Puritan Idol

Racist or hypocritical – these are the two charges being laid against the producers of American Idol for not tossing contestant Antonella Barba from the wildly popular reality show. Her offence? The appearance of semi-nude photos all over the web, many of which came from a calendar she reportedly made for a boyfriend.

The photos themselves, while racy, are neither pornographic nor graphic and the few that are explicit are being dismissed as fakes. But even if they are of Antonella, what’s the harm? She’s of age and not doing anything illegal or harmful. It’s not like there were little animals or dead bodies involved, just a little skin.

The show itself is ignoring the pin-up pics, making no reference to the controversy and Antonella certainly isn’t talking. The only official response came from Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe, who told Entertainment Weekly that he was aware of the photos. "It's sad, isn't it, that your best friends are the ones that come forward with information that will go to Smoking Gun or put your photographs on the Web?"

The big men of Idol all weighed in on the nudie shots while, ironically, attending a party at the Playboy mansion. Critic-in-chief Simon Cowell said the photos should “not affect her standing on the show, and if the public wants to keep her in, they'll keep her in.” Randy Jackson added cryptically: “Nobody's clean in the entertainment business.” Even Leslie Hunt, who was voted off last week, was nonplussed. "It doesn't excite me that she has pictures like that. I mean, who doesn't? Whatever, get over it."

So good for Idol for standing up to the moral crusaders who can’t bear to witness any evidence of sexuality, especially in a young woman. It’s American Idol, not Puritan Idol, right? Perhaps, except for the case of Frenchie Davis, who was unceremoniously turfed from the show back in Season 2, for appearing topless on an adult website. So why the double standard?

"We object to having one rule for black contestants and a different rule for white contestants who exhibit the same behavior," said Najee Ali, a community activist and founder of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., who staged a protest outside of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on Tuesday. Professional crank Rossie O'Donnell called the show "weightist and racist" and even Davis herself questioned the dichotomy, telling the New York Post: "I couldn't help but notice the difference between the manner in which she was dealt with and how I was dealt with.”

"I think it's fantastic if Idol has evolved and I think it's fantastic she won't have to go through what I went through four years ago,” she said. “But if the rules have changed, I believe there should be something to make up for the fact that I was humiliated needlessly.”

So which is it, racism, hypocrisy, or a simple rule change? I figure it’s because Idol is untouchable now. Back is Season 2 they were a hit, but now they are a cultural behemoth, with multiple Grammy winners and an Oscar winner under the belt. The show still pulls in millions of viewers each episode and won’t be pushed around. Hopefully this will help people take a more reasonable attitude about sexuality and not ruin the potential career over a few snapshots. I mean we can’t let Paris Hilton have all the fun, can we?

Seems nudie pics aren't enough to keep you on Idol, as Antonella was tossed off the show on Thursday. Now we'll really see what her intentions are and whether or not she tries to extended her 15 minutes of fame by heading to Maxim or Playboy. On a related note, Sanjaya Malakar? What the hell? And damn that show is cruel - forget the judges, how about being made to sing minutes after finding out you lost?


  1. You could be right. It could be that American Idol is so big that it is untouchable now. Too, I have to wonder if the nature of the photos have anything to do with it. I've seen neither the pix of Barba nor the pictures of Davis, but I had the understanding that the pix of Davis were topless while the pix of Barba she is covered in all of the important places. I suppose that could make a difference for some.

  2. I don't think it has to do with the degree of nudity involved; it's more a question of intention. One willfully appeared on an adult site for money, knowing her images could be seen by everyone; the other one's pictures were intended to be seen by one person only and that person betrayed her trust. (anyway, that's what she said)Racism? I don't think so. Procès d'intention? Hell, yeah.

  3. I think the unwritten rule is, if you're an ugly skank ho whose pictures make Simon lose his lunch, you're out!

  4. I don't think the nature of the nudity, the intent nor even how much they excite or appall Simon should matter. It's not like sex and music have never been linked before, so I don't see why either of them should be disqualified from the show. Of course it is their show, so I suppose they can keep or kick off whomever they choose.