The American Idol contestant La’Porsha Renae was momentarily a favorite of feminists and parishioners of the holy secular church of social justice. In an interview, a writer on the perpetually angry feminist site Jezebel noted breathlessly if not self-contradictingly, “Talent is subjective, but La’Porsha is undeniably the biggest presence on Idol this season. She boasts a huge, soulful voice that has earned comparisons to Aretha Franklin.”
Nevertheless, Jezebel writer Kate Dries was disturbed that voters are involved in this popularity contest and might thus make a choice that is “undeniably” incorrect. Dries noted huffily that “Only five women have won the show, as opposed to nine men” and also seemed disturbed that several of these men were Southerners (you know, like KKK members). Dries mused, with a conspiratorial tone, “Early on this season, a lot of women made it through, but then it seemed like once it got to the voting rounds they started to drop away. It’s a weird set up.”
Weird. Suspicious. Scary, even. Maybe infinitely elastic Title IX policy should be stretched yet again to cover television singing contests? Never mind that three out of five Idol viewers are female. Just as white racism is to blame when a black cop shoots a black man falsely suspected of a crime, it’s male misogyny that’s to blame if females don’t vote for other females.
So it came to pass: the voters chose someone other than La’Porsha Renae: Mississippi farmboy Trent Harmon. “The Last-Ever Winner of American Idol Is Once Again a White Dude From the South,” ran an accusing Jezebel headline, perhaps hoping to summon images of George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Yet runner-up Renae is also from Mississippi, so the Southern angle doesn’t seem particularly relevant as a distinguishing characteristic. Moreover, if American Idol is so biased towards white Southern men, why do Jezebel writers watch it? A clue as to the emotional involvement of social-justice types may be found in a comment appended to one of the Jezebel stories on Renae: “I haven’t watched Idol in 10 damn years but I watched just for her . . . I love her. I will buy everything she ever records ever. I will sing along loudly and badly in my car with her and pretend she is my best friend.” Imaginary black friends are a potent force among the enlightened classes. A Hillary Clinton adviser told The Guardian in 2008 the hunger for an imaginary black friend was a key part of Barack Obama’s appeal.
All such worship is in the past, though: Renae had to be excommunicated from the social-justice church. It turns out she doesn’t agree with its teachings on homosexuality. “I’m one of the people who don’t really agree with that lifestyle,” she said, in reaction to a question about Mississippi’s recent religious freedom law. “I wasn’t brought up that way. It wasn’t how I was raised. But I do have a lot of friends and a lot of people that I love dearly who are gay and homosexual and they’re such sweet, nice people. We should just respect each other’s differences and opinions and move on.”
Renae might as well have burned a rainbow flag in front of the Mississippi State Capitol. Renae noted carefully that homosexuals and the transgendered “are people just like us. They’re not animals as someone stated before. They’re people with feelings. Although all of us may not agree with that particular lifestyle for religious reasons, whatever the reason is, you still treat each other with respect. Everybody is a human being. We should be able to coexist with one another.”
So gay people are not animals. That’s a fairly uncontroversial position. Jezebel turned the sarcasm-o-meter up to 11 with this response to Renae’s mild words: “LGBT people are not animals! Maybe this means they’re not minerals or vegetables or other categories of non-human, either! How lovely of you to say, La’Porsha. How. Lovely.”
Commenters unloaded on Renae: “Typical self righteous bigot with direct dial to God who talks out of both sides of her ass. ‘I have so many gay friends! I mean, they’re all gonna burn in hell, but boy do they have great fashion sense.”
Said another reader, “Hey buttcanoe—This not like having differing tastes in musicals or a friend of yours preferring the Star Wars prequels to the Force Awakens.” Another chimed in, “Dear La’Porsha—please take your homophobia and use it to go [perform an unlikely sexual act].”
Other reactions, rounded up here, ranged from the hurt to the apoplectic. In the hierarchy of victimology, being gay or transgendered apparently trumps being black. And making any reference to Christian beliefs automatically drops you several places down the hierarchy as well. Renae went from being a heroic symbol of the oppressed to a horrific symbol of oppression overnight.
As William Voegeli wrote in the Claremont Review of Books, “That the first shall be last and the last shall be first is no longer the rule of Heaven, but the basis for governing in this world. What must be done for you, and may not be done to you, now depends on your privileged-to-victimized handicap score.” For not particularly agreeing with a lifestyle, Renae earned the pop-culture equivalent not of winning American Idol but of being booted off the island in Survivor.