Ghosts in the Idol finale

I am not an American Idol fan and have not seen a single minute of this year's pop-machinery-industrial festival. I love music way too much to watch.

However, I am enjoying watching the media meltdown over the surprise winner and part of me wants to shout to the mainstream reporters, as opposed to commentators: JUST REPORT AND WRITE THE RELIGION ANGLE AND GET IT OVER WITH.

I realize that facts play a disputed role in entertainment journalism. I also know that the Kingdom of Simon may be such a closed shop, in terms of actual journalistic access to the "stars," that it might be hard to do real interviews that might reveal real insights. But, please, if you read the main stories on this event, you would think that Pat Robertson defeated Barney Frank or something. Was the presidency of Barack Obama really at stake in this contest?

Want to read between some major lines? Check out the New York Times:

It's possible that "American Idol" viewers' selection of Kris Allen over Adam Lambert says something about the mood and mores of the country, that viewers are too conformist to anoint a sassy, androgynous individualist. Then again, maybe not: Mr. Allen's victory may merely reflect the voters' conventional taste in pop music.

The choice of Mr. Allen, revealed during the two-hour finale on Fox on Wednesday night, wasn't a breakthrough decision, even if a record 100 million votes were cast. ... But it isn't necessary to seek deeper meaning in the finale; it's the "American Idol" franchise itself that best speaks to the state of the nation.

Yawn. Come on, there are a few facts here to report.

Let's try another mainstream bible, the Style section at the Washington Post. Start with the lede:

This time, Kris Allen, the modest, 23-year-old married college student who has worked as a church worship leader, was named 2009's American Idol. He beat Adam Lambert, the 27-year-old, boldly creative, can-only-call-him-"flamboyant" musical theater actor who brought "guyliner" and black fingernail polish to the country's most watched television show and made the audience like it.

But wait! This is Washington, so we also have to add:

... (T)here'll be more talk about this being the latest red state/blue state battle -- such as Republican strategist Todd Harris did on CBS's "The Early Show" yesterday morning, as in: "You've got these more liberal elites who live on each coast, represented by Adam, and then Kris represents what those on the coast refer to as the flyover states."

And getting closer to the point:

Meanwhile, people who actually watch the show will be debating the Danny Gokey Factor -- a theory espoused by "American Idol's" Deep Thought Thinker, Paula Abdul: "After the third one leaves, you wonder where do the votes go from that third contestant," Abdul told the Associated Press backstage after Tuesday's final performance show.

The 29-year-old Gokey, this year's second runner-up, is a widower who hails from Milwaukee. A church music director, Gokey -- like Allen -- was a non-flashy performer.

Lambert, on the other hand, hails from Los Angeles by way of San Diego, was in the cast of "Wicked" and doesn't talk much about his personal life. But expect the "is-he-or-isn't-he?" chatter about Lambert to explode today into a full-on debate about whether the vote reflects gay bias.

So you have two straight church guys vs. the "Wicked" guy with Style.

Now, contrast the mainstream language with this snip from the online world, where I had hundreds of options. What struck me about this one was the possibility that there were actual religious background facts to report and explore.

Frankly, I would also love to ask this question: Has Sunday morning in megachurch America already turned into the American Idol minor leagues? Is this victory a sign that the dreaded Contemporary Christian Music niche is getting more or less powerful? Should we start a betting pool on the release date for the big Kris Allen worship-music disc?

Anyway, check out the blunt language in this commentary at The God Blog at JewishJournal.com:

Allen was Christian and Southern and more conservative; Lambert was Jewish and liberal and made for Hollywood. And at some point, it appears that Allen became the straight "Idol" and Lambert the gay "Idol."

"American Idol was like watching Prop 8 win all over again."

I saw that perspective included in a quick compilation of post-"Idol" chatter on the blog of my old colleague Greg Hernandez, who is gay and was himself wondering how much of the spike in "Idol" voting was "anti-Adam." It's really impossible to know how many Christians, and other socially conservative religious folks, voted for Allen simply because he wasn't Lambert. But I'm sure at least some.

Stay tuned. I hope someone actually does some reporting on the religion side of the story, if reporting is allowed.

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