that are offended by American Idol have much bigger problems than Simon and Randy’s alleged homophobia.

  • dma

    Oh, please! Confusion over someone’s sex does not make them homophobic. Hell, I would’ve been confused also. GLAAD needs to stop picking on a crappy talent show and pick on someone that really deserves it, like those against gay marriage.

  • harry

    Zachary’s audition was certainly terrible and his comments about racism were a bit off but did the producers really have to play the song “The Crying Game” in the background? I thought that was a bit much. The kid is only sixteen.

  • Ron Mwangaguhunga

    Have you guys read last Suynday’s lacerating New York Times Op-Ed on “Family Values” and “American Idol”? I recommend it:

  • Scott

    I think the judges had a right to be confused (and amused) by Zachary, I myself was too. And frankly, when you dress like that (and have a terrible voice), you open yourself up to criticism.
    Having said that, I do think Simon is prejudice against certain contestants, particularly gay men and overweight women. Rightly or wrongly, I think he is a business man and wants someone who will appeal to the “mainstream” and make him lots of money. And even though someone like Will Young, who came out publicly shortly after winning the first UK Pop Idol, has gone on to be very successful in the UK, Simon never really backed him and likely believes that type of success would never happen in America.
    That is why I think Randy and Paula have a place as judges because they are more willing to put someone through who “doesn’t fit the mold”, as long as they have a good voice and personality.

  • Scott

    And besides, no one should be kidding themselves, the first few episodes of American Idol have always been about making fun of the deluded, regardless of who they are.

  • Christina

    Randy wasn’t out of line when he asked Zachary if he was a girl since everyone who watched the show also asked that question themselves. Simon went too far with the other kid though telling him he should be a female impersonator. Is Simon homophobic, probably yes.But so are a lot of men in this country. Their just not on a national TV show. Also there really hasn’t been a gay contestant on Idol yet that has been good enough to win this show. If one ever walked through the door and blew the judges socks off the chances are the homophobic remarkes wouldn’t be there. GLAAD can pick their fight with Idol now, but I think they will have a bigger battle ahead of them with the new Canadian Prime Minister who wants to abolish gay marriage.

  • chrisotpher Thompson

    I don’t know where you get homophobic from. 1. A drag queen does not automatically make you gay. 2. That kid had a totally ambiguos look. He also wore clothes that suggeted feminine traits. mean, short sighted but not necessarily homophobic.

  • Dub

    the NY times op-ed piece is right on the money: the larger issue @ hand is that the Idol has stopped simply making fun of the awful singers and has moved on to point-blank character humiliation. whether they’re gay, straight, transgendered, too-tan, overweight, or slow shouldn’t even matter; respect will always be a value worthy of promotion.
    to those trying to justify the treatment of zachary b/c of their intolerance for individual expression: shame on you! quit trying to reinforce stereotypes of antiquated gender roles and let people live with the same freedoms the rest of us enjoy.

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