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Voices

Cruising the old gay stereotypes

Even worse than reaction to the kiss is Adam Lambert’s clichéd act

By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / December 10, 2009

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Originally I resisted dipping into the Adam Lambert fracas and the infamous man-on-man kiss - which looked about as passionate and meaningful as a dwarf suckermouth catfish cleaning the insides of an aquarium. Then ABC canceled the singer’s appearances on “Good Morning America,’’ “Jimmy Kimmel Live,’’ and “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.’’ (Today the network will make nice by having him on its gabfest “The View.’’) When CBS blurred the kiss when replaying the clip, while having no problem showing the far more frightening Britney Spears-Madonna MTV Video Music Awards kiss without blurring, I could keep quiet no longer.

Those lodging complaints, investigating complaints, and generally fearing the apocalypse due to a little dance routine are barking up the wrong tree. What’s offensive here isn’t the grinding, the bumping, or even the lip locking, it’s Lambert as a package. In all the hysteria, why has no one stopped to ask why his bad artificial tan is as orange as a supermarket clementine? Where is the voice of reason asking why he’s dyeing his hair the shade of Wayne Newton’s shoe polish. And why has no one contacted the members of Depeche Mode to see how they feel about Lambert thieving their nail polish?

If the FCC is going to investigate anything it should be that Lambert may be compromising the reputation of gay men everywhere. Gay men have proudly worked hard for centuries to cultivate the appearance of having good taste. Tom Ford, fashion designer and the living embodiment of homo-sexy refinement, is even bringing his mission to movie theaters this month with “A Single Man.’’ And then comes Lambert with his Mystic Tan, makeup, and eyeliner to steamroll it all back dozens of years.

Even more offensive than the bump, grind, and kiss is that Lambert is now taking it upon himself to explain why folks had a difficult time digesting his American Music Awards performance.

“People aren’t used to seeing gay men portrayed that way on TV,’’ he told Ellen DeGeneres last week. “The gay male image in the media tends to be very cliché.’’

So, let me get this straight. Lambert, who dresses like the immaculately conceived love child of Siegfried and Roy, is not a cliché? Cut to me giving the TV the side eye and scratching my head. He’s a bundle of clichés, and represents a very outdated image of the flamboyant gay performer. Freddie Mercury and his stretch unitards were more groundbreaking, and definitely sexier.

Lambert’s gay hypocrisy was on full display on the cover of this month’s Out magazine. He initially refused to be photographed by himself, and, according to Out editor Aaron Hicklin, would only appear in a group shot if he wasn’t made to look “too gay.’’ So there is Lambert pouting in all of his glam glory with other performers. Apparently, he must have a very different definition of what looks “too gay.’’ Perhaps coming up short of Boy George’s lipstick or Charles Nelson Reilly’s ascot is OK? The term “self-hating’’ springs to mind.

Hicklin smartly points out that when Lambert appeared in Details magazine, the singer had no problem coming across as heterosexual by cavorting with female models in a photo spread. Lambert must think that coming off as aggressively sexual with men or women is the way to avoid being labeled “too gay.’’ Clearly he knows that gay icons such as Madonna, Britney, or even Cher have never been aggressively sexual in their stage acts, therefore he could avoid such pitfalls by a bit of crotch-related action. Again, cut to me rolling my eyes and thinking that Lambert is simply recycling more gay clichés.

It may read as if I’m kicking this rainbow-bright singer when he’s down, but that’s not my intention. I believe Lambert’s American Music Awards behavior is being judged with a double standard. Heterosexual and lady-on-lady smooching and sex act simulation haven’t raised an eyebrow for years, while Lambert’s not-so-sexy song and dance routine has brought on the wrath of anti-gay conservatives.

But what is offensive is having a kid with over-gelled hair who finished second on a reality TV show talking about gay stereotypes as if Paul Lynde and the movie “Cruising’’ were both current. The world has moved beyond such dated images. Ironically, Lambert has not. He recently told Rolling Stone that “we’re in 2009, it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave.’’

Time for Lambert to follow his own advice. Instead of coming across as a blow-dried prima donna who uses his sexuality when it’s convenient to sell records, why not take a 2009 approach? Stop dressing like drag queen Elvis, stop stealing Britney’s 2002 stage show, and start focusing more on the music.

Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com.