I’m not going to lie, it’s been a bit since I tuned into an episode of American Idol 2019 on our local Tucson ABC affiliate KGUN Channel 9. The last time I was hooked, Kelly Clarkson was paving the way for Kellie Pickler. A young Southern Belle was just finding her voice:
Fast forward some 15 years into the future and times have changed indeed. I remember sitting around with friends and arguing about which contestants were gay and which contestants didn’t know they were. Now, people feel more comfortable with who they are and have the confidence to proclaim themselves to America. Through it all, American Idol 2019 still finds the right balance!
Then Till Now
I know this country has changed dramatically, even though it doesn’t always feel like it, and nowhere is this better reflected than in our popular culture. Often times, pop culture sits at the bleeding edge of society, showing glimpses of possible futures. American Idol is the perfect example of this effect as it beamed gay personalities directly into people’s living rooms. It allowed people to root for a different kind of protagonist. It opened hearts and minds through the one language that can reach us all: music.
Just think of the world-changing gay personalities that have graced the American Idol stage. I’ll start with the one everyone is thinking of: Adam Lambert. Yes, he is awesome and amazing and talented and love-able, but he is only one of the incredible gay entertainers that became hits. Who can forget Frenchie Davis or Clay Aiken and I will always have a spot in my heart for Jim Verraros.
The show also had a great balance. I loved how Paula and Randy would always be effusive in their praise, while Simon would bring the pain. It was a great way to de-fang any negative feedback while still delivering the truth in a clever, pompous English package. That balance is what kept me tuning in week after week!
American Idol 2019: Now to the Future
Now, contestants can proudly proclaim their identity without fear of discrimination or hatred. This is a pretty good place to be, but is it acceptance? I found myself asking this question during the intro videos whenever a young LGBTQ person would announce themselves. Does a heterosexual person have to announce they are straight? Did I miss that part of their intro videos? Do you really accept me if I have to provide a disclaimer? If I have to come with a help document to make you feel comfortable?
I don’t know. I feel there is progress, but it’s in fits and starts. American Idol brings personalities into our homes that we might not have been introduced to. It’s jarring to realize that the way you view the world isn’t right, or necessarily even correct, it’s just one viewpoint and lifestyle in the spectrum of humanity. Familiarity is a laudable first goal, but we have a ways to go before true acceptance. Let’s hope American Idol is still around to celebrate with us when we finally reach the summit!
Have a great day!
Tony Ray 🙂