Did Homophobia Play a Big Role in Adam Lambert’s “Defeat”?

by on May 27, 2009 · 18 comments

in Civil Rights, LGBT rights, Media, San Diego

by Jim David / The Huffington Post / May 21, 2009

The best singer didn’t win a freaking singing contest.

When Kris Allen defeated Adam Lambert as the Season 8 “American Idol,” it was, as predicted, a seismic upset. The Chicago Sun-Times said, “David slayed Goliath.” Endless bloggers posted reactions like “The biggest robbery since Bush stole the election” and “The end of American Idol’s last hope at relevance.”

Everyone, from the judges to Google to Yahoo to the Vegas odds makers, predicted a Lambert victory. They were right, and everyone knows it. In the end homophobia won, and everyone knows it.

Yes, homophobia is alive and well, which is why Lambert lost the ultimate title. Go ahead — give me another reason. Yes, Lambert is over the top and screams a lot and is campier than Liberace at Radio City. Sure, Kris Allen is a cutie, and has pleasant enough vocals, and he’s nice. But a better singer, or performer, than Lambert? Please.

By anyone’s estimation, Lambert was the best vocalist of the entire Idol season and one of the best, if not the best, in the history of the program. He towered over every contestant, exposing them as the amateurs they are. Every Lambert performance was an event. If this competition were only about singing, he crushed everyone else the second he walked onstage.

Kris Allen is a very affable and attractive young man. He is a decent vocalist with a very limited range and marginal talents. He should have made it to 3rd place at best. Time will tell if he reaches the level of John Mayer or Jack Johnson.

The final round, if vocals were the actual standard, should have been Lambert and Allison Iraheta, the precocious 17 year old with the whisky crusted Janis Joplin voice. But vocals, as evidenced by this and other Idol seasons, are not the final standard. In the end, a ‘likeability’ factor intrudes, turning ‘Idol’ into the Miss America Pageant or, more realistically, the high school Homecoming coronation.

Melinda Doolittle lost to Jordin Sparks. Chris Daughtry lost to Taylor Hicks. Jennifer Hudson lost to … anyone. It’s a real shame that Idol is decided by the public and not just music professionals, because let’s face it, the voting public is not that bright. The public voted George W. Bush twice as president. The public thinks Halliburton is Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s daughter. The public votes on who they want to ‘hang out’ with.

In that event, Allen won by a landslide. Lambert hangs out with kinky L.A. theatre folk who dress wierd, stay out all night, and possibly do drugs and get into compromising positions. Allen hangs out at a local Arkansas bar, has a beer or two, strums a song, and then goes home to wedded Christian bliss. (Of course, I’d rather hang with Lambert’s crowd. How much fun do you think they are? Are you kidding?)

If the contestants had zero backstory, Lambert would have decimated the competition. Instead, Allen’s Christianity, church roots and corn-fed wife were exploited, as were Lambert’s musical theatre roots (i.e. his ‘theatre fag’ history). He didn’t say a word about his sexuality, but didn’t need to. For that we had the Internet, zapping anyone’s private photo library to the world, so photos of Lambert swapping saliva with a guy went viral, as well as a lot of his very strange yet riveting LA cabaret performances, turning off the homophobic majority.

Yes, a majority of the country is homophobic. If it weren’t, gays would have had their rights back in the 90s when the Europeans got them. We wouldn’t have a majority of states with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. We wouldn’t be fighting for even rudimentary domestic partnership laws in some cities and states. We wouldn’t have anti-gay imbeciles like Maggie Gallagher, Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber or the “God Hates Fags” morons getting publicity. Yep, if American weren’t homophobic, Lambert would be waving to the crowds from a convertible.

Bill O’Reilly, a homophobe who knows what plays to his old white guy audience, did at least two features on Lambert’s sexuality, creating an issue where none needed exist. He first brought up the Internet photos of Lambert kissing a guy and asked if this would be a “problem” for America, an America who might not have even thought about it until O’Reilly brought it up. And right before the Idol finale he brought on Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh, author of an article about the “Christian vote” going to Allen, again planting a seed in a public who might not previously have thought of it. O’Reilly is a skilled propagandist, warning us against the evils of the secular world before they even entered our minds. And Steoodeh wrote, post ‘Idol,” about reasons why Lambert may have lost, neglecting to mention how he himself may have contributed.

I’m sorry a simple musical theatre actor from California and a simple guitar strummer from Arkansas have to bear this cultural burden, but there it is. Despite Allen’s pleading that “It’s about music, it’s not about religion and all that kind of stuff,” it is indeed about religion and all that kind of stuff. Danny Gokey’s pastor Twittered, “We need a believer to represent.” Even Rev. Ted Haggard, the most frightened homosexual in America, Twittered that he wanted Allen to win. A Lambert win would have scared the bejeezus out of him.

