Nigel Lythgoe’s homophobia inflamed when two men dance together on SYTYCD

Nigel Lythgoe, the old bastard who used to produce American Idol until he quit, and went on to keep talking about American Idol even though no one cared, returned to television last night with his show So You Think You Can Dance, and so did his homophobia.

During the Denver auditions, two men auditioned together–Mitchel Kibeland is straight and Misha Belfer is gay, and both needed dance partners–and Nigel started by looking confused, and then just panicked. “This is the first time we’ve had do two guys do…” he said, and couldn’t even think of the dance’s name (the samba).

“I think you’d probably alienate a lot of our audience. We’ve always had the guys dance together on the show, but they’ve never really done it in each other’s arm’s before. I’m certainly one of those people that really like to see guys be guys and girls be girls on stage,” Nigel said.

The problem with this moronic, juvenile argument, as I previously discussed, is he’s confusing genitals with behavior, and artificially linking the two. People don’t behave specific way because they have a penis or a vagina, although our culture likes to point out and make fun of people who don’t fit into their expected gender role. (For just one of many examples, that was evident during the primaries last year, when Hillary Clinton received criticism for being too masculine and Barack Obama was criticized for being too feminine.)

The irony is that Nigel makes arguments about conforming to gender roles and yet keeps his hair long and wavy, which is rather feminine. But I don’t judge him for his hair, I judge him for his stupidity. Last July, the old coot said he didn’t care about sexual orientation but didn’t want “effeminate boys that mince around the stage.” My friend Sam Greenspan calls this homophobia “much more insidious, and, therefore, much more likely to slip into people’s consciousness as being ‘acceptable,’” suggesting as part of his 11 reasons why Idol is better than SYTYCD that “it’s fairly conceivable that someone watching will assimilate the dance-like-a-man-don’t-mince-like-a-gay-guy concept into their beliefs … [a]nd, in the process, a seed of subtle anti-gay bias is unknowingly formed.” Exactly.

The two men were eventually eliminated last night, but not before being mocked by the show’s editors, who played James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” as they left. Incredibly, Misha told After Elton that what actually happened “was more offensive than what they showed.”

What did air, however, barely focused on the fact that they weren’t that good, falling down during their routine, and not doing much better once they danced with women. That second audition came about after the other judges critiqued their initial, coupled dance. After Nigel freaked out, Mary Murphy had slightly more insightful criticism; she said “the technique, actually, needs work,” and had issues with them switching who was leading and following because it confused her.

So Nigel said, “I don’t think you want to see two guys there and think male-female. … I’d like to see you both dancing with a girl,” he said, and then added, “You know what, you might enjoy that, too.”

You know what I’d enjoy, Nigel? Your early retirement.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.