Posts Tagged ‘fox


Adam Lambert, J.J. Abrams, and Mystery

As previously mentioned here, I have occasionally found myself part of the conglomerate of Americans that weekly find themselves lingering on the every word of the well-groomed and omnipresent alien being that refers to itself as Ryan J. Seacrest.  And as an American Idol viewer, I am keenly aware of the three contestants remaining in this year’s contest, and have formed my own personal opinions about the outcome of the competition.

For the uninformed, here is the general rundown of the three gentlemen who have yet to be eliminated from the program: (since there are only three contestants remaining, it should be assumed that all are talented vocalists, which they are.  If we assume the playing field is even in the talent department, then the contest will be determined, as it typically is, by the persona each contestant has created, the demographics they appeal to, and the way they style their hair rather than pure musical giftedness.  This will be a discussion about those particular nonmusical qualities.) Danny Gokey is the odds-on, overwhelming favorite, as long as the only people you’re asking are white, Christian, and middle class.  He’s a church worship leader, he wears trendy glasses, and he’s a widow, which in an eerily morbid way, makes him more likeable.  Kris Allen is a guitar-strummin’, aww-gee-shucks southern heartthrob, and his style lies somewhere between Jason Mraz and John Mayer.  Whenever Ryan Seacrest says Kris’ name, hundreds of pubescent girls scream like his last name was Jonas and hold up signs that say “Marry Me Kris,” while Kris’ clearly visible wife smiles on adoringly.  And then there’s Adam Lambert.

Adam Lambert, in many ways, defies description.  He wears eyeliner and lots of jewelry and leather, and has a vocal range that would make Steve Perry wet himself with jealousy.  The only thing the public really knows about Adam Lambert is that he’s a theater kid, and was in the Los Angeles cast of Wicked before he became a contestant on the show.  We don’t really know where he came from, we don’t know anything about his family, we don’t know who taught him to sing like that, and we never know what he’s going to do next.  Moreso than anything else, however, we don’t know whether or not Adam Lambert is gay.  And that’s where J.J. Abrams comes in.

J.J. Abrams is the man behind such T.V. shows as Alias, Fringe, and Lost, and movies like Star Trek and Cloverfield.  J.J. Abrams knows the power of an unanswered question, as evidenced through this article he wrote in Wired Magazine, or his Ted Talk here.  He has revitalized suspense in a way we haven’t seen probably since Alfred Hitchcock.  What J.J. Abrams knows is that an integral part of human nature is our inquisitiveness.  Going all the way back to Socrates, we have been a society that questions. As humans, we seek truth, it’s just part of who we are.  What happens after we die, who would make the best president, and what the hell is that smoke monster thing, and why did it kill Mr. Eko?  And now, added to that list of unanswered questions is the question on every American Idol fan’s mind: is Adam Lambert gay?

I think I know what J.J. Abrams would answer if you asked him whether or not Adam Lambert was gay.  I think J.J. Abrams would probably say, if we knew, wouldn’t that just make it less exciting?  The truth is, if Adam Lambert told America he was gay, it wouldn’t change the fact that he’s still a talented singer, and I don’t think it would change anyone’s vote for or against him.  The kind of person who would only vote for Adam Lambert if he wasn’t gay is likely already casting their vote for Danny or Kris.  If Adam Lambert told America he was gay, the only thing he’d be changing is the mystery that surrounds him, and that might just be the reason we don’t know yet.  The reason people keep watching Lost week after week is because they expect that eventually, all their questions will be answered (even if forty-seven new questions show up every time you answer one).  Isn’t it possible that, aside from his obvious talent, Adam Lambert is still on American Idol for the same reason?  We figure if we keep watching, if we keep voting him to the next week and the week after that, he might just answer some of those pesky questions.

I’m not saying Adam Lambert left his sexuality in question intentionally, but he might have.  If he didn’t, he’s probably realized by now that he’s stumbled into something that’s keeping the public’s attention, which is why he hasn’t just flat-out said anything about it yet.  As Abrams points out in the Wired article I linked to earlier, we live in an age of immediacy, where the answer to literally any question we may have is only a mouse click away, and that truth has enhanced the way we look at questions that don’t seem to have obvious or easy answers.  In other words, in a world where we can have all the answers, we’re intrigued only by the ones we don’t have.

And that’s why I think Adam Lambert is going to win American Idol this year.  Or, if he doesn’t win, he’ll end up more successful than whoever does.  It’s apparent from the itty-bitty-nobody-to-all-powerful-cultural-icon path of previous Idol winners like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson that twelve weeks of being on that show is the equivalent of an upper division master class in becoming a celebrity.  And judging by the way in which he has captured the public’s attention (he hasn’t even won yet, and he’s already on the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly), it’s clear that Adam Lambert is at the top of that class for this year.  Whether or not they deserve the attention they get, (and that’s another story entirely) the celebrities that capture the public’s attention do so by utilizing Mr. Abrams’ favorite concept of mystery.  Who are they dating, where are they going, what will they do next, and yes, are they gay?

