Plugged In Online is the movie reviewing arm of Focus On The Family, a Christian conservative organization. Plugged In's reviews can be entertaining, as if written by a committee of nuns criticizing the behavior of unruly eighth graders. The critics review the films not for their actual merit but for their moral worth, cataloging instances of sexual content ("Three scenes of passionate kissing, one scene of a man's hands inside a woman's blouse, one scene of cunnilingus leading to the woman's singing Gershwin"), profanities ("17 uses of the F-word, 38 terms for excrement), violence, and other "objectionable content." The reviews usually end with a summation of the debauchery of the films, actors and directors, and whether or not the work has any redeeming social value. Their reviews of Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right were especially fun, since the critics twisted themselves into pretzels saying, "This is a great movie, but... but... they're gay!"
If audiences only chose entertainment based on Plugged In's reviews over the last couple of years, they would have gone to see The Blind Side and a couple of Pixar movies, with the advisory that cars don't actually talk, since that would be witchcraft.
Plugged In also reviews music, TV and videos, functioning as a one stop shop for those seeking parental guidance, as in this review of Jennifer Lopez's Dance Again: "JLo's third collaboration with Pitbull offers an undulating pop ode to the joys of ... sex. Dancing may be this track's ostensible subject matter, but for Lopez and Pitbull, it's quite clear that music and dancing are the prelude and postlude to intimate encounters." This reminds me of the old joke, "Why don't Baptists have sex standing up? Because it could lead to dancing."
Adam Lambert's sensational Trespassing, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard album charts, is the latest to get the Plugged In treatment. A number of the songs on Lambert's album deal with partying and hooking up, subjects of the vast majority of rock songs since Little Richard. Yet rather than review the great elements of Lambert's songs -- that they fuse various styles of pop, that you can dance to them, that Lambert's vocals are electrifying -- Plugged In focuses on the sex, or alleged innuendo thereof:
Lambert is unapologetically shameless when it comes to singing about his voracious sexual appetites. Several songs hint at his willingness to engage in a risky sexual encounter with someone he's just met. And in this, Lambert perhaps unwittingly reinforces the stereotype historically held about gay men: Namely that they're promiscuous and sexually voracious, ready to indulge a carnal tryst at virtually any moment.
No, Lambert merely reinforces Plugged In's stereotype historically held about gay men: that they're promiscuous and sexually voracious, ready to indulge a carnal tryst at virtually any moment. Lambert's lyrics are no more risqué than any pop song of the last 30 years and could be easily sung by Steven Tyler, Jon Bon Jovi or Adam Levine with no lyric changes.
Trespassing is not "gay pop;" it's just pop, and it's Plugged In that has the problem of an openly gay man daring to sing about sex. As an antigay organization, you can bet the learned folks of Plugged In have exhaustively combed the album for any gay references:
The album's last song, "Outlaws of Love," laments how homosexuals frequently feel judged by others. "We can't change," Lambert sings. "Everywhere we go, we're looking for the sun/Nowhere to grow old, we're always on the run/They say we'll rot in hell, but I don't think we will/They've branded us enough, outlaws of love." But maybe it's Lambert who brands himself here. Brands himself as lascivious. Brands himself as masochistic. Brands himself as "crazy." Brands himself as "shady."
Lambert doesn't brand himself as anything other than a great singer. It is Plugged In that brands itself as a nanny organization; a squad of moralists who can't stomach anything more risque than "Edelweiss." It's the same old story of church against artist that's been going on for thousands of years. Not only that, it fits perfectly with Focus On The Family's agenda to squelch any positive gay voices in the culture. An openly gay artist debuting at #1 is bound to make them squirm. Now that's entertainment.
I wonder what Plugged In's critics would have had to say about Peggy Lee's 1958 Fever, which is a song length come-on if there ever was one, or better yet Cole Porter's 1927 Let's Misbehave: "With lyrics like 'It's getting late and while I wait my poor heart aches on/why keep the brakes on/let's misbehave,' it's clear that the amoral Porter values random late night sexual hookups over committed monogamous relationships within the bonds of holy matrimony."
Jim David's first novel, "You'll Be Swell," is available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Ipad and Sony EReader.