Fairness and the Bristol Stomp

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas

Almost all children hear a set of conflicting statements from their parents, relatives, and friends. They’re told if they study hard, if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they want. It’s the “American Dream.” But they’re also told that life isn’t always fair.

Looking for internships or jobs, America’s children learn that no matter how much they studied or worked, it was the boss’s niece or a boss’s friend’s son who was hired. Sometimes, the reason for rejection could be as simple as the boss thought the best candidate was intellectually superior or that the applicant had curly black hair and he liked only blondes.

Later, on another job, while the boss bought yet another vacation home, the worker was one of dozens laid off, their jobs going to Mexico, China, or Pakistan.

It’s not fair that reality TV “stars” and pro athletes make 10 to more than 100 times the salaries of social workers and firefighters. But Americans seldom protest.

The owner of a mid-sized carpentry shop loses a contract to a large corporation, not because of a lack of quality work but because the corporation cut deals with suppliers. It’s not fair; it’s just reality.

One person driving 65 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone is stopped by police; another, doing 80, speeds along. It’s not fair. But it happens.

It probably wasn’t fair that Bristol Palin, 20-year-old unwed mother with no discernible job skills, was selected over thousands of other celebrities for ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.” It had nothing to do with fairness or her ability; it had everything to do with a reality that Palin’s presence on DWTS would bring in ratings, and ratings bring in advertising income. The first show brought in 21 million viewers who watched 30-second commercials from companies that paid almost $190,000 each, among the highest on all television—broadcast or cable.

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough

To assure that Palin had a chance to stay on the show for at least a couple of weeks, the producers gave her a special advantage—her professional dance partner was Mark Ballas, DWTS champion twice in the previous 10 seasons.

Even with one of the best professional ballroom dancers as her partner and coach, Palin was still at the bottom of the judges’ ranking four times, and near the bottom most of the other times. According to the scoring system, each of three judges give each contestant pair — a celebrity and a professional — a score of 1 to 10. A perfect score is 30. But, viewers can vote by phone, website, or by texting. Their vote is worth half the total score. Neither Sarah nor Bristol Palin made any special requests of the viewers that we know about. They didn’t have to. Hundreds of conservative blogs and talk show hosts did it for them, urging their flocks to vote. Many may have even scammed the system. At least one viewer told the Washington Post he not only had used fake emails to vote hundreds of times, he also told others how to do it.

Willing accomplices and accessories, of course, were the producers who made sure that Mama Palin was seen on several shows — sometimes with speaking roles, sometimes with as many as nine cutaway shots. The audience did as they were told. For nine weeks, Bristol Palin, one of the weakest dancers in the show’s 11-season history, defeated celebrity teams who had near-perfect and perfect scores.

The week before the finals, it finally seemed destined that Bristol Palin would be off the show, having again placed at the bottom of the judges’ scores. But, it was Brandy and professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who had done near-perfect routines, who were voted off. Shocked, the audience began booing. It didn’t matter. Palin was now one of three celebrity finalists.

The first of a two-part final the following week drew an audience of 23.7 million, highest for any entertainment program this season. However, this time, it was Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, who had finished at the top of the judges’ lists several times, who finally won. Second were actor Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer; Palin and Ballas finished third.

walter m. braschIt makes little difference if numerous celebrities weren’t selected for Dancing With the Stars because the producers gave the slot to the less talented Bristol Palin. It doesn’t even matter that more talented celebrities were eliminated from the show because a cult of the home audience voted for Bristol Palin. In the American election system, the best candidate, for any of a thousand reasons, including blatant lies and distortion by the opposition, often doesn’t win an election.

It doesn’t seem fair. It’s just the way it is.

Walter Brasch

Published by the LA Progressive on November 26, 2010
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About Walter M. Brasch

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former multimedia writer-producer, newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and is professor emeritus of mass communications from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks at the health, environmental, geological, and economic impact of natural gas horizontal fracturing. He also investigates political collusion between the natural gas industry and politicians. Among his 18 books--most of which integrate history, politics, and contemporary social issues--are The Press and the State, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, The Joy of Sax: A Look at the Bill Clinton Administration, and Social Foundations of the Mass Media.
He is also the author of dozens of magazine articles, several multimedia productions, and has worked in the film industry and as a copy writer and political consultant. He is the author 16 books, most of them focusing upon the fusion of historical and contemporary social issues, including America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights (2005); Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of Geroge W. Bush (2008), Black English and the Mass Media (1981); Forerunners of Revolution: Muckrakers and the American Social Conscience (1991); With Just Cause: The Unionization of the American Journalist (1991); Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the 'Cornfield Journalist': The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris (2000); The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era (2001); and Sex and the Single Beer Can (3rd ed., 2009). He also is co-author of Social Foundations of the Mass Media (2001) and The Press and the State (1986), awarded Outstanding Academic Book distinction by Choice magazine, published by the American Library Association.

