We live in a new world, folks. And that world doesn’t include hitting on people who are simply trying to break into the industry. That world also doesn’t include double standards, so when Katy Perry uncomfortably flirts with eager American Idol contestants, it’s the same violation as if it was done by a man. What if Harry Connick Jr. used his post to playfully flirt with 19-year-old contestants? He wouldn’t get a pass, and Perry shouldn’t either. In fact, she even stole a first kiss from a non-consenting teenager (Benjamin Glaze) who later said the moment made him uncomfortable. Though he didn’t feel it rose to the level of harassment, that does not make it okay. Nor is it okay to suggest he should feel lucky for the kiss because of Katy’s star stature. Another contestant, named Trevor Holmes, lamented about making ends meet to support his family, only to be interrupted by Perry who exclaimed, “You’re so hot.” Imagine if a woman in a casting audition, who was trying to win a role, had the same demeaning interruption while others, who could come to her defense, sat there in silence. We don’t need to imagine it, because it’s been mentioned many times in the #MeToo movement.
It’s also worth noting that there was a time when American Idol was an unbeatable force in the industry. The show’s reign lasted far longer than expected, and its decline was due more to audience fatigue than content. But it’s important to remember exactly why the show was a success. Though Simon Cowell’s barbs were a consistent point of conversation, they represented more than schadenfreude or voyeuristic bullying. You see — Simon Cowell actually had a record label, and the man knew what made a star. Who could forget when he proudly predicted Carrie Underwood’s massive success extremely early in the game. Without an A&R person on the panel, the show loses it’s ever-present edge over its competitors. This is a show about making a star and to date, it’s the only show that has made a star. To make up for that absence by playing up Perry’s flirtation, is not only a dated ploy, it’s inappropriate.