Is 'American Idol' racist AND homophobic? Of course not, but it's possible that many of the people who watch it are!
American Idol has had its share of controversy in the past, but has racism ever been one of its problems?
Ada Vox's elimination once again threw the spotlight on a discussion that has been raging on forums and social media these past few weeks: is American Idol racist? Before we delve into the issue, let's just take a look at some of the online reactions to the show's latest episode.
In its 16 seasons on the air, the show has courted controversy for a variety of reasons. Most have centered on the show's voting process and results, though later seasons have also seen accusations of gender bias against female contestants thrown around, as well as that of geographical and ethnic bias — a large number of the finalists during the series' run hail from America's South, including Clay Aiken, Kellie Pickler, and Chris Daughtry, with a survey finding that 48% of all contestants have some connection with the Southern United States.
While that can be explained away with the show's popularity in the region, the most recent controversy has a much more serious undertone to it and once again circles back to its voting process. The results of last week's voting for the top 10, combined with this week's for the top seven, has seen netizens on numerous social media platforms throw their arms up in exasperation and vocally claim that the show is blatantly racist.
The voters have always been a fourth judge, and this season saw them given unprecedented power when they were allowed to vote for their favorite participants as the live taping took place. They would be responsible for voting in six of the top 10.
This year's top 14 featured a diverse array of immensely talented singers hailing from different social backgrounds, including Jurnee — a cornrowed black lesbian who boasts a mesmerizing voice — and Ada Vox, aka Adam Sanders, an openly-gay Latina drag queen who was undoubtedly the judges' favorite, and widely considered to be the best singer in the group.
But when the results of the voting for the top 10 came through, the results were, quite frankly, baffling, as evidenced by the reactions of the often mild-mannered judges themselves. As Seacrest read out the contestants' fates one by one and the demographics of the audience top six became painfully obvious: they were white. Except, that is, for Michael Woodward, an awkward, light-skinned African American who seemed to have won over the steely, and if the internet is to be believed, racist hearts of the public.
Three blondes had gotten through, including one who many felt was undeserving (we'll let you decide who that one is), while Vox and Jurnee were left hanging. The accusations of racism, all of a sudden, seemed to hold water. But even then, only possibly against the audience. Those leveled at the show itself are farcical.
In principle, the show's representatives are the judges, who in this ABC reboot season are Katie Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie. The trio intervened and used one of their own nominations to ensure that the prodigiously talented Vox made a well-deserved entry into the top 10.
They used the other three to send through two other African Americans, and another Latina, including Jurnee and Lorenzo, giving the top 10 a much-needed facelift and a decidedly better demographical makeup. Their united stand against this perceived discrimination left the audience, as well as Ryan Seacrest, stunned.
Perry even expressed her frustration at the whole ordeal: "Never have I ever seen a more qualified woman for the job and still not get the job. What’s the disconnect, America?" and the other judges later admitted that they banded together to take a unanimous stand on the issue. While the argumentative will point out how, in doing so, they had possibly ignored two, more talented performers with a spot in the top 10 just to send a political message, that's a different issue altogether.
It's not the first such occasion either. Across multiple seasons, the judges have, despite personal differences, put aside political and personal belief to always pick the most talented to progress further. So, in that respect, the argument that the show is inherently racist falls flat on its face.
Now, what of the theory that the audience might possibly be racist? But even here, we feel it's only fair that they're given the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty, right?
The voting process might have courted controversy in the past, but when you think about it, it possibly could not be fairer. As the Huffington Post rightly pointed out, contestants don't get voted off, they just fail to get voted in.
What this means is that no member of the public is voting to remove that contestant from the show. It could just mean that that particular participant failed to grab the attention of the viewers enough to compel them to vote for them.
Yes, there are racists in this country. However, the results of the voting might just be indicating that there are people who are not racists instead. They might be simply people who still might not have reached a point where they are ready to put in the effort to pick up the phone and vote for drag queens or lesbians as their 'American Idol.' But at the same time, there are still millions upon millions who genuinely do show their support for these contestants. Why not applaud them instead of focusing on the few alleged bad apples?
The country has its problems, and racism is a problem it has been attempting to tackle for centuries. Though the issue is still very much prevalent, the progress is undeniable.