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Roundup: The Jewish Fallout from Adam Lambert's 'Idol' Loss

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

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Kris Allen’s taking of the “Idol” title from Adam Lambert may seem like old news, but to say that would be to ignore the importance of dissecting the psychology of “American Idol” culture. What is most titillating about the wildly successful show is the predilections and biases of everyday Americans — the millions who vote each week — that it lays bare.

The Arkansas-bred, evangelical Christian, Kris Allen’s victory over the Jewish, androgynous, and perhaps the most skilled Idol contestant to ever compete, Adam Lambert (dubbed Glambert due to his makeup and costuming choices) seems ridiculous to anyone who cares about talent. The Jewish Journal’s Danielle Berrin who called “Idol” 8 the most “culturally polarized competition in the show’s history,” argues that this season was not about talent at all, instead it was consumed by who these singers were when the cameras stoppedrolling:

Beyond his trademark flamboyance, Lambert possesses a sexual ambiguity he’s hardly interested in dispelling: When photos of him dressed in drag and kissing other men leaked on the Internet, he responded with indifference: “I am who I am,” he said, and left his detractors to their own devices. And, if that wasn’t enough to jilt the evangelical crowd, Lambert is also Jewish. Allen, by contrast, is clean-cut and pristine looking. He wears t-shirts and jeans, sings sweetly and leads worship services at New Life Church back home. Allen is the all-American boy, as inoffensive (and unexciting) as vanilla cream pie.

Haaretz treads more lightly, simply referring to Allen as more provincial than Lambert:

Of the two finalists, Allen was more clean-cut. A devout Christian from Arkansas, he was a newly married college student before landing on American Idol.

Of course, the outsider sensibility is old hat to the Jewish experience. The funny folks at VH1’s Best Week Ever call Lambert’s otherness a boon for the Jewish people:

Jewish people have suffered through thousands of years of oppression and battled some of the most brutal forces in history. But, instead of setting it to music, as black people did with the blues, we just got really good with money. UNTIL Adam Lambert. Those screams you heard up there on that American Idol stage were not just the freakish skills of a young boy with a magical fairytale dream. They were the shrieks of the ghosts of our tragic history.

The comic, David Feingold, who blogs at takes it even further — stating that Lambert’s loss has greater international ramifications:

No way that American Idol will give up a chance to have a wholesome looking kid from Arkansas lose to a flaming Jewish drama queen from Los Angeles. But, Adam losing is not a good thing for this country or for that matter Israel.

Lambert’s loss bad for Israel? Doubtful, but here’s hoping for a Jewish “Idol” contestant next season so this discussion can continue.

David Spector Mon. May 25, 2009

I can hear the hoofbeats of the Cossacks getting closer. Seriously, I hope this article was done in humor.

michael kaplan Tue. May 26, 2009

I have been watching "Idol" for the past 6 seasons and am a big fan of the show. I just discovered, through this article, that Adam Lambert is Jewish. Obviously, he does not "observe" the Jewish religion so his identification with the Jewish people is negligible at best.

As a an American Jew and one who is very sensitive to anti-semitism, I am convinced that this is not a case of anti-semitism nor do I think the American voters favored the Christian, Kris, over the Jewish contestant, Adam. I do think that the "image" projected by Kris, in terms of being wholesome is more acceptable to the majority of the populace. While Adam's sexuality is personal, he decided to make it everyone's business when he published pictures of himself in intimate poses with other men (on the internet). Personally, those I found those images revolting and admit that this affected my voting.

You may say, "But this was a singing competition", however the personal cannot be separated from the performance. Adam chose to expose these photos and I believe this is what "sunk his ship" not the fact that he is (culturally) Jewish. One must give the American people more credit that this.

Unforunately, it is media-driven rhetoric like this that fuels racist and anti-semitic attitudes. We already have enough (outright) hatred; let's not invent that which does not exist.

A. Lambe Wed. May 27, 2009

I’m a devout Christian and mother of two music-loving boys, and I must ask: What is wrong with America? America’s vote for Kris Allen, or America’s vote against Adam Lambert, seems to be a hate vote against the various sectors of society that Adam appears to stand for. People lost respect of the fact that American Idol is a singing talent competition open to all -- straight or gay, Christian or Jewish, clean-cut or flamboyant glam, etc. Voters forgot that it is not a popularity contest for class of persons — neither an arena to battle for coalition leadership nor grounds to crusade for a religious revival. In Season 8, Kris demonstrated that he is a skilled musician and an outstanding vocalist; but Adam consistently proved to be the amazingly innovative vocal artist and the versatile singer, gifted with a powerful voice. Adam deserved to win. Even visibly perplexed Kris acknowledged this glaring truth in his Christian heart so that he openly asserted in public that “Adam deserves this. I’m sorry…” when he was unexpectedly handed the undeserved title. So many seconds passed before bewildered Kris finally acquiesced to receive the undeserved crown, but only after Adam graciously approached to place a brotherly arm around his room mate’s shoulder in a gesture of encouragement. Hello, brothers and sisters -- American Idol is a singing contest and Adam Lambert is the real winner! I should also ask: What is wrong with Fox TV’s American Idol show that they could instigate warped controversies and divisiveness to occur at a time like this?

Bernie Wed. May 27, 2009

The defeat of Lambert is a just G-d's payback for the public humiliation of Carrie Prejean. Sometimes life is fair.

Beth Thu. May 28, 2009

Ok, this is crazy. First of all, I've been watching Idol for years, have seen every episode of this season, and never knew until I read this that Adam Lambert was Jewish. I also couldn't care less about his sexuality, in fact, if anything I might have been a little more inclined to vote for him because of his sexuality. I didn't vote for him all season not becuase he is a Jew, or becuase of his sexuality; I didn't vote for him because I didn't buy the act he was putting on all season. He has a great voice, and he should be who he is - a musical theater performer - which is wonderful. He shouldn't have tried to be a rocker - his performance of "Born to Be Wild" looked like he was trying out for "Easy Rider: the Musical."

Josh Sun. May 31, 2009

michael kaplan-- if you didn't vote for Adam just because he is gay then you are an ignorant homophobe.

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