The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Gay American Idol and the First Amendment

Okay, so this immensely popular fellow from American Idol, Adam Lambert, did a highly sex-charged performance at the American Music Awards last night. Gay sex-charged. The performance included "dance" moves that included simulated oral sex and tongue-to-tongue lip locks with Lambert's fellow (fellow) dancers.

Public simulated sex acts (gay or heterosexual) are against the law here in Rapid City, even in licensed Adult Oriented Businesses like Shotgun Willies. See Section T of the code here. Such acts are permitted, apparently on prime time network television.

What do we learn from this? Not much we didn't know before. Censorship does not work. Rapid City, in 2002, fell all over itself to stop something that today takes place on prime time television and the city council is powerless to stop it there.

The American Music Awards have been the venue for some controversial stuff: Michael Jackson's crotch-grabbing performance of Billie Jean; Madonna's French kiss of Brittany Spears; and now this.

America was shocked at all of them. And, sometimes that is what art is designed to do. In the case of Michael Jackson's performance, even the most jaded wingnut would have difficulty in claiming that performance was not art. From my perspective, the Madonna thing was absolutely not art and the Lambert thing, if art, did not approach the quality of the Jackson performance.

So, am I offended that Lambert is an out-of-the-closet gay? No. Am I offended that Lambert's performance featured simulated gay oral sex? No. Am I offended that he tongue kissed one of his male dancers? No. I didn't watch it. I exercised my right to tune into something else.

As it turns out, Dick Clark Entertainment (which produces the AMA) says it was unaware Lambert's performance would include the controversial acts. So there was no ability to warn the audience about the content.

I know some of the radical religious right will claim that The First Amendment does not protect simulated gay sex acts in prime time on government-owned airwaves. And, my answer is that the First Amendment was not adopted to protect popular speech. And, if it doesn't protect Lambert's rights, it doesn't protect yours either.

What say you, Forumpians?


Jinglebob said...

Yes, he is protected.

In poor taste and one would hope that those who are against this sort of thing will vote with their pocketbook and not buy his taps and CD's.

Good post.


caheidelberger said...

Last week I judged an interp contest and ranked a readers theater last for simulating a sex act on stage and for uttering the phrase "go down on him." No First Amendment issue: I just don't want to see such crudeness representing a high school on a state contest stage. Call me a prudish conservative.

senor citizen said...

Good for you, Cory! I'm all for the First Amendment, but there is a line to be crossed as regards decency too.

Michael Sanborn said...

You judged the deal right. I didn't say I liked Lambert's performance, or that I want my grandchildren watching and asking me questions about it.

Senior Citizen, the fact is that we run into trouble when we draw lines for decency. Who gets to decide what's decent? Rush Limbaugh? Nancy Pelosi? See the problem?

It appeared in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall under the pseudonym S[tephen] G. Tallentyre:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

That's how important the First Amendment is.

nonnie said...

I agree with the quote above, but still there is a limit to what is decent and what crosses the line. And I see that Lambert's performance on I think it was ABC was cancelled, so evidently I'm not alone on this.

Michael Sanborn said...


Precisely. The market will attend to it. There is no need for censorship, the market is censoring Mr. Lambert.

Jinglebob said...

Capitalism. Gotta love it!


Troy Jones said...

This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. If it did, AMA would be unable to prevent a Nazi from performing a song entitled "Burn a Jew, save a tree."

Lambert is free in America to do as he pleases. And AMA is free to allow it or censor it. Free Speech is a right that the government can not limit. However, AMA "owns" control of what happens on their stage.

Unless AMA in the future has some procedures via time delay to regulate what is shown on their show, it is likely that it will be seen on the future on MTV or some other cable channel.

Troy Jones said...

P.S. I wonder if most gay people and gay rights advocates think this overt indecency on a show seen by music lovers of all ages and stripes really think this helps their cause.

My guess is that 95% of Americans (hetero or homo) believe sexual expression is to be a private act and especially not viewed by minors.