Conservatives are all still stinging from their defeat at the polls in November. They wanted something to take home. They couldn’t possibly let a guy who wears eyeliner and nail polish win, no matter how astoundingly talented he is.

It is to Lambert’s credit and astounding talent that he got this far, and the media sensation he has created ensures him a very exciting post-Idol career. He’s a phenomenon who has earned every bit of ink he has created. He made ‘Idol” relevant again. His outrageous performances woke up a sleeping audience.

And he made, without really trying, a great leap for gays in America. The American public learned his sexuality early on and still voted for him into the finals, even if they were too scared to give him the ultimate prize. But they obviously had their limits. Perhaps if he hadn’t sung his finale “Mad World” performance in that ‘Basketball Diaries’ cloak, which made us fear he was a misunderstood youth about to pull out a semiautomatic and open fire on the tweens in the mosh pit, he would have won.

Even Kris Allen, at the end, said, “Adam deserves this. I’m sorry.” It’s Allen who will have to endure the publicity of how it really should have been Lambert up there. He’s a nice guy and doesn’t deserve it. He should enjoy his victory. But he was competing against Goliath, and these things happen. David himself would have had to deal with the fallout.

Originally posted May 21, 2009.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh May 21, 2009 at 11:47 am

it’s a TV show on the FOX network. Ya think?


Jay May 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Dumb. Lambert was terrible. I am very liberal and very pro gay rights, etc etc.

His high shrieks are awful and how he sang Ring of Fire just turned me off right away. Gokey was the best singer of all. Lambert is an embarrassment to the art of music.


jon May 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

“Bill O’Reilly, a homophobe who knows what plays to his old white guy audience, did at least two features on Lambert’s sexuality, creating an issue where none needed exist.”

Couldn’t have said it better. This should be a non-issue. But unfortunately a majority in this country seriously fear homosexual people. It’s easy for some of us who are not GBL or T to look the other way because we are not the ones being discriminated against. But it is so extremely important to stand up for our GBLT friends and family now more than ever. There is a major sea change underway, and the discrimination, and hate speech against this entire community needs to be called out for what it is. People like Bill O’Rielly, Sean Hannity, the countless baptist ministers and catholic priests all need to be called out not just as homophobes, but as preachers of hate and discrimination.


jon May 21, 2009 at 1:55 pm

By the way, I never watched any of the idol stuff. I’m more of a dancing with the stars fan… Which is so gay.


Wireless Mike May 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Homophobia is indeed alive and well. Just ask any “out” gay person who deals with it every day. It is no wonder that so many people are forced to live deep in the closet and to deny the truth about themselves, just out of fear of being found out.

This incident reminds me of the 1950s when Liberace sang “I want a girl, just like the girl who married dear old Dad”.


OB Server May 21, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I see 2 things at work here. 1st of all TV is only about ratings and this got way more press than if Adam had of won. The producers of A.I. “Fremantle” are no dummies so it wouldn’t surprise me if this was even fixed. Personally I think coming in 2nd place was the best thing that could have happened to Adam’s musical career. Just because a person wins on A.I doesn’t guarantee them a place at the top. Off the top of my head I could only remember 2 winners, the 1st season’s Kelly Clarkson & the boyfriend’s car vandalizing Carrie Underwood.

So I tried to remember them. Oh yeah there was Ruben Studdard who beat out Clay Aiken…isn’t Clay gay? Don’t know what ever happened to Fantasia. David Cook has decent pipes and a solid career, but then there’s other real talent like Bo Bice who didn’t win but still rocks in concert. And Jennifer Hudson who only won an Oscar, but didn’t make it to the final 2. My point is Adam has a great set of pipes, real talent and he got a ton of exposure. He’ll be fine and will be in the music industry for years to come regardless of his sexual preference.

The other part of this story is sad. Whether or not there was an organized anti-Adam campaign I couldn’t say, but after that “yes on (H)8” stampede I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that there was. I do wish with all of my heart that people would stop practicing intolerance toward their fellow man under the guise of Christianity. I wasn’t born again yesterday and know that nowhere in the bible did Jesus speak out against homosexuality. He only spoke of loving your fellow man as you love yourself.

Sadly certain churches have decided to wage a war that needn’t be against our gay brothers & sisters simply for their own gain, i.e., tithing out of guilt. These houses of worship are the same ones that Jesus railed against in his short time here. It is my humble prayer that these people will see the error of their ways and ask God and their fellow man for forgiveness for their intolerance. Only then can they begin practicing what Jesus actually taught which is simlpy Love. It’s the only true Christian value, everything else is man made.


J.Stone May 22, 2009 at 7:41 am

American Idol? who gives a fuck about a contest to have the media create another money machine.


Molly May 22, 2009 at 8:20 am

JStone – apparently 100 million Americans ‘gives a fuck’ – including probably your kids (if you have any).


