By: Brennan Carley & David Riemer
When TMZ broke the news that American Idol contestant Jermaine Jones had failed to disclose two 2011 arrests to producers, fans threw up their arms in support of the “friendly giant,” a nickname posed by the miniscule Ryan Seacrest. “It should be about the singing,” fans bemoaned, but it is important that Jones be treated exactly like other disqualified contestants before him. It’s unfair to deprive other talented, honest singers of a spot in a competition that is all about showcasing the country’s best talent.
The full disclosure clause in Idol‘s contract is there to protect employees and audience members alike. Violent ex-convicts like Jones deserve a second shot, and Idol would have absolutely worked with him on a redemption story, but instead he chose to keep it a secret. Contestants like Frenchie Davis were disqualified in their respective years because of problems like Davis’ soft-core porn career, a background not disclosed that contrasts the show’s core audience. In today’s gossip-hungry world, Jones should have known that his past would-and should-rise to the surface.
“This is a singing competition.” We have all heard this echoed throughout American Idol‘s 11-season tenure. It is not, as far as I understand, a “disclose-private-information-and-ultimately-ruin-a-contestant’s-chance-at-winning-an-open-competition” competition. Sure, Jermaine Jones should not be the 2012 American Idol winner, but I say that because of his singing track record, not his court track record. At this stage in the show, it is ridiculous for American Idol to send someone home for something they should already have known about and dealt with. Jones’ legal history might not be unblemished, but he should be allowed a graceful, normal elimination from the show based on how he sings, not on minor infractions. Maybe the fanfare would be merited if Jones had actually done something wrong during his time on the show, but that does not appear to be the case. This incident attests to the larger issue of stigmatizing individuals with a sorted past. We idealize “rehabilitated criminals,” but hold prejudice against anyone trying to start over.