American Idol contestant Antonella Barba is an attractive girl. Those who have been following the supposed “scandal” involving Barba may think this statement is obvious, or inconsequential, but they’re wrong. It may be the most important fact when discussing the nature of the “scandal”, what the ramifications will or should be, and what it all means. You’ll see what I’m getting at in a second. First (for those of you who haven’t had access to the internet tubes for the past week), is a brief rundown of the situation involving American Idol hopeful Antonella Barba:
Antonella Barba, a 20-year college student from Jersey, is a top 20 finalist on American Idol. After last week’s episodes aired, a topless photo of Antonella hit the internet. But, it wasn’t really topless. It was of Antonella and a group of friends on the beach, all covering their breasts with their hands, presumably while sunbathing. Scandalous? Not really.
Next, a batch of photos hit the internet, these more scandalous. They show Antonella in various in revealing outfits, drinking what is almost certainly alcohol, and generally acting slutty. A bunch seem to be from a New Year’s Party (which make the pictures understandable), although others are of her under a fountain with a wet t-shirt (which is the type of thing that, usually, doesn’t happen randomly). These photos don’t show any explicit nudity and, if they were meant to be personal (which they look to be), aren’t especially damning.
A few days ago, then, some hardcore, explicit photos hit the internet that showed Antonella naked and engaging in sex acts. Almost immediately, though, the validity of these photos were called into question. They looked like Antonella, but not totally, and it wasn’t long before they were proven to be taken directly from an online porn site, thus proving that it was not Antonella in the pictures. They were fake.
We all clear? It’s been quite a saga that, as these things tend to go, have been huge stories on internet gossip sites, with rampant speculation as to who posted the photos, where they were taken, what they mean, whether Antonella will be kicked off Idol, etc. I want to address, now, the issue of whether or not Antonella should be booted off of American Idol.
American Idol can, of course, do whatever the hell they want when it comes to their contestants. It’s a TV show. So, if they think that Antonella Barba deserves the boot for being scantily clad on New Years, that’s their decision. However, there is some precedent involved.
On season 2 of American Idol, contestant Frenchie Davis, a favorite to win it all, was kicked off the show when topless pictures of her surfaced on the internet. She had been paid to pose nude for a specific internet site, money she then used for college tuition. Nothing illegal went down (Frenchie was 18 when the photos were taken), but Frenchie was nevertheless eliminated from the competition. No matter what you think of that decision by Idol (I thought it was preposterous), it does set a precedent. Does this mean that Antonella should be booted immediately?
Well, I would say no. The pictures of Antonella are pretty innocent, when it comes down to it. The pornography angle has no warrant; there is no law against dressing slutty (for Halloween and New Years, it’s basically required) and Antonella was not paid for the pictures. Frenchie did nothing illegal also, but her involvement with a porn site seemed to be the deciding factor there. Antonella is merely the victim of a terrible friend.
The one thing that could implicate Antonella and allow American Idol to kick her off the show would be the underage drinking angle. In many of the pictures, she seems to be boozing it up. No matter what your stance on underage drinking is, Antonella was a college student and kids in college drink. They seemed to be drinking and partying in a dorm room which, as far as college New Year’s celebrations go, is about as mild and safe as you’re going to get. Also, I couldn’t find any pictures that could actually prove that Antonella was drinking alcohol. She was just drinking some unmarked liquid out of your standard keg cup. So, unless they find a picture of Antonella taking pulls from a fifth of Jager, there really isn’t any evidence that shows Antonella doing anything illegal.
So, what is American Idol going to do? My prediction: Nothing. There’s a few reasons for this. One, this whole saga is generating buzz that is standing alone outside of the show. From Idol’s standpoint, this is organic publicity that, with the show staying out of it, will increase popularity without reflecting on the show in any way. If they were to kick off Antonella, Idol would open up a whole new can of worms, risking extreme backlash.
Second, Barba is an attractive girl. TV viewers like to watch people who are good-looking. This “scandal” has let non-viewers know two things: 1) there is a girl on American Idol who has no problem dressing slutty, getting wasted, and having illicit photos taken of her, and 2) there is this girl on American Idol who is really hot. If American Idol were to kick her off, these bits of knowledge learned by Idol laymen would become useless and those newbies who might decide to tune in for the first time would likely say, “forget it”.
Finally, American Idol won’t kick off Barba because she’s not that good of a singer. This problem (if the Idol producers view it as such) will take care of itself within the coming weeks. Antonella gave what was easily the worst performance by any female last week, and she’s just not in the same league, singing-wise, as her fellow competitors. It will be a monumental upset if she continues to advance past the next two elimination episodes.
What does this all mean? I really believe that Barba’s attractiveness is what has made this the story that it has become. If she were less pretty (like Frenchie Davis, for instance) these photos would be described as “dirty” or “naughty”, but for Antonella they’re just “topless” and “sexy”. Perhaps this is a pointless distinction, but I don’t believe so. This story is all about perception, and the details of that perception, and the words chosen by those bringing us the story, are meaningful. I only bring this up because I believe these are the distinctions that will keep Barba from getting booted by the American Idol brass.
The other issue that I see here is how easy it has become to completely destroy a person, via the internet, within a couple of hours. I really do feel bad for Barba, who probably took these pictures in front of good friends, thought nothing of it, and moved on. Because of some terrible person who got a hold of these photos, she will go down in infamy as “that American Idol girl who wasn’t very good at singing, but took those skanky pictures”. Add to that the insinuation that those hardcore pictures were her, and that millions of internet users bought into their validity, and you have your credibility and privacy smashed within an unfathomably short timeframe.
Anyway, I want to know what all of you think. Should Antonella Barba be kicked off American Idol? How incriminating are those photos? Am I being too easy on her? Let yourself be heard. Comment below.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer