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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Hey! It's Todd Bridges!
(This should have been posted, uh, sooner. I'll blame a combination of technical difficulties, heat and a large Italian basketball player.)

So, for all my Taylor boosterism, I didn't actually watch a lot of American Idol this season. To be honest, I haven't watched intently since AI3 when Fantasia (now assistant manager at a particularly nice Wendy's in North Carolina) very briefly captivated the nation.

So imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when I flipped it on and discovered that Taylor Hicks is a colossal dork. (Why did no one tell me this? I thought we were friends.) At first I was sort of heartbroken. But I soon came to realize what an advantage this was for him. And now it appears a perfectly good explanation for his victory.

See, if Taylor Hicks was any less a dork - let's say a nerd or merely a geek - there's no way any teenage female would have ever voted for him. He would seem too serious. Too old. Too dad-like. Fortunately, Taylor's essential dorkiness made him seem immature - the perfect balance to his freakishly gray hair.

It also helped that dude could entertain. His closing song a couple weeks ago that ended with him suffering some sort of seizure was probably the second best performance in AI history - first place still belonging to Fantasia's final show, which nearly made me cry (I almost mean that).

Of course, you can explain his victory any number of ways. But no explanation makes it any less amazing. This is a massive moment in the history of American popular culture. Seriously. This defies everything - every rule, every precedent. It probably even defies human nature.

Forget the various explanations. Break this down to its most basic and you have this: A dorky dude with gray hair beat a pretty girl with great breasts. Let me put this in bold type: In a wide poll of the American people, Gray Hair trumped Great Breasts. This beat those. Did you ever think you would see that happen? Did you even think that was possible? Taking into account the power of the female breast (never mind two of them) in Western pop culture, how unlikely would you have figured this to be?

If somebody had asked you before the latest season of AI, who do the American people find more captivating: Britney Spears or Kenny Rogers, would you have bet on the Gambler? No way. Of course not. You can make whatever argument you want on behalf of The Roaster, we all know that you'd rather see Britney Spears naked. (Note: Almost all major decisions are based, directly or indirectly, on nudity, the potential for nudity or imagined nudity.) That's more than an accepted truth. It's a reality. And completely natural.

And yet here is Taylor Hicks. The most beloved pop star in North America. At least for a moment there.

Make no mistake, prematurely gray hair is a generally unbroken barrier in the world of teenage obsession. There have been pop stars of all shapes, sizes, races and political views. Between Wilson Phillips and Boyz II Men you've probably got most everyone covered - except those not blessed with impressively coloured hair. In fact, prematurely gray hair is probably one of the last superficial things you're allowed to judge openly (largely thanks to the anti-gray zealots at Just For Men*).

Now though, the American public may finally be realizing what fans of Anderson Cooper** have known for months. Gray is good. Gray may even be closer to God. It represents substance. Wisdom. Experience. Maturity. Meaning. Purpose. Meaningful, mature purposefulness. It is, in short, an antidote for our boob-dominated times. The breast has finally been beaten. And perhaps we will never be the same again.

The dork king cometh with a crown of silver.

* By the way, apropos of nothing, if you type "Just for Men" into Google, the second most popular search is this.

** Here Anderson extols on the virtues of gray hair. And compares it to ejaculation.


Update. The Gray Hair v. Great Boobs Debate Is Tearing America Apart

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