And that’s why Adam’s going to win.  Like all the contestants, he’s got the talent to deserve the spotlight, and perhaps more importantly, he’s got the mystery to maintain it.  And as long as he keeps America guessing, he’ll be at the forefront of the public eye, and he’ll preserve our attention.  That is, until some bigger mystery comes along to distract us.


Maybe Jack Nicholson Was Right…

…maybe we really can’t handle the truth.

In order to set up the topic on which I’m about to write, I must first make a confession to the general internet public, and it’s a confession that, honestly, I’m not too comfortable making.  Even as I type these very words, I am thinking to myself that I don’t have to write about this, that I can just skip it, or write something about something else completely, and avoid having to expose what I’m about to say.  But in many ways this will be a post that centers around honesty, and if I’m to live up to that trait, I must confess my own personal truth, so here we go: since I have moved into my own place, where I am working and living my own independent life, I have started to partake in a certain activity that is, in many ways, questionable at best as far as its value to my well being.  It’s mindless, it’s uncreative, it’s… oh heck, I’ll just come out and say it: I’ve started… occasionally… watching… television.

There.  Not so bad, I guess.  It’s just that during college, unless there was a sporting event of some kind, my TV mainly stayed off, and I kind of liked it that way.  I had my own conversations, I lived my own storylines, existed within my own life independent of the visual entertainment that today is shamelessly and flawlessly intertwined with so many people’s lives.  But living alone has slowly had its way with me, and has aided in my occasional viewing of… said visual entertainment.  And, in watching, I came across a program that I feel demands some sort of discussion.

I’d seen advertisements for this program before, as it was hyped to death on FOX during last year’s football season, and now after watching it, I can say without any level of exaggeration that even without any graphic sexual content, without extreme violence, without severe profane language, this is easily the most offensive and terrible program I’ve ever seen on television.  And it’s a game show.

It’s called “The Moment of Truth,” and it’s awful.  The premise is this: real, live, flawed people submit themselves to a private lie detector test during which they are asked extremely personal questions about their lives, their relationships, their personal flaws, their past sins, anything.  During said lie detector test, they can answer these questions either truthfully or not, but it is assumed that the lie detector will determine what the actual answer is.  After all the questions have been asked, the contestant is then brought on the show, where they are asked the same exact questions they have already been asked, but this time in front of a sea of millions of television viewers, and all they have to do is tell the truth.  The more questions they answer truthfully, the more money they win.  Simple, yes?

Not necessarily so.  As I said, these questions are invasively personal, and there is no shame in asking any of them.  Have you lied to your boss to get a promotion, have you stolen money from your parents, are you having an affair, are you racist, do you think marrying your spouse was the wrong decision…?  No topic is off limits.  And, as it makes for good entertainment, the questions asked are usually the ones which expose the contestant as fraudulent, dishonest, immoral, or unethical.

But that, good viewer, is not all.  Not only does the contestant have to answer these questions on television, but often the people who are the subjects of these questions are present in the room during the show.  Contestants bring close friends and family on the show with them to sit on stage, so when those contestants are asked questions like, “Do you think your wife is still beautiful?” that wife is sitting fifteen feet away as her husband flatly says, “No.”

And the show is shameless in the way it tries to make the average person look villainous.  The host will deliberately set up questions to make people look like a jerk, a la this example:

SMARMY HOST: So, it says here you volunteer at an animal shelter.  That’s very noble of you.  Do you have a love of animals?

CONTESTANT: Yes, I love all God’s creatures, and think they all deserve care and affection no matter how small they are.  I love working at the shelter.



CONTESTANT: Well, um… I… uh… Yes, I have.

Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the questions is the apparent nonchalance with which the contestants answer these questions.  People on this show seem unaffected in admitting their deepest, darkest secrets, and I think that says something.  Perhaps we’re victims of our own tabloid infested society.  Are we jealous of those ‘celebrities’ who have no privacy?  Maybe the fact that Britney Spears can’t take a dump without twelve photographers capturing the moment and selling it to a magazine has given us a twisted view of what a completely exposed lifestyle is like.

Or maybe I’m the wrong one, and we should be applauding these people for their honesty.  These are difficult questions, ones that I wouldn’t want to be asked, let alone made to answer on national television, and these people are doing it in stride.  Granted, they are getting money for doing it.  So the question the show truly asks, I guess, is if your pride was for sale, what price would you take for it?

All of the sudden “…one dollar, Bob” seems like kindergarten.  The way I see it, absolutely nothing good comes of this show.  Nobody wins.  Contestants are exposed as the dishonest and disgusting humans they are, and the show is exposed as a voyeuristic tool for ruining people’s lives.  And maybe we knew both of those things already, but we most assuredly don’t need to broadcast it to the whole world, no matter how desperate we are for summer programming.

So I guess the real question remains… in spite of all that, with all that is truly and utterly wrong about it… why couldn’t I turn it off?

Perhaps there’s no shame in any of us these days.