What if Simon Cowell was a woman? He would likely have been labeled a ball breaker, an angry spinster, a cold and calculating she-demon. Alas, as a tell-it-like it is man, he got to say things that a female judge would never get away with without being labeled as PMS-ing, neurotic, or downright mean.
And what if Paula Abdul were a man? Abdul plays into a plethora of female stereotypes: ditzy, emotional, nurturing, inarticulate. Perched as she was between Randy (the ultra-cool dog) and Simon (the cold, calculating Brit), she tended to come off as a bubble-headed, smiley faced, tear-stained cheerleader. Saying things like “I want to squeeze you,” Abdul was the “nice” judge on the panel. If she were male, she would have been raked across the coals for such niceness.
This season, commentators have weighed in that the panel is now too nice. For example, “It’s Time for American Idol Judges to Get Mean” argues the judges need to remember the show is a competition. Noting Lopez “has a smidge of Paula Abdul in her, as we saw when she broke down eliminating Chris Medina,” Berman argues that “It’s a kinder, gentler ‘Idol,’ this season, but that doesn’t mean it will be better.”
With mean-macho Cowell and syrupy sweet Abdul absent, the panel is certainly less stereotypically gendered in ways.
I was in hopes Lopez would show some of the Diva-side she is rumored to have, and be a bit tougher on contestants. Instead, far too much focus has been directed at Lopez’s appearance (as when she was named People’s most beautiful woman) and far too little focus has been placed on actual judging.
With “I love you” as her tag-line, Lopez is more Abdul than Cowell. If her “hybrid” mixing had a bit more bite, she would be a better, less stereotypically feminine judge – one that could also dole out necessary criticism AND tears. As is, her teary breakdown after telling Medina he was cut from the competition has not been counter-balanced with any incisive critique.
Come on JLo, surely back on the block you needed to be able to throw down tongue-lashings when necessary?
Next time around, I hope JLo will deliver less love, fewer tears, and more of what the job title calls for – judging.