Credit: Michael Becker/FOX Photo: Pia Toscano and Ryan Seacrest Receive the News on April 7, 2011

We’re still reeling from last night’s American Idol elimination shocker, when Pia Toscano, one of Season 10’s very best performers and a clear front-runner to win the whole thing, was sent packing by voters. Like a lot of people, we were left wondering how could this have happened? How could someone so clearly talented receive the smallest number of votes? Well, perhaps as a way to cope with our continuing Pia-grief, we’ve come up with a few theories as to the whys and wherefores of the elimination craziness.

1. Girls don’t vote for girls: Idol’s primary demographic is female, which is not a surprise to fans of the show. What is perhaps less well known is the fact that female voters are not as likely to vote for female contestants. There’s a “crush factor” there, where girls will vote for the male contestants because they get swayed by the Idol boys’ camera-ready smiles and puppy dog eyes. Also, sadly, a competitive spirit can sometimes spring up between female contestants and female voters, making the female Idol-ers a target for voting freeze-outs. It’s weird to think, we know, but have you noticed that all five of the contestants to go so far on Idol Season 10 have been women? Not an accident, folks. Steven Tyler summed it up the best in an interview with Business Insider after last night’s show: “Boy’s don’t vote, and girls are jealous…”

2. Judges are being too nice: We love the good feelings between judges this season. But some voters might be left wondering how to vote without a strong opinion from the judges to sway their votes. If there’s one thing you can say about the often mean Simon, it’s that he knew what he liked. And his viewpoint carried a lot of sway. Since the current judges are so positive toward everyone — especially Steven Tyler —people who look to the judges for direction on how to vote can get confused.

3. Presumptive Winner Syndrome: This is the idea that an Idol contestant is so strong that voters just assume that he or she will be safe, and no one ends up actually voting for the best performers. Casey Abrams almost certainly fell prey to this. But Pia was especially vulnerable to Presumptive Winner Syndrome, being a perfectly groomed, beauty pageant type. Voters look at her and just assume she’s got it all together, that she doesn’t need their help. And the votes slip away…

Of course, these are just theories. There’s no really good reason why Pia got voted off. What is clear, however, is that she deserved to stay in this competition, maybe even to win it. But America’s votes are part of what make Idol so exciting, even in the weeks where voter turn-outs are super confusing. Just remember to vote for your favorites, America! We don’t want another Pia debacle on our hands next week!

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, Business Insider