Obviously the popularity of the show “American Idol” is not due simply to our fascination with talent shows. Few TV programs reach hit status without some element of sex appeal.
The task before the contestants is not only to sing well, but to seduce viewers into dialing their phone number. (And really, isn’t that “give me a call” act part of the mating ritual?) Sure the show is looking for “star quality,” but what it’s really after is a certain type of sex appeal...at least how I define that term. Sex appeal doesn’t have to be the ability to provoke sexual desire. In this case it’s that force that makes you surrender your emotions to the free manipulation of the “star.”
What I find fascinating about AI is seeing the delightful range of qualities that can constitute sex appeal. A couple of years back both I fell pretty hard for Clay Aiken. Obviously it was only Clay’s spectacular voice that gave him a shot in the competition, but much to everyone’s surprise, he had such a vibrant personality and exciting stage presence that the unassuming, geeky guy from North Carolina proved he could be a sex symbol. Sweetness, purity, and strong faith actually played out to be remarkably magnetic.
On the other hand, there is this year’s heartthrob (regardless of elimination), Constantine Maroulis. Constantine draws upon a much more proven model for seductive success: the rock star. His tucked-chin, looking-out-the-tops-of-his-eyes stare is a never-fail technique for looking sexy. The long hair and leather jacket, the rough good looks, the strutting body language all evoke classic female responses. On stage he is electric, projecting power and sexuality like a dynamo. This kind of intensity is hard to resist.
So we have two very different paths to the female heart (and loins), both of which are equally effective. So is there anything these two performers have in common? Is there some characteristic they share that can be called “star quality” and falls into this special category of erotic appeal?
As someone who finds both these men charming, I think I can speak to these questions. Both Clay and Constantine are commanding. When they step on stage, they experience no fear or intimidation: each man feels himself easily a match for the millions watching. And both captivate the audience, control its emotions, evoke its adulation. Their performances demonstrate a power so potent that to ordinary mortals it seems magical. The response to that is definitely going to be erotic.
It would be interesting to be in a room with these two and listen to them discuss their approach to entertainment. Of course, if the three of us were in a room, talking might not be my first interest....