Short shot #23: community standards

Alessandra Stanley’s “The TV Watch” column (“Community Standard or Double Standard?”), in the November 26 New York Times Arts section, begins:

It wasn’t really the man-on-man kiss or the simulated oral sex that marked [American Idol contestant] Adam Lambert‘s performance on the American Music Awards on Sunday as shocking. Mostly it was ABC’s reaction. By rescinding Mr. Lambert’s invitation to sing on “Good Morning America,” ABC self-protectively drew a line that networks usually prefer to keep blurred.

… There is a lot of very adult material on television all the time, and mostly it flows unchecked and unpunished, except when it comes as a surprise and hits a nerve. Community standards are mutable and vague; lots of people don’t know obscenity until someone else sees it. [emphasis mine]

… Mr. Lambert … startled viewers because he did things akin to what outrĂ© rappers and female pop stars have performed onstage to get attention, only he did it as a gay man.

ABC brought on “squeaky clean Donny Osmond” instead of Lambert, and Lambert went on “The Early Show” to complain about double standards. Stanley concluded:

[Lambert’s singing on the American Music Awards] wasn’t the best musical performance by any means, but it wasn’t the worst display of sexual debauchery either. Mostly it was a reminder of television’s policy regarding gay men: Do tell, just don’t show.


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