As Adam Lambert was defending his American Music Award performance backstage in Los Angeles last night, ABC was doing a little damage control itself.
The network has had more than 1,500 complaints lodged against it for broadcasting the “AI” star’s acts, like the male-on-male kiss, flipping the middle finger and his simulating fellatio with dancers during “For Your Entertainment” — even if those moments were censored to the West Coast. The response so far has been a “We didn’t know.”
“Due to the live nature of the show we did not expect the impromptu moment in question,” said Dick Clark Productions in a statement. It also said it took out Jennifer Lopez’ fall out of consideration for the singer.
Meanwhile, Lambert doesn’t feel any damage has been done, and accredits the spontenaity of those “moments in question” to sexual energy “of the moment,” according to CNN. “Adrenaline is a crazy, crazy, crazy feeling. Some of the things I love most about performing is when you’re up there and all of the sudden you just have these feelings, this rush that comes over you.”
“Female performers have been doing this for years — pushing the envelope about sexuality — and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out,” Lambert, 27, told Rolling Stone, too, after the show. He has been out of the closet since coming in as runner-up in season eight “American Idol,” but has also confused his fanbase by telling media outlets that he’s attracted to women as well. “We’re in 2009; it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people’s eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I’m not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom.”
“Pushing the envelope” is a tricky phrase: since the dawn of pop music in America, women artists have been encouraged to use their sexuality as their brand, as a mandate handed down by their labels, from greater American culture or (rarely) on their own volition. (Hint: it typically involves taking clothing off).
Not to get all feminist theory here, but Lambert’s idea of “pushing the envelope” is a construction of male dominated society, for the male gaze, in entertainment. It’s a fallacy to believe that women get all this fun-fun-sexy-expression-of-freedom while men (gay or straight?) don’t get to enjoy the very public exploration of their sexuality.
His latter point would have been better accepted in this writer’s mind if the performance and its antics didn’t feel so disingenuous and staged. Madonna planted a kiss on Britney Spears’ mouth a few years ago in a very deliberate and constructed manner, during a show (the MTV VMAs) that has been well-known to produce and pander to water-cooler-worthy buzz-moments: it was a moment of commentary as it was simultaneously, erm, a rising interest to a straight male audience.
Had Lambert’s song-and-dance not resembled Amateur Hour, his “artistic freedom” could be taken more seriously. But he’s still a star-in-the-making, fresh out of the gate, with his brand still in manufacturing mode. He and 19/RCA should have a good hard think before that gender card gets thrown again.