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Who Is To Blame – American Idol

by LauraBelle

Just who is to blame? Who is to blame for the double standard of heavier or unattractive females not being allowed on American Idol, but the heavier or unattractive males are? The girls are told they have a great voice, yet have an “image problem.” The boys aren’t told this, and are allowed to continue. Some blame Simon Cowell for the record companies he represents, but I wonder if the blame doesn’t go much deeper.

The only man to have won American Idol so far was no teen idol. He was in all likelihood a few hundred pounds overweight, and his runner-up, Clay Aiken, was quite geeky before American Idol stylists got ahold of him with new clothes, contact lenses and a flat iron. Ruben Studdard appeared very sweet and had an infectious smile, but was still obese by anyone’s standards. We are told the largest demographic buying music consists of young women, yet they chose these two men over a young, fit Marine, John Gracin.

The two women that have won were very attractive and thin, yet still picked apart. Kelly Clarkson, very girl-next door-ish was our first winner, winning over a young man, Justin Guarini, that young girls and Paula Abdul swooned over. Yet still, Kelly was bombarded on message boards with people saying she has a big butt. A voice that gave everyone chills, yet they preferred to discuss her backside.

Third season winner, Fantasia Barrino, had no figure flaws, so they chose instead to pick on her single motherhood. Becoming pregnant in high school, she left to raise her child. She was seeking this million dollar record contract to better support her young daughter, yet was vilified by many on message boards saying she shouldn’t be an “idol.” She was just trying to support her young daughter; why was that so dishonorable?

In this season’s auditions, a young woman with a fantastic voice, Sarah Sue Kelly sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” for the judges, and was praised for her talent. Ultimately she was told her appearance was what was holding her back. As a heavyset bespectacled brunette, she told them she doesn’t need to look like Barbie. Good for her, but unfortunately, it doesn’t win you a spot on American Idol.

Another contestant this year, a plain-looking young man, Scott Sabol, was told he had a great voice and wouldn’t get his foot in the door of a record company because of his looks. For this, he is told he deserves to be on American Idol to get that chance he wouldn’t otherwise get, and he is put through to Hollywood. I agree with this assessment, his version of “Superstar” gave me chills and was much better than Ruben Studdard’s ever was, but Sarah Sue Kelly doesn’t get the same chance? Why does American Idol let through the man but not the woman?

I look around, and see this phenomena isn’t confined to televised music talent shows. Last week I watched a newly portly Kirstie Alley promoting her new show, Fat Actress, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In the provided clip of Fat Actress, we see her in her car at a fast food place devouring a meal, and is assumably talking to her agent. She asks why she can’t have her own talk show and is told not until she loses weight. She asks why do John Goodman and James Gandolfini get their own shows, when they are quite heavy, but she doesn’t?

She has a point. It’s not just in American Idol or the music industry; it’s more widespread through at least all entertainment. The question remains, though, if it’s really the film, television and music executives in charge that are to blame for this double-standard or whether it is really us, the viewing and listening public. Would we turn on our televisions to watch a fat or unattractive woman? Would we pay $8.00 to see a movie starring a fat or unattractive woman? Would we pay $16.00 for a CD sung by a fat or unattractive woman?

I would; I know that. Or at least I hope I would. Perhaps someday the double standard will be erased, but it will take changing everyone’s preconceived ideas, from the top on down, on what is acceptable entertainment for us.

I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com


Freelance writer, webmaster of realityshack.com, chief editor at applemagazine.com, contribtor to TechLife News and maketecheasier.com, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.