Of the over 14 million viewers who watched the American Music Awards Sunday night, only 1,500 people called in complaints to ABC following Adam Lambert’s controversial, show-closing performance. According to Reuters, the Federal Communications Commission would not confirm nor deny whether viewers registered complaints with the agency following Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment,” which featured simulated oral sex with a male backup dancer, a brief make-out session with a male keyboardist and a middle finger to the stunned audience. (Read Rob Sheffield’s account of the Full-Frontal Glambgasm.) MTV reports the event pulled in 14.2 million viewers this year, for the awards’ best showing since 2002.
ABC also confirmed the network did edit a portion of Lambert’s performance for the West Coast feed, removing the performance’s most controversial moment — “Lambert rubbing the face of a male dancer in his crotch,” Reuters colorfully writes — but Lambert’s kiss with his keyboardist remained in the final cut. Dick Clark Productions, who produced the AMAs, said in a statement that they “did not expect the impromptu moments” based on Lambert’s pre-show rehearsals.
By comparison, when Justin Timberlake tore open Janet Jackson’s shirt during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII, viewers lodged 500,000 complaints — but that’s likely because Nipplegate occurred during prime-time hours during the most-watched televised event of the year. Lambert’s performance went down just before 11 p.m. ET, avoiding the FCC’s rule of no indecent material between the hours of 6-10 p.m., so it appears unlikely that ABC will be fined over Lambert’s performance, even though “For Your Entertainment” was broadcast before 10 p.m. in the Central Time Zone.
Backstage at the AMAs just minutes after closing out the show, Lambert defended his controversial performance to Rolling Stone. “I think that there’s a double standard going on in the entertainment community right now,” Lambert told RS. “Female performers have been doing this for years — pushing the envelope about sexuality — and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out. We’re in 2009; it’s time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people’s eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I’m not for them. My goal was not to piss people off, it was to promote freedom of expression and artistic freedom.”
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