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The danger of Operation Bristol

Timothy Kincaid

November 16th, 2010

Bristol Palin is not a star. She is a girl who is the daughter of an influential politician, one that sharply polarizes the American public.

So her inclusion on Dancing with the Stars seemed contrived to me. Yes, DWTS has had political figures in the past – generally conservative Republicans – but they were of sufficient accomplishment to be considered public figures in their own right. Bristol, on the other hand, is only known for her mother’s political activism and only distinguishable from her siblings due to an unplanned pregnancy.

But televisions shows thrive from attention, and having Bristol Palin participate certainly does appeal to some viewers. So fine, let her dance.

I don’t hold Bristol’s parentage against her. I certainly don’t wish to be judged by the opinions of my relatives. We should give her the chance to prove her grace, agility, courage, connection and commitment and if she is the better dancer she should get our support.

But the problem with Bristol is that her support seems not to be based on the merits of her dancing, but rather on the merits of who she is.

And lets be real. Bristol Palin’s dance performances have been consistently lower in quality than those competitors who have been eliminated. Yes, she has improved and this week she was pretty good. But it isn’t her technique or entertainment value or “musicality” that has brought her back week after week.

By now, many of us have become aware of the gloating of social conservatives over Bristol’s continued presence on the show. Tea Party activists, and others, have touted what they call Operation Bristol, an effort to get viewers to ignore the dancing and vote for Bristol to “send a message” and flex their political power.

This week the show addressed the persistent rumors that Tea Party and other conservative watchers have been giving their votes to Bristol as a political statement in support of her mother. Bristol denied that motivation, offering her own:

“No offense to anyone else, but I’m not fake,” Bristol said in one of her pre-dance interviews. “People connect with me because they feel I’m real and I’m not typical Hollywood.”

But this is less of a denial than it is a rephrasing, use of a social code and terminology that would appeal to her supporters. It is an appeal not to blatant partisanship, per se, but to social divide: the “real” people v. the “Hollywood” elites. It is a form of class warfare that pits rural “values” against anyone that isn’t “like us.” This is the realm in which Rush Limbaugh excels – the division of people based on gut-level, but poorly defined, distinctions.

Nor does the language seem accidental or coincidental. Last week, entertainment gossip reporters were attributing nearly the same words to Sarah Palin.

“Sarah is making it very clear that she wants Bristol to win,” a show insider tells me, adding that Palin is tickled by the idea of taking votes away from the more “Hollywood liberal types” on the show.

“This is her chance to get even and show all those Democrats that a regular girl with conservative values and common sense” can win it all.

And, should anyone wonder, those who support equality for gay people (or who question continued institutionalize discrimination based on race, gender roles, or other identifiers) are “elites” and “Hollywood types” and not “real.” In fact, contempt for “Hollywood” is one of the central themes of anti-gay activists and those who object to entertainment’s embrace of gay people and lack of enthusiasm for religious conservatism.

It is no accident that all of Bristol’s competitors are “Hollywood.” This is not, after all, Dancing with the Common Folk. It is without question that Bristol sees herself in a different category from the other dancers, one that holds different perspectives and different social values.

And it is to those values that she appealed, in language that the “real” folk understand. Sending Operation Bristol into high gear.

And it may well put her into the finals – or even make her the winner.

But it also may kill the show. Few people – including “real” folk – want to watch a television entertainment show which evaluates and elevates competitors based on their political ideologies. And those in which class warfare determines support tend to eventually only have as viewers those who support the winning ideology and then, as “winning” becomes pointless, no one at all.

The producers of Dancing with the Stars gambled with Bristol Palin. By selecting someone whose “star” status was based solely on her political relationships, they may have drawn in some new viewers. But they may have also unleashed a dragon that they cannot control.

UPDATE: Talented dancer Brandi was kicked off the show by Operation Bristol. Rush Limbaugh has been gloating. Those who see the world strictly through the prism of the Culture War care little about merit or ability and are delighting that “their side” is shoving it to the “Hollywood Left.” It’s a rather sad reflection on the state of things.

I predict that Dancing With the Stars will lose ratings in the next season as people become disillusioned with the manipulation by producers and by partisan shenanigans.

Comments

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Emily K
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

I have never watched the show. Tom Delay’s act was quite amusing however (saw some clips of that).

Is it really that “in danger” and that powerful a show, that a “dragon” will be “unleashed?”

AJD
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

It reminds me of Gene Wilder’s line “Blazing Saddles”:

“You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land, the common clay of the New West. You know, morons.”

Ryan
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

There’s nothing that would help Obama and the Democrats more than Palin winning the nomination in 2012. She’s the reason why the GOP didn’t retake the Senate as well. (Angle, Buck, O’Donnell, McMahon, Fiorina, Miller). I say release the dragon! Come on, Tea Party! Show those fake socialist elitist Muslim queers who’s boss!

Spartann
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

to Timothy Kincaid….

In a sea of constant adversity and negative political opinion, a nod to the contrary really matters. And though the doubts and fears people may already be entertaining tend to get reinforced because of hyperbole and innuendo; it’s only when saner voices prevail that the truth is also considered.

