It was recently announced that American pop star and American Idol season whoknowswhat finalist Adam Lambert will be headlining our New Year's Eve Countdown show.
And, as many of you who were online over the past couple of days might know, there's been a massive blow-up over it.
It began with this anonymously-initiated petition:
Which, as you can see, is against Lambert being part of the show.
It was then countered by this also-anonymous petition:
Oh, and here's another one:
Some proponents of the first petition say it's not as much about sexual orientation discrimination as it is about the acts —
"Singaporeans can enjoy a good show without their consciences being affronted by lewd acts in the name of entertainment."
What follows this may perhaps be more telling, though:
"In addition, a simple online search would reveal that he is well-known for his active promotion of a highly sexualized lifestyle and LGBT rights, both of which are contrary to mainstream Singaporean values."
It also goes on to say that MediaCorp's choice of Lambert to be part of the show is "dividing Singapore and souring what can be a rousing end of a significant SG50 year".
But whether or not it's about the fact that Lambert is gay, we think these petitions were uncalled for and unnecessary.
(And while we're at it, when and why did this culture of petitioning for or against things online start, anyway?!)
And here are seven reasons why we have issues with the whole Adam Lambert online brouhaha:
1. Just because a person is gay or says he likes to use his concerts or performances to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people, it does not mean he is going to show the same thing at every performance he does.
Because that will be boring and predictable, isn't it?
Perhaps he has carried out showy acts before, with his dancers and band members. In one particular show, where we noticed all the photos that appear in the first petition came from, he kissed his male keyboardist onstage at the American Music Awards in 2009, shortly after a dancer simulated oral sex on him. During that show, which even American media declared "over the top" and "too extreme", he was also walking other S&M outfit-clad dancers on leashes.
Yes, this one show did happen, and if you read that Washington Post article we linked to, you'll see that he said he was making a statement with it.
But Lambert isn't just about that. In fact, among hundreds of other non-"over-the-top" shows he has done since then, he most recently has been touring with Queen around the world between last year and next year, and we hardly think he would do things like the above in his Queen shows — after all, there would be no place for them either.
There are many ways for a person to convey a message, even through a performance of a lineup of songs. We're sure Lambert will be creative and come up with something new — just like he promised us he will on Friday evening.
2. People are opposing Lambert's being part of the show line-up without even knowing what he is going to perform.
This is not the first time Lambert has performed in Singapore.
Lambert has performed thrice in Singapore, once in 2013 at and twice in 2010 including at the Formula 1 Grand Prix concerts. No one seems to have complained excessively about those performances, nor had there been any major public outcry against what he did, said, danced or sang there.
Let's also add in the fact that Lambert did a perfectly "clean" performance in Kuala Lumpur in 2010, where restrictions on sexual expression are even stricter than they are here — evidence that he is perfectly capable of playing by the rules.
And can we all just think about this for one second — what if, by some crazy unlikelihood (and if some of you don't realise, we're being sarcastic here), Lambert manages to put up a totally clean, kiss-free, sexual act-free performance for us? All this hoo-ha would have been pointless, now, wouldn't it?
Bearing in mind that this show isn't like the previous ones done here — it'll be broadcast on our national, free-to-air channels, we're sure he's aware of this fact and will prepare his act accordingly. Which brings us to our next point:
3. MediaCorp has assured us that Lambert's segment will stay within the boundaries of our regulations and restrictions. And there are enough safeguards in place.
In a statement on Thursday, Debra Soon, MediaCorp's head of its English-language family and premier segments, said: "Celebrate 2016 will be suitable for family audiences and conform with broadcast regulations."
So let's take her word for it.
Moreover, the countdown show will be held at The [email protected] Bay, which is a public space.
This means that MediaCorp will have to apply for a Public Entertainment License (PEL) with the Singapore Police Force (SPF).
And there are rules and regulations for the PEL. For example:
"The appropriate Licensing Officer may, in his discretion, suspend or cancel a licence, as the case may be, if he is satisfied that the public entertainment for which it was issued —
(a) has been the cause or is likely to be the cause of a breach of the peace;
(b) has been or is likely to be wholly or in part of an indecent, immoral, offensive, subversive or improper nature;
(c)has caused or is likely to cause unnecessary suffering or any injury to any person or animal taking part in it, or to any member of the audience;
(d) has been or is likely to be provided in contravention of any provision of this Act;
(e) has been or is likely to be provided in contravention of any condition of the licence; or
(f) is contrary to public interest.
If MediaCorp doesn't obey them, there are penalties — their license will be cancelled and they could be fined up to $10,000.
Even if they are a rich and a very liberal company (and from what we've seen in the past, we can't say they are), would they want to run the risk of getting their license suspended and waving bye bye to big ad dollars in public events like the annual Chinese New Year celebrations in future?
