I've made no secret of the fact that Danny Gokey is my favorite American Idol contestant. Not only do I love his singing, I've also loved his spirit on the show--and I was pleased to find out that not only does he have a connection to the area I live in, but that he is a Christian.
So I was delighted that Danny made it through to the top 12 on the show last night.
Well, apparently not everyone likes Danny as much as I do. In fact, some people aren't at all shy about expressing the fact that they hate him.
Check out many Idol-related websites today (or DON'T check them out--thanks to the venom and obscenities being spewed, you may feel like you have to shower afterwards)--and you'll find lots of anti-Danny comments.
The anti-Danny complaints?
Besides many who just don't like Danny's voice (to each his own, I guess!?!), they are sick of hearing about the fact that his wife recently passed away. They believe Danny, and the show, are milking her passing for sympathy votes.
The comments on some of the sites are just plain cruel and unfeeling. Some commenters were appalled that a friend or family member of Danny's held up a picture of his wife while he was singing.
Do any of these people have any idea what it's like to lose a loved one? When my niece died several years ago, we tried to honor her memory in every way possible. Invoking, celebrating and honoring the memory of a loved one is often a motivating factor in getting through a tough or challenging situation.
A friend and former colleague of mine, Joe Buchanan, has this to say:
"I thought he [Danny] looked quite humble last night. I think maybe what has ticked a lot of people off, including Simon (he didn't seem to like Danny and it seemed personal on Tuesday night) anyhow, is the fact that it's starting to come out that he is a Christian. And, I'll tell you this - if it were my wife and I was in that situation I wouldn't be as self controlled as he is. I think he's handling it very well and the more I see of him the more I like. Plus, wasn't the whole reason he chose that song was to inspire and encourage others who are hurting?"
A commenter responding to a particularly vicious anti-Danny thread at rickey.org said her husband died a little over a year ago:
"When your spouse dies it is one of the most lonely feelings in the world. Your grief takes hold without warning. One minute you’re fine and the next you have this image of the person you love most in your mind and then he/she is gone and it’s a stark reminder how you’re alone and the dreams you had about building a life together are gone. Now, I don’t expect you all to fully understand the extent of what it’s like to lose your partner in life. You won’t know until you experience it yourself. But believe you me, you wake up each day hoping you won’t have a freak out. You feel hopeless and helpless quite often. Sometimes you want to die too. So for him to step up 4 weeks after her passing is a brave thing for him to do. And to fellow widow(er)s, he is an inspiration because he isn’t letting his grief get the best of him."
Rude to Tatiana?
Another charge from the Danny haters is that he was "rude" to Tatiana when she was in meltdown mode just before and after it was announced that she was eliminatd and Danny was moving on.
I like what my friend and former co-worker Mike Schlote has to say to that:
"Rude to Tatiana? Are you kidding me? How do you console someone who is in a trance-like communication with her mother ship? And celebrating your success is rude? He didn't jump up and down and throw it in her face (not that she would have noticed it coming if he did). He celebrated, put his arm around her and enjoyed the success that God gave him. It's just ridiculous the attacks that come AGAINST people instead of support FOR someone."
Take a look at who's orchestrating the backlash
Besides particularly vicious remarks about Danny's widower status (some even referring to him as "Dead Wife Guy"), most of the anti-Danny Gokey people are savaging his Christian faith and even denigrating the church he attends--copy 'n pasting things from Faithbuilders' website and ridiculing them with sadistic glee.
The comments are typically teeming with obscenities and juvenile name-calling. They truly exhibit the mindset of people who obviously have not even a nodding acquaintance with compassion or heart.
American Idol shares in the blame for the backlash
We can blame the producers at least in part for this backlash. They seize on a person's backstory, and the more heart-wrenching it is, the more they milk it--and yes, they've done this with Danny's story just as they have with many others.
But that doesn't negate the fact that Danny Gokey is a young man with true talent, and every appearance (take a look at his Sophia's Heart charity, for example) of having integrity and compassion.
We'll just have to see what happens
Will this backlash be successful? I'm not here to say that Danny Gokey is a perfect person, by any means--or that I would agree with every action or decision he's ever made or will make.
But I think it will really be a shame if a group of hateful people who enjoy celebrating their ugly sarcasm on Internet forums are able to de-rail his success.