Timothy Kincaid
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

Spartann,

Confucius says, “when you write like a fortune cookie, no one has any idea what you are trying to say.”

John in the Bay Area
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

I was struck by her “fake” comment. In print, it doesn’t come accross anywhere near as negatively as it did when she said it on the air.

Right now, you have three others left in the competition who have yet to say anything negative about the other dancers. Kyle Massie and Brandy couldn’t be nicer, and Jennifer (from Dirty Dancing fame) has made lots of comments about her own vulnerabilities (age, previous injuries, exhaustion), but never a negative word about anyone else.

It really did beg the question when she accused the Hollywood folks of being “fake,” just who she was refering to. I got the distinct impression that she was the one playing nice when they are together, then making nasty comments behind their backs.

She’s been in the competition as long as she has because of her mother. She doesn’t have the surprising charm of Ozzie Osbourne’s daughter from last season. And she doesn’t hold a candle to Brandy or Jennifer’s grace or Kyle Massie’s incredibly entertaining charm. We’ll see tonight. If she makes the final, I will probably quit watching the show.

Richard Rush
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

ABC missed an opportunity to create a new spin-off series that could have featured Bristol Palin in it’s debut: Dancing with the Star’s Relatives.

Regan DuCasse
November 16th, 2010 | LINK

They are a VIRUS those Palins.

And yeah, I didn’t appreciate that crack about being fake.
If Bristol weren’t, she wouldn’t be here in Hollywood in the first place. Her mother wouldn’t have quit her office to become a candidate by way of television. And now that they are a millionaire family, there populist meme’s shine is wearing off because they ARE fake and doing more contrived performing for cameras than ever.

Bristol got knocked up by a boyfriend whose 15 minutes was used up along with hers a long time ago.
She’s no example to ‘other unmarried teen moms’ because NONE of them go on to be famous or guest star on television series.

Her mother, was only brought on board because of all the political figures in America who are running a state anywhere, Sarah Palin happened to be hot.
That’s ALL.
And her lying, phony ‘I’m so special look at my family and family values’ via small town sensibility, isn’t what she’s making it out to be either.

She quit her office and sold out. Just like anyone else with a certain kind of paycheck getting waved under her nose.
And I can’t stand her screeching voice when she’s speaking in front of a crowd.

This is too much media saturation of all things Palin. For someone running (oh yes, she is) for our country’s highest office, she’s not any better than the next Kate + 8 stupidity on television.
She doesn’t run Alaska now, she just lives there.
B…F…D.

As soon as I heard about Bristol, (and I’m tired of hearing about her) hit town, all I could think was, there goes the neighborhood.

JandyA Says
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Yeah Right; family values? Why’s that?

Because Bristol got knocked-up at age 15?

Because her Baby’s Daddy is running for Mayor of their hometown based on Bristol’s popular pregnancy, or riding upon the coat-tails of his angry mother-in-law?

(Did those CHILDREN have their shotgun wedding yet?)

Dancing with the STARS? Yeah Right!! If this is the criteria for stardom, there are probably 20 million pregnant teens in America qualified for Stardom – and MANY more talented and palatable.

Bye-bye Stardom Dancing Teens… or TEAMS. Yeah… Right.

Just a bunch of BS hyperbole I think.

JandyA Says
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Oh and by the way, when Levi knocks-up a 15 year old GIRL he gets a candidacy for Mayor, while a friend of mine who did the same thing got a STATUTORY RAPE charge and 4-10 years in State Prison.

Yeah GO, Levi and Bristol.

This just make my FEATHERS BRISTOL, so to speak.

truthreller
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

This is the new American reality.

Obama gets the Nobel Prize for…for what, again? Oh yeah, for being popular, and Bristol gets to “defeat” talented people because her mom is Sarah Palin. It’s all about manufacturing crap and selling it to the dumbed down populace through the boob-tube.

Matt
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Glad somebody gets this. The show’s become a sad joke and is no longer fun for me to watch.

And ABC has got to be beyond embarassed that the Tea Party has basically hijacked their network’s most popular show. Somebody’s head should roll at the network for this.

rusty
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Bristol Palin was born on October 18, 1990 (1990-10-18)

Her son Tripp was born on December 27, 2008.

Looks like she was 17 when she was pregnant with Tripp.

rusty
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Levi Johnston was born on May 3, 1990

Carl Dag
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Don’t waste your time giving this credence to this debacle. I have stopped watching Discovery channel because of Palin’s Alaska, and now I am boycotting ABC. DWTS is powerless to change anything. The decisions and power come from ABC Disney. Stop watching ABC and you will cut off its head and leave its lifeless body to convulse. STOP WHINING AND TAKE ACTION THAT WILL MATTER! By the way, if this stupidity is upsetting you, wait until 2012. Bristol doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Can you imagine Sarah Palin as the leader of the free world? Take real action NOW! Stop watching Discovery and ABC!

