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Why Do Boys Rule on 'So You Think You Can Dance' and 'American Idol'?

by Meredith Hoffa, posted Jul 16th 2010 12:00PM

Everyone's been been going on about how this season of 'So You Think You Can Dance' is all about the boys: The boys rule, and the girls are talented, beautiful, lovely ... and relatively invisible. Such is the script that the fans and judges have subtly and not-so-subtly been writing since way back during Vegas week. Now, there's only one lonely lady left in the competition.

In an interview with E! Online, judge Adam Shankman surmised that the reason the girls are flying under the radar is "women hating on the women." Mr.-Nigel-Lythgoe- Executive-Producer-SIR says the problem is the girls' lack of charisma. "Some of the weaker boys are far stronger in personality than any of the girls," he has said. "You can never forget charisma is much more important than talent."

With all due respect to our esteemed judges ... they're totally missing the mark.

I can't deny that this season is all about the boys. First of all, just mathematically-speaking, the top 11 was tilted in the boys' favor from the start, what with the last minute decision by the judges to add an extra spot in order to accommodate six guys because the talent was just TOO MIND-BOGGLINGLY MASSIVE to stop at five.

Plus there's the fact that Melinda never really counted as a contestant anyway because she is a tapper; seriously, have tappers ever done very well on this show? (No.) Yet does Nigel keep bringing them on because he has an emotional attachment to the art form and quite enjoys the old tyme-y warm fuzzies it gives him? (Yes.) And am I a little bit sad that I'll never be able to reclaim the minutes spent watching Melinda hoofing it around stage in high-waisted shiny slacks and a scary Tap Dance Smile? (Yes. Sorry, Mel. I do think you're super pretty, though.)

SYTYCD top 6Even with the gaping hole created in the wake of Alex Wong's departure [insert me crying here], the remaining contingent of Billy, Robert and Adechike still havefans buzzing about what's to come in the weeks ahead. (Oh, and also Jose has a great smile.) I didn't hear many people buzzing about either of the two top women, Lauren or Ashley. And they were really good -- until Ashley unfortunately got injured and had to leave the competition. Lauren is the only hope for a woman to win the show.

To be sure, viewer demographics play a part. 'SYTYCD's' audience skews female and young. The power of the teen girl voting block is undeniable. But it's not everything, as the ever-articulate Mia Michaels would say.

So why, then, is this season so totally all about the boys? Because it's always about the boys. Is it not?

As as a longtime 'SYTYCD' -- and 'American Idol' -- viewer, it seems that the male contestants have always commanded more attention. Some seasons have boasted technically stronger artists than others, but the male contestants on these shows have often incited more fan passion and more emotional investment from viewers than have their female counterparts. Sure, there are exceptions to this trend (Pick Pickler!), but generally speaking, the girls haven't evoked the heartfelt, visceral support that a Legacy or an Evan or a David Archuleta or a David Cook or an Adam Lambert has. Or an Elliot Yamin. Or a Twitch. Or, inexplicably, a Danny Gokey. How about Ace friggin' Young? Should I keep going? I'm not saying these guys didn't deserve the attention; some of them did. But some of them didn't, and I'm fairly certain that if these "didn'ts" were female they would not have made it so far into the limelight.

The truth is, we react to male and female performers differently -- subconsciously, I mean. There's something about males expressing themselves artistically that we can't help but find irresistible. It's like we see these guys as somehow going above and beyond "typical maleness," and as a result these contestants become hugely compelling to root for.

We're accustomed to girls being drawn to and immersed in and talented at the arts. But more that that, we're accustomed to women expressing themselves. When it comes to men, we're less used to it. So seeing these guys' artistic prowess paired with an openness of expression that we may or may not see everyday is extra moving. It's a story in and of itself.

This is why it's really hard to beat the boys. Even if you're an uber-talented girl. LIke Lauren or Ashley or Kathryn or Katee -- or, say, Crystal Bowersox, who so obviously out-sang Lee DeWyze most every single week on last season's 'Idol.'