Now, to their credit, those against Lambert performing may not necessarily be against him by virtue of his sexual orientation, and that's why we're equally annoyed by the counter-petitions that are circulating and accusing them of solely that. Which brings us to our next point:
4. The folks opposed to Lambert performing aren't against him just because of his sexual orientation, but more because of his expressive performances.
These may not be altogether child-friendly, as illustrated by the images in that first petition. Additionally, he did kiss his guitarist during his F1 performance here in 2010, and these images from a New Paper story on his ticketed concert at The Star Performing Arts Centre two years ago show his backup dancers removing their tops — a fairly okay thing to be happening in a show, but nonetheless, just a by-the-way note.
(Also, that particular show was opposed by some as well, for its selection of venue — owned by New Creation Church.)
So to be fair, they do have a point since, you know, free-to-air, all can watch, national show, what if he springs a surprise and since it's live, how to censor quickly enough, etc etc.
5. Therefore, let's focus on Lambert's performances instead of his sexuality. However, we should also appreciate the fact that different people have different definitions on what is decent or indecent.
In the call against Lambert performing in Countdown 2016, the anonymous petitioners said that Lambert's "track record displays a flagrant disregard for the sensitivities of his audience".
So if the anonymous petitioners' beef is not with Lambert's sexuality, and if his performances are viewed as indecent by some Singaporeans and the anonymous petitioners, one can boycott the event by turning the TV off.
We can even get media watchdog Media Development Authority (MDA) to implement an advisory, something that was done previously in Lambert's last concert.
In 2013, MDA gave a rating of "Advisory 16 and above (some mature content)" for his performance, which means that the event has content that may not be suitable for younger audience, but admission will not be restricted by age.
If you want to play it safe, you can urge the MDA to consider issuing the highest form of classification ratings for his segment — R18. This means that the content is restricted to audiences 18 years and above and the age restriction must be imposed by the licensees/organisers.
But to ban Lambert from performing? That does not sound like what a plural and inclusive (and secular) society should do.
6. We now examine the first counter petition, which is rather provocative and divisive. We now see that even a conglomerate, Warner Music, has urged Lambert's fans to sign it.
In the counter petition, the anonymous petitioners accused their opponents of "obvious sexual orientation discrimination" and even claimed that these folks are "anti family and anti Singaporean values".
This is disingenuous, because the intent of the first petition was to protest Lambert's potentially offensive performances, not so much his sexuality, even if it did have some part to play in motivating their move in the first instance.
All that said and done, we think Warner Music, the largest American-owned music conglomerate worldwide, is being very irresponsible in this matter.
Warner Music could have encouraged Lambert's fans to show their support for him just by showing up to attend the event.
Instead, the foreign-owned company throws its weight behind a divisive counter-petition that name-calls other Singaporeans.
Not cool, Warner Music. You should stay out of this.
7. And even in the unlikely event that Lambert fails to listen to MediaCorp and manages to pull a stunt on us all, on live national free-to-air telly, it could prove to be a learning point for us all.
Lambert has said in a statement that his performance would "celebrate the entire human family in all its diversity" and that he was "a uniter, not a divider".
Let's take his word that he will be a wee bit more sensitive, and appreciate the fact that he is performing on national telly to all Singaporeans.
For religious parents, this is your opportunity to share your beliefs about what is good and proper, and perhaps what isn't, with your children.
For MediaCorp, if you signed an agreement, cool — you could get him to pay the fine you'll eventually be slapped with, and in turn, don't engage him to perform for your events in future.
And here's one more thing about petitions: when a group of people engage in advocacy via petitioning, it will inevitably be seen by the opposing group as being hostile, bigoted (in this case especially) and as an unnecessary attack. We've seen this time and time again in Singapore, and yet, somehow, people still think putting up petitions is a good idea.
Really? You'd think Singaporeans should know better; that this doesn't work — because if, say for instance, the people backing the initial petition are Christians or other religious conservatives, it gives pro-LGBT activists and sympathisers instant ammunition against them, and as we already see, the latter group has called the first petition an attack on "real Singaporean values", decrying it as outright discrimination against LGBT people.
Similarly, conservative family groups like "Singaporeans United for Family" and "Focus on the Family" have also jumped on the bandwagon of capitalising on the "against Adam Lambert" petition by sharing it and urging people to sign it.
So sit back, and look what has happened, folks — thanks to your petitions, you've managed to create a perfect storm in a teacup of concerns that may not even be founded, should Lambert's performance end up being totally harmless.
And chances are high that's totally going to be the case.
Top image from Adam Lambert's Facebook page.