John
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

If it is true the Tea Party types are voting for who Bristol Palin is, to send a message about the “common person” and if she should somehow win, to me it would seem a pretty hollow and shallow victory. It’s not about talent, whatever she says. If it had been anybody else, that person would have been voted off weeks ago.

Spartann
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Why are some of you acting like this is the first time a faction has subverted the outcome of a contest?

Have you already forgotten the goings on of campaign 2008 ?

Regan DuCasse
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

So You Think You Can Dance can’t come back fast enough.
Their Top 20 dancers…now THOSE are stars!
If someone is going to bother being on tv or famous, it better be for a very good reason as far as I’m concerned!

Emily K
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Bristol is not a “common person.” she’s rich with a huge support system. She rides her mother’s fame bubble to create her own.

This is not what “common people” are.

DidSheReally
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Theres even a website called OperationBristol now, how long will this mockery go on? I think its good that she has made it so far, but I also know that it’s NOT because of the way she dances. And, Im sure she knows too.

Priya Lynn
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

Carl said “Can you imagine Sarah Palin as the leader of the free world?”.

No american president has ever been or ever will be the leader of the free world. We have our own leaders and we don’t kowtow to any american president. Take your arrogance and stuff it.

Matt
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

They’ve got a website? Geez, where’s a good computer hacker when you need one…

Dairyqueen
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

This article about a cheesy middle america reality dance show and how a half quitting governor daughter who claim to fame is getting knocked up before marriage is winning shows how slow the news is today. The fact that more people are worked up about the voting on the show instead of the real election shows how sad and fcuked up this country is.

AdrianT
November 17th, 2010 | LINK

These silly contests, be they dancing or searching for the next pop idol, are third-rate entertainment. If Bristol Palin kills this show off, so much the better.

Kristie
November 21st, 2010 | LINK

Wow, apparently, you guys have never actually watched the show before this seaso. If you had, you’d know that this is what happens EVERY season. Marie Osmond couldn’t have danced her way out of a paper bag, but she made it to the final because her legions of fans kept voting for her. Christian De la Fuente basically stood on stage & let his professional parntner dance around him while he shook his butt all season… again, made it to the final because so many people were voting for the hot guy with the cute butt.

DWTS is only 25% dance competition, the other 75% is “popularity contest”. Every year one contestant ends up making it really far because they have a huge fanbase that all vote every week, faithfully, or one contestant will capture the audiences’ fancy & they keep them in the competition because they just want to see what they will do the next week (ie Chloris Leachman)

If this were a real dance competition based on who went from no experience to looking like a pro, they would not seed the competition with ringers (like singers/dancers/figure skaters) who have had experience learning choreography in the past. But they do, and then the judges try to hold the non-dancers to the same standard as they do those that have had previous experience. Generally the audience thinks that is unfair and then you have loads of people voting for the underdog. Bristol has apparently been that underdog this season. It really is as simple as that.

Timothy Kincaid
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

Kristie,

You’re quite right about prior years, but not this one. I could accept that Bristol attracted fans and sympathy if not for the open gloating and political rallying surrounding the issue. In times past it was not a partisan effort to stick it to the “Hollywood liberals.”

To my way of thinking, there is a distinction between voting for someone you like (such as Cloris) and voting to make a political statement, and a rather nasty one at that.

Francine
November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

I found this on one of the tea baggers message boards.

1950s2america Says:

November 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm
Since ABC has a loophole and anyone can create as many fake e-mail accounts as they want, I made over 100 of them this past Monday. On the upcoming Monday, I will use ALL 100 fake e-mail account and ALL 500+ votes for Bristol. In fact, I might even “create” a few more fake ones.

Why not? I can stay up ALL night long and keep on voting. After all, there’s NOTHING the liberals or ABC can do about it. Hell, since the contest is winding down, we might as well admit it since everyone who tries to create the fake accounts actually CAN exploit it. If the liberals can’t do it, I guess we’re just smarter than they are.

BRISTOL is going to win because none of the liberals can stay up all night long and keep voting with as many fake accounts as the rest of the Tea Party and other supporters.

So, go ahead…..Liberals can tell ABC, tell Good Morning America, blog about what I’m saying for all they want…….it’s not going to change. While they are voting 5 to 10 times for Kyle or Jennifer……we are voting over 500 at a time. In fact I CHALLENGE ABC to try and stop the barrage of online voting that will happen next Monday night……….They can’t.

Hey, the haters can blame ABC if they don’t like it. However, it’s too late……they can’t change the online voting in time to prevent us from stuffing the balloting box.

So…..yes, in a way, we can admit that there has been a conspiracy……but nevertheless, the TEA PARTY WILL WIN……….and we’ll all be up ALL NIGHT LONG to see that it happens!!!

Priya Lynn
November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

The teabaggers are so childish “We got Bristol to win so we’re better than you!”.

Emily K
November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

i dont’ really get what the teabaggers are going to accomplish with this. The way I see it, it proves a point that “liberals” are too busy doing things in their real actual lives to waste it staying up voting for “dancing with the stars.”

Sure, they can spend all their time voting for Bristol on some crappy TV show. And “liberals” can spend that same amount of time doing grassroots political work for things that really matter.

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