Amber Forest May 22, 2009 at 11:01 am

And this is where the rag has gone? from fighting for human justice, rights and diversity to highlighting homophobia on AI? there’s plenty of homophobia going on every day, every where (yes, even here in our jewel of a beach town) . . . resulting in brutal beatings and death among other things. why the rag chose to focus on AI is isn’t even worth wondering. where is the rag when people are getting the shit beaten out of them on the streets of Hillcrest for being the same sex and holding hands? I can’t remember a time that I’ve EVER felt comfortable, let alone safe, holding a lover’s hand here in O.B. And as a gay teen growing up in this beach town I had no support from any member of the community. homophobia in O.B.: it’s certainly not as flashy as an American Idol, but it’s real and it’s happening.

queer in Ocean Beach, Amber


Dickie May 22, 2009 at 11:59 am

JStone, I agree with you 100% . . .

but . . .

. . . then I married a big American Idol fan (she did not disclose . . .) so I have been watching the last couple of years, usually with horror, occasionally with doubletakes at the unexpectedly (by me) tremendous talent displayed.

Anyway, that America is homophobic is no surprise, even when the closet is hidden along with the gay person, as it seemed to be with Adam Lambert, about whose sexuality I heard nothing till the last week. I guess I am the kind of guy who makes no assumptions about men who wear “guyliner” or paint their fingernails except that their taste is different from mine. That the right would make a political issue out of this is no surprise either.

But . . .

I believe that whatever “America” thinks Adam Lambert is one brilliantly uniquely creatively absolutely wickedly talented young man whom we will hear a lot more of . . . his takes on the songs he sang left me gasping with disbelief and delight, and I am a performing (though very amateur) singer myself. [Jay, I thought “Ring of Fire” was brilliant which shows, I am happy to say, that “very liberal and very pro gay rights” people can civilly disagree with each other . . . ]. I hear he might do Broadway, which I can definitely imagine . . .

But . . .

I’d be just as happy, really, if I never watched AI again, which is the way I feel about all “Reality TV”, almost all TV comedy and most drama, news and special events [I do like sports on TV] . . . let’s face it in the long run TV like all our media need to be reinvented . . . and thank you obrag blog!


Oli May 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Props to J. Stone and Amber…
very well said


Wireless Mike May 22, 2009 at 3:14 pm

I have never watched AI, it’s not my kind of show, but this is a high-profile example of the rampant discrimination against gays in America. I think the point is that homophobia still exists everywhere in America, from the glitzy entertainment industry all the way down to the streets.

A lot of people seem to think that it’s still okay to hate gays, and the religious right tries to legitimize that thinking. This is a civil rights issue that still needs a lot of work. A lot of progress has been made since Stonewall, but we still have a long way to go.

Homophobia exists even here in liberal OB, as Amber pointed out. The AI incident just serves to show that there is still a lot of work to be done to end anti-gay discrimination and to guarantee equal rights for everyone.


Dave Gilbert May 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Un-evolved people will often criticize or even attack what they don’t understand.

The opposite of love isn’t hate though…it’s fear.


jon May 23, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Dave, that’s so Donnie Darko of you.

If you aren’t sure what that means, stop whatever you’re doing and go rent or even buy Donnie Darko right now.


seth May 24, 2009 at 12:13 am

Personally, I haven’t watched 5 minutes of that show since that fat dude Ruben won, but a close cyberfriend of mine “made it to Hollywood” in a subsequent season, and his rather insightful take on this subject was that 7 of the 8 winners have all been from down South. The only other winner was that girl Jordin from Arizona. He said that 2/3rds of this Kris Allen’s dude’s votes came from Arkansas. Which leads to the question on whether Southern people are generally better singers, or do people in other parts of the country just have better things to do than vote 150 times for a guy that lives in their home state? Hmmm.


Rose May 29, 2009 at 6:20 am

Yep! Homophobia played a role in Adam’s defeat! I’m so pissed off about this I could scream! Adam is by far the best talant that idol ever had. I actually believe he was too good for the show. I miss seeing him every week. And this is coming from a white conservative hetero woman who voted for Bush twice!


Ted May 29, 2009 at 7:48 am

Maybe Adam got a taste of average Americans backlash to the way Miss California was treated for her opinion about gay marriage by the Gay and Gay friendly media.


Dave Gilbert May 29, 2009 at 9:00 am

AT&T may have some explaining to do about setting up Kris Allen’s fans with a perceived upper hand, but I don’t think Adam really cares who won the final two.

He said yesterday on TV that he was more excited to have sang with KISS, Queen and especially ex-Guns & Roses axe-slinger Slash.

He’s definitely got a better voice than Kris but that’s just my opinion, it’s like back in the 60’s when people argued who was better…the Beatles or the Stones?


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