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A kiss just a kiss?

December 3, 2009

Adam Lambert's kiss has caused much controversy

When American Idol runner up Adam Lambert kissed a male bandmate while performing at the American Music Awards at the end of November, a row began, that not only evoked memories of the Janet Jackson ‘nipplegate’ incident, but also showed that below the surface a level of hypocrisy and homophobia lay.

Following the incident ABC news network has cancelled a number of performances and appearances by Lambert, including an upcoming appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Lambert, has remained upbeat, remarking on his Twitter page: “Yes, sadly friends, ABC has cancelled my appearances on Kimmel and NYE. 😦 don’t blame them. It’s the FCC heat.” Despite Adam’s positive look on the affair, the act of kissing a male band mate – even though Lambert is openly gay – and despite a simulated sex act, which could be seen as controversial was on television late at night so away from ‘innocent’ eyes, a storm has arisen across blogs, news commentaries and social netowrk sites.

Some have taken to defending Lambert, after all he is not the first performer to ever perform a controversial act on a music award show, but others have reacted with an anger that is most venomous. And with it comes a level of not only hypocrisy, but a worrying reminder that homophobia has never gone away and some are itching for any excuse to retch.

For myself, I was most disturbed when reading through different comments online the fact that people seemed to be so upset at a man kissing a man. Aren’t we in the age of reason now? And wait a minute – what about Madonna? Yes, this episode reminded me that only a couple of years ago, Madonna performed an on stage kiss with first Britney Spears and then just to prove she could, Christina Aguilera. And despite a few mutterings, the incident was largely overlooked – no one banned Madonna or Britney. And yet a few years later, Lambert is being vilified. And why? Because it seems, some people still can not get past two men kissing.

As Lambert told Rolling Stones magazine: “”Female performers have been doing this for years – pushing the envelope about sexuality – and the minute a man does it everybody freaks out.””

But is it as simple as this? No. Despite the kiss being controversial, and television stations still minding what they broadcast following the hefty fines after the Jackson superbowl image, it was not just the kiss, it was the act of one man pushing the face of another into his crotch. But wait, haven’t other performers performed risque acts? Yes, and one name springs to mind – Madonna. Madonna who has performed many controversial acts on her numerous tours, attracts a certain amount of criticism but again, is not being banned from ABC. Rosie Swash on The Guardian’s music blog tried to make an arguement that “Lambert’s idea of sex is imbued with aggression. It is forceful and sneering and has no issue with holding someone down until they acquiesce.” But Rosie is very wrong. The act that Lambert performed may to Swash seem to be act of forced domination, but that is her interpretation, obviously based on a narrow minded view. She presumes that the act is meant to be nonconsensual.

Swash also uses Rihanna’s latest album to highlight another lip curling prenounceation of distrust: “Rihanna’s publicity campaign for her current album, Rated R, is one recent big-name example, where the singer can be seen barely wearing a barbed-wire dress. This might be her way of contexualising what happened to her in a way that presents her as in control, but it’s still a disturbing set of images to project to your audience.” But again she misses the point. Rihanna may seem to be visiting the acts that befell her after ex boyfriend Chris Brown assaulted her, but this interpretation shows a distinct lack of basic journalistic research. Rihanna told ABC: “all of it isn’t about that specific relationship or what I went through, ’cause that’s not who I am. That’s not all of who I am.” It would do Swash some good to take note of one of the commentators to her blog:

“Posturing is not endorsement. Lambert brings a fairly obvious sense of camp and irony to his performances – anyone who’d choose to release THAT album cover is clearly not to be taken literally. On the other hand, Rihanna presents something different altogether – are you saying a woman who’s now a role model for the strength she displayed in response to domestic violence is now endorsing sexual aggressiveness? Her artistic image is a brave one – she’s not playing the victim or displaying self-pity, nor is she responding in turn with violence. For fairly obvious reasons, Eminem tends to be consistently singled out by writers with similar viewpoints – but yet again, his murder fantasies are just that – expressions of catharsis. A depiction of violence is not necessarily an endorsement of it – if anything, the level of detail and discomfort he creates in much of his music discourages it. In the case of Eminem, Adam Lambert, PMRC-disapproved acts in the ’80s, video games and the myriad number of scapegoats that’ve popped up over the years, take note – there is such a thing as artistic license. Any intended “messages” are not always to be taken literally. And for the one in every ten million Marilyn Manson fans who commits murder, blame an already violent person’s misinterpretation, not an artist who never wanted to endorse it.”

No matter how some tries to dress this up as somehow eing not about the kiss but about the act, and the act somehow represents a violence that should not be seen, it does not stop the fact that there is an inherent hypocrisy that still reigns, even now in the 21st Century. And if Lambert had been a guy performing the act with a woman or a woman performing the act with a man or even another woman, the furore would not be carrying on as it is now.

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