Tea partiers: Don't tread on 'Dancing with the Stars'!

Facing the music, and politicking rather than dancing

November 20, 2010|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

It's one thing to mess with Congress, but "Dancing with the Stars"?

As you might have heard, Bristol Palin was swept into the finals of the show this week over a better dancer by a landslide of viewer votes, offsetting the low scores she received from the professional dance judges.

So as you can see, this was obviously a victory of populism over elitism. Unless, that is, it was a triumph of voter fraud perpetrated by devotees of her mother, Sarah.

Everyone: To your corners and come out swinging! We cannot let a frothy dance competition escape getting drawn into our current political agita. Next thing you know, someone will be arguing that a cigar really is just a cigar (when of course everyone knows it's a symbol of the nanny state, or maybe farm subsidies).

I confess to occasionally tuning into "DWTS," enough to know that's how insiders refer to the show in which celebrities are paired with ballroom professionals to learn and perform dances, then face possible elimination every week depending on how the judges and viewers rate their cha-chas and rumbas.

It's unbelievably cheesy, from the shreds of fabric in which they costume the performers to the way they draw out the drama of who stays and who goes.

And yet, if you're a dance fan as I am, it's great TV when the show uncovers a dancer in the rough, hidden within the actors and athletes who often get picked as contestants. Who knew, for example, that John O'Hurley, the pompous J. Peterman character on "Seinfeld," could trip the light fantastic?

If you've had any dance training, you get what's amazing about "DWTS": Dancing is hard work, and watching a group of non-dancers learn and perform a different ballroom dance every week, in front of an audience of millions, is truly a high-wire act. How do they do it?

Bristol Palin provides one answer: Often, they don't. They might be moving across the floor as music plays, but they're not really dancing. If everyone could dance, well, the whole concept of the show would need rethinking. Brain Surgery with the Stars, anyone?

In any event, poor Bristol tends to lumber through her moves, stiff with tension and either deaf to the music or seemingly wishing the ordeal would end already. Which is fine. You try something new, you have a few laughs, you go back to Alaska with some sequined doilies to wear next Halloween.

But, of course, being a Palin, it could never be that simple. It could never be about just dancing. Anyone who thinks Bristol got into the finals this week on the basis of her dancing probably also thinks you can, say, cut taxes and the deficit at the same time.

Or to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you just might be a tea partier.

Bristol's "DWTS" campaign became the latest proxy battle for the always battlin' tea partiers. Various websites drummed up votes for her, with tips on how to make up e-mail addresses and use different phones. It worked. Commenters on the websites bragged about getting in as many as 300 votes. And Bristol, who consistently racked up the lowest scores from the judges, lived to samba week after week.

A part of me thinks: Who cares, really. If a system is going to get gamed, better this than the one that sends people to Congress or the White House. And yet the whole affair is still depressing.

It's the hammer thing — you know the saying, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail? In today's climate, everything is a nail.

So now the Bristol voters have been crowing about how sending their gal to the finals was a victory over liberals somehow. Talk about a one-sided fight — there was no equivalent "liberal" to rally around in the "DWTS," there were just other dancers of no obvious political stripe.

In any event, surveys show that the "DWTS" viewership skews more Republican than Democratic. So it hasn't necessarily been liberals expressing outrage over Bristol's victories, it's "DWTS" fans who felt their show about dancing was hijacked by political ax-grinders. Is this really so hard a concept? People who squawk about Bristol's ascent have issues with her dancing, not her politics. Maybe it's only a hard concept if you view everything through the prism of you're-either-with-us-or-agin-us.

Reality shows, oddly enough, are supposed to be an escape from reality. So tea partiers, please, don't tread on "Dancing with the Stars." Go mess up the rest of the world if you must. Just step away from the Mirror Ball.

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

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