Comments

  1. lranderson64 says:

    Let’s be fair… yes, Bristol started out slow and should’ve left several times (including before Brandy)…….HOWEVER, since she was voted back, that gave her an opportunity to improve and she did–continuously and dramatically. Let’s give her some credit for jumping in, shyness and all, learning, growing, and becoming a pretty decent dancer (and for demonstrative some conservative values that showed in her costume designs and some discomfort in showing much overt sexuality that others take for granted). The judges were giving her 9s at the end. They aren’t pushovers. Maybe the conservative left should give somebody a break every once and a while. Being conservative and being “Christian” doesn’t mean being perfect…it just means doing our best to trust God and then also being forgiven when we blow it. She’s also a young girl…learning…and seems like she’s being a pretty good role model…learned from her mistakes and trying to help others to do so as well. I’m rambling a little now, but, well, hopefully someone will get the point… (It was just a TV show)!

  2. Joe Weinstein says:

    I too have no TV – mainly because I have neither time, need nor desire to be ‘entertained’ by mass-media ideas of ‘entertainment’ – whether ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’.

    Believe it or not the human race, even in the advanced USA, actually had a pre-Palin era where it didn’t matter much who pretended to entertain who, because people didn’t structure their time, lives or desires around being entertained.

    Yes, many voting systems are rigged, so that the voting serves only to provide a veneer of ‘people’s choice’. However, there’s an even more important reason to oppose the entire idea of using mass-voting for any serious (not merely amusing) social and political decisions. Even if systems were FAIR and NEVER rigged, decision by means of a non-deliberative popularity-contest mass-vote is INHERENTLY idiotic. The vote of a casual who-cares ignoramus counts as much as the vote of a serious well-prepared citizen. And to practical certainty (odds billions to 1), in a massive vote, even in a ‘very close’ mass contest
    one (like earlier Cooley vs Harris), no one person’s vote will count.

    Far better to have each major decision made in deliberation, by a manageable-size team (‘jury’) of ordinary but motivated citizens who spend some time together exploring all aspects of the choice.

  3. Oh please! America “fell in love” with Bristol Palin??? Give me a break! I love how the right has appropriated the terms “America” and “Americans” to mean rabid right wing evangelical “Christians”–i.e., “America has spoken”, and “We’re taking our country back!”. I am also an American and I most certainly didn’t “fall in love” with smug, bratty Bristol. I find it quite humorous that this girl, supposedly raised by such a very very oh so devout Christian mother and father, in the holiest of homes, dont’cha know, joined in with her younger sibling Willow on Facebook to curse, slur and call names to fellow classmates who dared to criticize mommy’s tv show.

    Now, I have no problem with people who GENUINELY practice their faith–look at the Duggar family for instance. WHile I completely disagree with their politics and religious beliefs, I respect them for being consistent, and for raising their children in a way that is consistent with their beliefs, even when it’s hard. I haven’t seen the Duggar kids cursing on Facebook (Bristol), slinging homophobic insults (Willow, Bristol)), abusing prescription drugs (Track), getting pregnant out of wedlock (Bristol), attending wild house parties involving booze, sex and vandalism that had to be broken up by police (Willow), etc. Nor do I hear rumors of Michelle Duggar going off on her husband and other family members with foul mouthed screaming rants (Sarah).

    Yet, these oh so holy REAL Americans just FELL IN LOVE with sweet, darling Bristol, so they just NATURALLLY had to arrange for her to win by telling each other how to defeat the voting mechanism so each person could vote hundreds of times.

    Talk about total hypocrisy.

  4. Apparently you did not watch the show or did not listen to how the show works. Scores are half based on judges scores and half on voting. Bristol Palin had never performed in her life. All the other contestants were performers or professional athletes. She had never had a dance lesson. She traveled from Alaska in her pickup truck five hours to get there. When she arrived on stage and people heard her story, the situation changed from the Sarah Palin’s child show, to the Bristol show. Millions of us fell in love with her courage and her determination and her extraordinary improvement in dancing ability. If you read anything about the show, you would know that Mark Ballas and Len Goodman (the head judge) said that Bristol Palin had the best footwork of any of the contestants. It was only in the drama and theatrics that she was lacking and that obviously improved from week to week. If there was any lack of fairness in the situation, it is in people like you who do not see the heroic deeds that this young woman performed even to the point of dancing her best after receiving death threats. In the end, the professionals won again, but mainly due to the fact that the DWTS servers were crashed by all the votes. I could not get on to vote until 2 AM Eastern and although I perservered I am sure that many other Bristol voters did not. If things were really fair, and the voting was available Bristol might have won.

