To be perfectly clear, I am in no way saying that American Idol is a blameless, holy creature that should be immune to criticism and jokes at its expense. Anyone involved in the show can easily provide fodder for days, only to refresh their invitation the following week. And if I'm wrong in my following assessment, I apologize ahead of time and stand corrected.
But I have a serious beef with "comedy writer" Ken Levine this week. In two short paragraphs, he knocked Carly Smithson's heavily tattooed husband and David Archuleta's sexuality, clearly taking cues from bone-headed high school jocks who can't handle someone who doesn't fit their mold. But that is the cheapest form of comedy, isn't it?
First, Carly Smithson:
I loved Carly Smithson's version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The key to her staying in the competition is not letting her scary tattooed-covered skinhead husband get on camera. Remember, the kids are voting for American Idol not American Psycho.
Two out of three sentences don't even discuss Smithson's performance. Instead, Levine, who cannot stop talking about her having tattoos, decided to insult someone who isn't even competing on the show. Because apparently, Carly has a dreadful singing voice. Oh, wait, she doesn't. She's actually quite a good singer. But Levine has been mocking her week after week, even calling her ink "scary," which I would have to think qualifies Mr. Levine to be named "Wuss of the Year."
Why am I so offended? Well, I happen to sport a growing collection of tattoos myself. Fifteen at the moment, to be exact. Are people offended by them? Not particularly, but then again, mine are mostly flowers and birds and little girly things, tributes to my family, really horrifying stuff like that. So my family must be a bunch of drunken bikers, or gang members or, heavens to betsy, hardened criminals to have tolerated my ink for all these years. Levine seems to be echoing the sentiments of the more narrow-minded demographic of American Idol, the people who vote based on how pretty, safe or pure a person might be (read: hum-drum), despite their blatant lack of charisma and/or singing ability. Like the people who inexplicably voted for Kristy Lee Cook this whole season and past contestants like Carmen Rasmussen, John Stephens and Jon Peter Lewis. And to single out one distinguishing feature on someone every week as if it made them a freak show and less of a formidable contestant than someone who happens to be unadorned seems to be a pretty counterintuitive thing to say on what I've always perceived as a progressive blog.
Maybe it hadn't occurred to Mr. Levine that in 2008, a lot of musicians have tattoos. A lot of creative people have tattoos. A lot of people in general have tattoos. Some people hide them, some people flaunt them, but we really don't care if you like them or not. But we sure as hell don't knock those without ink for not having any. If you don't like tattoos, don't get one. In the meantime, I have mistletoe tattooed on my ass for you to consider.
But what really chapped my "scary" ass was this, on David Archuleta:
David Archuleta sang "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera, making it his own -- and by that I mean turning it into Beauty and the Beast. It's a song normally sung by a woman but we may find out in ten years that it was.
Call me crazy (and according to Ken Levine, I would have to be, what with all my ink and his tender sensibility), but I'm pretty sure this was a really cheap, bad gay joke. (Technically, a transgender joke.) With a teenage kid as the target. A teenage kid who has been singing since he was much younger. So he's probably never had to deal with someone calling him gay, huh, Levine? You're probably the first one to make a gay joke about a teenage guy singing Andrew Lloyd Webber. Very original. So, I guess either you thought this was a good line or you figured he's probably heard it all before and has learned to tune bigoted shit like that out.
Yes, both contestants are on a very public television show, and yes, they're trying to break into a competitive industry that will subject them to every imaginable criticism. But I tend to think about the younger part of the American Idol audience, kids who probably make jokes about others in school, probably even the nastiest jokes ever, to cover their own insecurity. But those kids who feel out of whack in their own skin and dread going to school every day, then watch a show that lets them escape and even aspire to express themselves and their talents, don't need adults with blogs echoing the hurtful things they're hearing from their fellow students.
And yes, I was a nerd in school. And yes, that is the second time I have used the phrase "tender sensibility" in two weeks.