The Palin Effect on Dancing With the Stars
Well, it’s over. Bristol Palin came in third. In a lot of quarters there certainly was a sigh of relief. Consistently judged lower than all the other contestants, Palin managed to ride the show all the way to the finale. Plenty of outrage ensued including one man who shot his television. He, and many others, saw that part of the show for what it was, a race to the bottom. The producers of the show, of course, saw the money, the viewership, everything that matters to the bean counters.
Of course, it’s only a reality show. In the big scheme of things you can make the argument that it means little. That’s entertainment, as they say. True, the voting did have a political aspect to it as well as a lot of herd mentality. You like this person (Sarah Palin) and you like everything associated with her. She’s the person of the moment saying things that resonate with a lot of people. So, associate her name with something, and it gains stature. Make it her daughter and you’ve got a surefire winner. But, does it all really matter?
Actually, yes. Mostly on a larger canvas. First of all, Bristol Palin isn’t Sarah Palin, but that’s what a lot of the show’s voters saw. That wasn’t Bristol dancing up there; it was Sarah and the Tea-Partiers, and the idea of changing America. But it’s not a good idea to mix things up like that. That gets you in trouble. Sometimes it depletes your wallet while in the case of DWS it degraded the idea of excellence. The dancing didn’t matter; the image did.
In a way, the whole exercise cut the legs out from what tea-partiers and country-changers want. They want a strong country, one led by reliable and responsible people, a place where the best rise to lead and help all of us. They want freedom and fiscal responsibility, no more underhanded stuff. If things don’t work they believe they should fail, they’ll get better that way. Well, by voting for an image they managed to shove aside people who were better (could you watch Brandy and Bristol and not see the difference?). They subsidized something. They created their own earmark, their own bridge to nowhere.
In deciding Bristol should advance they replaced critical thinking and viewing with a mother who is a supreme quipster. For all their talk of individuality, the voters for Bristol became lemmings mindlessly moving forward (but thoughtfully in the sense of pushing their cause). But that leaves a small death behind. The integrity of DWS matters little in the big scheme of things, but a lot of little integrities can lead to something substantial.
Ok, Bristol did work hard and got a little better. Fine. She gets credit for that. Trying something, another credit. But the demerits (not necessarily for her) fall heavily on those engaged in herd mentality chasing an image.
There’s a painting by Magritte that everyone should know about. It’s a painting of a pipe, one of those backwards S-shaped ones, like you see in Germany. Beneath the picture is written (it’s in French) This is Not a Pipe. And it’s not. It’s a picture of a pipe. It’s an image of a pipe. You can’t smoke it. It’s not a real object. It tells us that we must beware of only the image and must take care to see the reality.
That’s what happened with Bristol Palin. Voters saw the image, the image of Sarah Palin and her easily understood quips and narrow world view not the reality of Bristol.