We may not be conscious of this bias, but I believe it exists. It reminds me of when I was in college and my boyfriend was in a singing group. People would always be like "Wow, that is soooo amazing that he sings." People who barely even knew him would rave to me about his all-around Awesome Person-ness. And he is an awesome person. But not because he sings. That's crazypants. We'd never say the same thing about a girl.

It's a double standard that I don't like. But I know that I fall prey to it myself. Maybe it's inevitable. What can I say? I do love me some dancing boys. DANCING BOYS!

What do you think? Does anyone else out there agree with this theory? Or are Nigel and Shanks onto something? Are people more jazzed (pun intended -- BAM!) about Lauren than I think? Can she possibly beat the unstoppable Kent or any other guy on the show?

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Theres no question that this season on SYTYCD the BOYS have that "IT" Factor that the girls just didn't.
Between Kent, Billy,& Robert the gymnastics, the high kicks & jumps just go so far past the girls, it's obvious they would go much further. There's amazing talent on that stage & most of these guys are SO YOUNG! You can't help but pick up that phone!
Besides females do most of the voting.

July 29 2010 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the guys probably have an advantage in both AI and SYTYCD to an extent, but girls certainly can still win these competitions. Take Janine (season 5 SYTYCD winner) or a Kelly Clarkson, they both had that special combination of talent and charisma, and it is just undeniable. I loved Kathryn in season 6, but she just didn't have the "it" factor. I loved Crystal's voice on Idol, but she definitely did not have "it." Lee showed us late in the game that he did. It's who you most enjoy watching/listening and that does go beyond pure technical merit.

July 17 2010 at 5:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are some female dancers on SYTYCD that I liked (Heidi and Jeanine are two that I can think of), but this season, the guys are just better. Melinda was not a strong choice for the top 11 (tappers do not last long on SYTYCD), and even Ashley was not very interesting for me.

I also like the more physicallly powerful dancing (like jumps) and the guys are better at that. It's been interesting seeing two guys dancing together, whether it's with an all-star or with another contestant (we typically didn't see this until the final 4 or thereabouts in other seasons). It gives a guy like Kent (who has been criticized for dancing more like a boy than a man) a better chance because he doesn't have to be this man seducing a woman. Of course, when paired with Lauren (who is also young), it wasn't as big of an issue.

I see Lauren holding her spot until maybe the top 4. She has a fan base and at some point, the guys' fan bases will start cutting into each other. I mean, if it's based on popularity, more than on the performances. I don't know if she'll win, because I figure teen girls mostly vote for these reality shows and they'd pick a guy over a girl, but there have been female winners on SYTYCD before so what do I know?

July 16 2010 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Cook is my Idol!

I'm a woman and I have always found that I prefer listening to men sing. It's just my preference. Personally, I can not stand listening to the screeching and screaming of some women singers. (Celine, Mariah, Whitney, Faith Hill, etc.) I love listening to country music, which has a lot of great singers from both sexes.

As for the Lee/Crystal debate, I feel Lee totally deserved to win. He has talent. I did not like Crystal Bowersox's style at all. It has nothing to do with gender for me. When I watch American Idol, I find that I support the contestants who sing the type of music I like.

July 16 2010 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David Cook is my Idol!'s comment

Totally agree with you REdSoxFan! I vote for the contestants that do what I like, whether it's the style of dancing or singing. We like who we like.

July 16 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

for me dancing is about the power, and let's face it...a STRONG male dancer is going to have that all over a female. Yes, I am a woman, but in some of the routines there is no denying it's about the boys. Ade's lifting and catching Melissa in Tyce's breast cancer routine? Come on....would that dance have had the same power had it been two girls dancing it, and no lifts?

But we are big B-boy and hip hop fans in our house, and let's face it...even Comfort, who is great, there has NEVER been a female hip hop dancer that matched anything the boys can do. The flares, the jumps, the acrobatics...and sorry, but Twitch is just damn cool...

July 16 2010 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it's more than just the charisma, or the teen girl factor. I find that for both my wife and I, our attention is typically drawn to the female dancer during a routine. As the male contestants are paired with an all star this has allowed them to get by with less criticism both from the judges and voters.

July 16 2010 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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