*You can’t blame Bristol Palin. Even though she talked smack toward the end of the show’s season, at some point in the competition the twenty year-old daughter of politician/Reality TV star Sarah Palin must have figured–hoped?–she would have been voted off “Dancing With The Stars” way before the show’s finals.
During the show’s early rehearsals, it was clear that the painfully unfunky Palin thought she’d bitten off more than she could chew. She may have actually been looking forward to watching the show’s finals from the studio audience. Or her couch in Alaska.
But the Tea Party had other plans. In the process of, as they put it, taking back their country, no territory is exempt, not even a TV dance competition. Thus, the Party People covertly spearheaded a voting drive that kept Bristol on “DWTS” until the very end, ultimately competing for the trophy against actor Kyle Massey and “Dirty Dancing” star/”DWTS” favorite Jennifer Grey.
Only in this America, where airline passengers actually protest being patted down for their own safety, where people would rather text than talk, where common sense is an option, would a political movement scheme to determine the outcome of a realty TV show. The press release deeming the act a fearless exhibition of patriotism and influence hasn’t gone out yet, but I’m sure it’s being spell-checked right now.
Consider the irony: the Tea Party, not exactly purveyors of reality, sought to hijack the finish of a reality show. This is the group that insists–still–that President Obama isn’t really an American citizen and that his administration is the first wicked step toward socialism in America.
These people don’t care whether or not Bristol is a good dancer or that mom Sarah Palin is about as qualified to be a U.S. President as this chair I’m sitting in. They just want them to win.
While it is easy to snicker at the Tea Party’s remarkable assortment of dunces and witches, it is important to remember that what once appeared a rag tag fringe group declaring all taxes evil and Obama a Nazi is today a political force that has both Democrats and conventional Republicans squirming. No mystery there: People are angry. People are scared. People are woefully ignorant.
Regardless, the Tea Party’s interrelationship with Palin’s time at “DWTS” (Sarah was occasionally in the audience) was particularly creepy. Pooh-pooh this seemingly insignificant activity all you want; all I know is that in nearly every prime time network Sci-fi TV drama canceled within the last few years, this is how aliens from outer space did it: first they quietly infiltrated Earth’s population, hung out a bit and then, before you know it, they’re seducing soccer moms and taking over National Guard armories.
Since America really hasn’t gone anywhere in terms of ownership, when the Tea Party curiously speaks of “restoring America’s values” and taking back the country, lots of Americans know exactly what they mean.
However, in their double bat shit crazy quest to turn back the hands of time, leave it to those kooky Tea Party People to also bum rush a well-watched reality show. “Soul Train,” which went off the air sometime ago, is already on DVD, so it’s safe, thank God.
Then again, the Tea Party might have been onto something. Ever since the early 1950s, when television ownership and commercial programming found its way into the consciousness of the American public, viewer ratings have served as an informal barometer for what is on our minds. America’s viewing habits have always mirrored our general curiosity, interests, beliefs and where we are as a culture. Perhaps the Tea Party felt that votes for Bristol during “DWTS” might be a preclude to Election 2012.
To be fair, Tea Party People weren’t the only ones who voted for Bristol during her “DWTS” tenure. Young people who relate to her as a peer, viewers who thought she’d been unfairly skewed by the press and those able to separate her efforts from the political views of Mama Grizzly, all no doubt called in their votes for Miss Palin.
As the weeks went by, Bristol’s dancing did improve. Toward the season’s end she had a tendency to actually move to the beat. But based solely on her ability to move, Palin should have been gone weeks ago.
As of this writing, I have no idea who won “Dancing With The Stars.” But I’d think the fix was in if Bristol didn’t win. After all, to the fans of contestants Jennifer Grey and Kyle Massey, this is just a TV show. To Tea Party People, a win for Bristol is a sign from God. You can guess what camp would be apt to do the most voting.
For their part, producers of the show, while relishing the mammoth viewer numbers, worked hard to gingerly separate the program from the political elephant in the room. During the last night that viewers could vote, host Tom Bergeron practically begged that they do so, intimating that those who didn’t, couldn’t complain. I’ve heard that somewhere before.
But I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The national economy is doing the Loopty Loo, a black man is President of the United States and unintelligent life from outer space is plotting to overthrow the government via “Dancing With The Stars.” This is it. This is where are right now. Lord have mercy.
Steven Ivory is a journalist/author who has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected]