I wouldn?t have normally gone to the Student Activities Council?s Karaoke Showdown, but my staff decided that it would be a nice social event to attend together. I already knew that I wasn?t a fan of Jordan Knight simply because I can?t even remember the New Kids On The Block, and couldn?t name or sing one of their songs if I had a gun to my head. I realize now that I must have been too busy listening to better music. I almost enjoyed the show.There were so many talented individuals who showcased their gift of music, and I enjoyed nearly every number. I would have enjoyed the show more if it weren?t for Jordan Knight and judge Tony Calloway?s comments of bigotry, homophobia and the objectification of women.
The Student Activities Council (SAC) Advisor, Jeff Gerstein, said he received many comments of positive feedback about the show, and I can understand this since there were countless women who were in awe of Knight, being that he was one of their childhood crushes. Women gathered to stand on the floor near front of the stage, cooing at him, singing and dancing. Some attempted to get his attention by throwing their undergarments on the stage.
The subject of homophobia is not recognized in society or on this campus very much as it is, but I was honestly extremely surprised that only one other person besides myself said anything to Gerstein about the comments made by Knight and Calloway during the show.
In order to understand what I am talking about, I unfortunately have to repeat what Knight and Calloway said that upset me so much. First, let?s set the stage.
Calloway and the other two judges were seated at a table on stage to the audience?s right. After each number was finished, the contestant stood on stage in front of the judges in an American-Idol-like fashion for the judges to show the audience and contestant the score they gave them. Knight mostly stood or danced near the
judge?s table on stage during the contestant?s performances, even after his four song repertoire had ended. Knight was also accompanied by someone who he called “a friend,” a man whose name I do not know. I later found out from Gerstein that he is a performer who is “shadowing” Knight on tour. He also sat on stage behind the judge?s table, visible to most of the audience, and danced and talked with Knight during some of the performances as well.
When Knight first entered the stage, and throughout the evening, he made sure to comment on how many sexy ladies were in the audience. All right, so far, it?s not that bad. Certainly not a comment I would have preferred, but a little distasteful, nonetheless. But it gets worse.
During one of Knight?s songs a woman threw her bra on stage.
He asked whose it was while holding it up to his own chest so the audience got a good look at it. The supposedly braless female who threw it identified herself; she was part of the crowd on the floor close to the stage. Knight said, “I feel bad for you.” At first, the audience balked at what sounded like an immense insult, but he clarified his position by stating something along the lines of “It must hurt to jog; they?d poke your eyes out!” implying that she has large breasts. My guess is that this woman wanted to show Knight some love by throwing her bra up on stage. I wonder if she planned on her cup size being subjected to ridicule not only by Knight, but by the entire audience?
Another time that Knight?s actions offended me and others was during Jacquie Turk?s number. Assuming that anyone wouldn?t mind being touched by him, Knight came over to Turk during her performance of Madonna?s song “Borderline” and practically manhandled her. Turk wasn?t exactly pleased with Knight?s actions. If I was her, I would have been unsure of what to do if the touching was unwanted.
After all, she was in front of a live audience, most of who was responding positively to Knight?s antics. I also would have been outraged that I had such distraction during my performance, andI definitely would have felt violated.
Turk wasn?t the only one subjected to Knight?s advances.
When Katie DiLeo received a high score during the second round from judge Tony Calloway, Knight commented to him and the audience, “It must have been the view,” since the judge had a back view of DiLeo, thus commenting on Calloway being able to see her rear. Although this is a positive comment for DiLeo, it was needlessly made, and it overtly objectifies women. It brings her appearance under scrutiny, and that was not what she was there to be judged on.
In the second round, when DiLeo picked a number to uncover that would reveal her song to sing, Jordan asked, “You want me to take it off?” He was referring to the sheet hiding what song it was, but then he followed it up with the comment, “I didn?t mean your shirt.” This again was needless, and brings the audience back to thinking about DiLeo?s body. If I was her, I would have wanted to slap Knight in the face.
Even though these comments by Knight are horrible, most of my anger about the show comes from Calloway?s actions during and after contestant Andre Wood?s performance.
A delightful showman, Wood had awesome dance moves, a groovy outfit, and was most of all great at singing. However, for some reason, I guess Calloway doesn?t view men as being able to have dance moves, or maybe he was intimidated by Wood?s long hair, or maybe it was the fact that he was singing a Beyonce song. Whatever the case, what Calloway did was absolutely unacceptable.
During Wood?s performance, Calloway put on his jacket and pretended to leave. Afterwards, when the judges spoke into the microphone to tell the audience and the performer what they thought, he said, “I?m never coming back here again,” and gave Wood a low score. When Wood was leaving the stage and had to pass closer to the judge?s table, Calloway stood up to avoid being closer to him, and purposefully placed his scoring board over his buttocks, implying that Wood was homosexual and he was afraid of sexual advances towards him. It should not be considered an insult to be homosexual. That is not why I am angry at Calloway. Rather, I am angry because his attitude and responses to Wood were extremely homophobic.
I can bet that if Calloway, an African American, was discriminated against, or if someone made a comment or action against him, he would be up in arms. However, Calloway obviously does not see his homophobic actions as parallel to other forms of discrimination.
Homophobia goes widely unrecognized in general. Every time someone says “That?s so gay” to refer to something as being stupid or ridiculous, that is homophobic.
It implies that there is something wrong with being gay. Every time someone avoids another person who they think to be homosexual because they fear advances from them, that is homophobic. And of course, every time anyone uses a derogatory word to describe a homosexual person, that is homophobia.
Another homophobic comment was made by Knight during the show, this time by Knight. A performance by one of the allmale groups called “Spice Rack” included some of them dancing with each other. After the number was finished and Knight took over the microphone, he said, “The guy-on-guy action just made me queasy!”
I could really care less about the other things in the show that bothered me, such as Knight?s unfairness in his song selection practices in the third round, the two hours and 40 minutes length of the show, or the judges seeming to not have any consistent rubric or guidelines on which to judge the contestants. I hope that people do not blame SAC for the comments and behaviors exhibited by Jordan Knight and judge Calloway; SAC obviously had no idea that anyone would make hateful or offensive comments.
According to Gerstein, performers are not required or asked to sign any sort of contract that corresponds with WCU?s values statement. That could, after all, possibly inhibit one?s free speech.
However, in this day and age, would anyone go on stage and say the word “nigger?” I highly doubt so. The same attitude that has been taken against racism needs
to be adapted for homophobia, as it is the same thing. It is discrimination based on someone because they are simply different from you. It is derogatory and hateful.
It stifles another person?s free speech and who they are. I plan to formally send a letter of reprimand to Knight, his manager, and Tony Calloway.
I hope that anyone else who is upset by Knight or Calloway?s actions will also write to them. Knight?s manager?s email, which can be found on his Web site, www.jordanknight.com, is firstname.lastname@example.org.