What can families watch together anymore?
If you judge by the commercials, there are a number of good talent-based options. America’s Got Talent indicates that it’s a family-friendly show geared toward finding diamonds in the rough. The new X Factor is advertised as a place where the under-employed and under-appreciated can finally get a chance to shine. The Sing Off is just like the others, but without instruments.
Indeed, families who sit down with a bowl of popcorn around the television will get the feel-good stories Americans have always loved. On the season premiere of X Factor, a 28-year-old garbage man took the stage after the audience heard his terrible story of drug addiction. He’d only been sober 70 days when he confessed that he wanted to be the type of man of whom his son could be proud. When he launched into his own original song called “Young Homie,” it seemed as if it could be an immediate hit — touching, poignant, and inspirational. He and other contestants fulfilled all of the categories necessary to tug at the heartstrings: bad childhood, single parent, drug addiction, cruddy job, jaw-dropping talent.
But amidst all of these Susan Boyle–type stories are moments that make you wish your kids weren’t in the room. For example, Seattle contestant Geo Godley dropped his pants during his terrible song (about emulating Bill Clinton?) with a big “X” blocking out his private parts. Paula Abdul left the stage and vomited, Nicole Scherzinger looked horrified, the awesome L.A. Reid said it was “disgusting, upsetting, and offensive,” and Simon asked him “what the bloody hell” that was. The Parents Television Council agreed with their sentiments. PTC President Tim Winter wrote, “If Godley performed his act in public, he would have been arrested. But if he performs it in front of a Fox camera, his act is beamed via the public airwaves into every home in the nation.”
In fact, the cameras did show at least one mother pulling her two daughters out of the theater.
Is that mother the most sane person in America?
But strange sexual moments on shows rated “TV-PG” for families are very common. On the last season of the a cappella show The Sing Off, one judge demonstrated that she liked a performance by exclaiming, “Shawn over here was having a musical orgasm.” And after watching a few episodes of America’s Got Talent with the kids, I renamed it “America’s Got Transvestites” because of their constant parade of homosexual cross dressers. A bunch of friends came over after Wednesday-night church service to watch the last season of American Idol, and we agreed to fast-forwarding through the raunchy parts. Not only did it make the show considerably shorter, it allowed us to skip the Victoria’s Secret commercials, and Lady Gaga’s risqué rendition of “Edge of Glory” where she writhed in sexually suggestive moves atop a fake cliff on top of a half-naked man.
Are gay men wearing high heels pole-dancing onstage the worst thing in the world? Hardly. But when it happened on America’s Got Talent, it didn’t feel related to any particular talent or American quality we should celebrate.