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Globe Editorial

Television: Two standards, or too racy?

November 24, 2009

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After gaining fame on “American Idol,’’ openly gay singer Adam Lambert has treaded the line between being a flamboyant artist and a political figure, rolling out the news of his sexuality with caution, saying he doesn’t want to stand for all gay men.

But Lambert, now free of the “Idol’’ yoke, was waving a civil-rights banner Sunday night after his live performance on the American Music Awards - which consisted of four minutes of simulated sex and bondage with his backup musicians and dancers, set to his single, “For Your Entertainment.’’ Backstage, Lambert said it would be wrong for ABC to edit out the most suggestive parts of his performance for the West Coast feed. (The network ultimately did.) “Female entertainers have been risqué for years,’’ Lambert told the Los Angeles Times. “Honestly, there’s a huge double standard.’’

He’s right that artists from Madonna to Britney have used sex-charged stunts to win attention and distance themselves from the teenyboppers who made them famous. Miley Cyrus arguably crossed a bigger line when she pole-danced at the Teen Choice Awards, which is more vigorously marketed to 10-year-olds. Lambert at least performed at a time when most kids ought to be in bed.

Even so, the right to simulate sex on TV is hardly the most pressing cause for gay Americans. And the staging of yet another highly suggestive performance at yet another award show isn’t a political statement for equality; it’s a rehash of a now-familiar ploy. Shock can be a great publicity tool, but as many seasoned artists learn, there is also beauty in restraint.

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