As American politics becomes more and more loaded with muck and mire, its reach seems to now extend to our entertainment. Say it isn’t so!
By now you’ve heard of the national travesty that occurred this week on ABC’s hit television show Dancing With the Stars. R & B singer Brandy Norwood, best known as “Brandy,” who has been at the top or tied at the top with her judges’ scores for most of the season was ousted in a tragic upset while teen activist Bristol Palin, daughter of former Vice Presidential running mate Sarah Palin, heads to the show finals despite having the lowest judges scores week after week.
What makes the difference is audience voting. Final scores are tabulated using a combination of audience votes and judges’ votes. For many weeks now, Palin has defied the odds, staying in the competition while those with higher scores, and arguably better dancing, are sent packing. It’s an American story through and through – the underdog becoming triumphant, a system of voting intended to let the people decide outcomes, and the right to speak our minds on behalf of what some see as a flawed system.
Controversy has swirled Palin ever since the ouster of beloved American TV mom Florence Henderson of The Brady Bunch fame. Viewers have shouted “unfair” as show contestants with better performances than Palin go home week after week. But this week’s semi-finals show brought a new fervor to the picture. Many were shocked when top-scoring Brandy missed the finals by the hair of a chinny, chin, chin; while Palin survived to dance another day.
“It’s the Tea Party fixing votes,” scream some, “It’s her mom’s supporters campaigning for her” hrumph others, and still more accuse an unreliable voting system. All reasons that have merit, but by no means is this the total picture. Just as nay-sayers scream foul at the younger Palin, as if she rigged the system herself, others say “America loves an underdog,” “She’s improved so much,” and “She’s just like I would be if I went out there.” Many on either side of the highly-polarized feelings are unwilling to accept that both sides could be accurate and the combination of the two are creating a perfect storm that’s keeping Palin in the competition.
What’s disturbing to me is the amount of hatred spewing out of some people’s mouths: Expletives flying, accusations being hurled, unkind words for Brandy and for Palin (depending on which side of the coin you land) are not in short supply. But some show die-hards are claiming to be “done,” that they’re sick of the system and no longer willing to watch. Quite a few “boycott Dancing With the Stars” pages have shown up on Facebook and one Wisconsin man was arrested when his wife called 911 after he shot their television during the show. He obviously won’t be watching for a while.
Sadly, it’s like the show is a mirror for the current state of American Politics – you don’t like what’s going on, then pick up your ball and go home. What happened to voting for what, or in this case, whom you believe in? Many have complained that some “on the right” are registering and voting hundreds of times. And I’ve seen websites with comments directing people how to get massive numbers of votes in for their DWTS “candidate” (specifically, Palin). When you’re up against that, it does seem unfair, but at the end of the day, those zealots are willing to do what most are not. After all, it takes a special something to spend hours on end registering and getting in hundreds of votes for your favored contestant. Though it’s wrapped in the pretty package of support for Bristol Palin, the true actions of such voting tactics is done to send a message: “We have the power to do this, and we will.”
And that puts the ball in our court. Just as in mid-term elections, we had a choice – participate. If you don’t like the system, work to change it. Get out there and make your opinions heard – vote.
Dancing with the Stars happens to be my guilty pleasure, and I’ve found this season just as upsetting as many others, but I don’t think a boycott right now is the answer. Maybe the travesty that has occurred will mobilize show fans to exercise their votes for whom they’d like to see win. I’d been voting for Jennifer Grey, star of the iconic film, Dirty Dancing; and Brandy because I was amazed at the entertainment quality of their performances every week. I’d discounted Disney child star Kyle Massey for most of the season, though he was a joy to watch. But in the Semi-finals, he BROUGHT it! His performance brought down the house, and was elevated to the level of Brandy and Grey.
Massey won me over with his amazing performance and the tremendous improvements he’s made since day one. The night of semi-finals, Massey for me surpassed the enjoyment of watching Brandy or Grey, and won me over wholeheartedly. As long as he brings the same energy and execution to the finals (and if history is any indication, I think he will), he’ll get all of my votes.
Why? Because if it’s true that many are “stuffing the bag” for any of the contestants, this is not the time to dilute my votes – I’m going to pick whom I want to win, and go for it. If everyone complaining does the same, then maybe, just maybe it will outlast the few who are taking their time to rig the system. If everyone does this (focuses votes on whom they’d like to see win) then it’s a real possibility the people’s favorite — whomever that is — will come out on top.
If we pick up our balls and go home, at this point anyway, how will it change the system? There’s still an opportunity to affect change and possibly save the integrity of the show — effectively reversing the powerlessness felt when some of our favorites went home despite good performances. Bottom line is the show is for entertainment, and there are plenty who will tune in to see what the outcome will be this season. So let’s do our best to make a difference. If there’s no change, if many people object the outcome, if it still seems unfair, then boycott next season. If DWTS has jumped the proverbial shark, and lost viewer confidence, then it will show in ratings, and maybe, just maybe then they’ll heed the message.