  5. David Delmonico says:

    Wow, just wow.

    I’ve never seen a hateful lefty go off on Hollywood before, or audience voting. Palin Derangement Syndrome has hit overload now.

    Look, I’m sure Bristol’s mother had a bit to do with her being asked to dance, but then again, I bet Jennifer Grey’s dad Joel Grey had his own role to play in the professional dancer being asked.

    People forget Bristol already had an ABC connection, having appeared as a guest star on one of their ABC Family channel shows. Plus she’s a spokesman for Candies, but let’s put that aside for a minute.

    The show is supposed to be about taking raw, non-dancers and turning them into something. Bristol fit that bill perfectly.

    It’s also a POPULARITY CONTEST where the show’s hosts remind the TV viewer it’s their JOB to vote for their favorite, and the viewer is given the ability to do something a democrat should really love: to vote early and vote a bunch of times. That’s the ACORN/SEIU way!

    Every single week the judges praised Bristol for her ability to dance. Technically, she was one of the best, if not the best dancer. (of the NON pros) Her technique was almost perfect. It was her acting ability, or lack there of, that kept costing her and Mark points.

    The thing is, and I know this upsets you loving, tolerant “progressives” the judges’ score only goes so far. The 24 million viewers have a say as well. America fell in love with Bristol Palin. Even folks who don’t particularly like her mother, fell in love with Bristol.

    Bristol never complained, never bitched, not even when loving, tolerant “progressives” such as yourselves were sending her death threats. And even a white powder in an envelope.

    You “progressives’ are such a loving,tolerant sort, you know.

    I’m a fan of Jennifer Grey’s, but she’s a professional dancer and was a ringer. I know she had to fight some serious injuries to dance, and she danced well, but she also rubbed a lot of people wrong because of her attitude.

    Brandy is lucky she survived as long as she did. She came off as hateful. She bitched every episode and fought with Maks. Maks is no prize either. Both of them are primadonnas.

    Kyle is energetic and a great guy, but no way he belonged in the final. (based on dancing only) The only reason he looked good was because his partner, Lacy was all kinds of awesome. BUT, he’s incredibly likable, and has a huge fan base, just as do Bristol and Jennifer. Based on that, Kyle, like Bristol and Jennifer EARNED their spot in the finals.

    Frankly, Brandy should have been gone earlier, and Kurt Warner and Rick Fox should have went further. Sadly, the NFL/NBA fan base isn’t as big as the washed up singer/diva fan base.

    I’ll be honest, I had never watched the show before, and only watched because of Bristol. When all of you loving, tolerant “progressives” started acting like a bunch of moonbats, I looked into the show’s history, and guess what, traditionally the best dancers don’t always succeed. If they aren’t likable, they aren’t staying on the show long.

    It is what it is, get over it.

    As for “nepotism” what about Kelly Osborne, who did very well on the show? Other than being Ozzy and Sharon’s daughter, what made her a star?

    The fact is, like Bristol, Kelly worked her butt off and did well. She had some fans, so did Ozzy, but she also created new ones. This experience changed her life, for the better.

    The bottom line is this, Bristol was asked by ABC TV to come dance. Did they do it thinking they’d get big ratings? OF COURSE THEY DID, IT”S THEIR JOB! It worked too as the show had it’s best ratings in years. America loves the Palins, deal with it.

    Bristol proceeded to work her butt off and learn how to dance each and every week. Was she blessed to be teamed up with Mark Ballas? You damned right she was. He’s a stand up guy. A real good guy. A great teacher. He and Bristol clicked too. They had great chemistry together, which certainly helped.

    But you know what, Bristol was no more blessed than Kyle was by being paired up with Lacy, whose dancing hid his lack of ability.

    Bristol was no more blessed than Jennifer, who had Derek, a man who has the patience of Job. Many people would have lost it with her early on. She’s an emotional train wreck and as high maintenance as they come. Not all of it’s her fault, for sure, but still, she was a handful. Think if she’s had Maks instead! She wouldn’t have lasted a week.

    I know you loving, tolerant “progressives” hate Sarah Palin with every ounce of your souls, because hate is all you have. But it’s beyond pathetic to see supposed adults lose their minds over a friggin’ dance show.

    Shows what shallow, insignificant, unserious human beings you are.

    On the other hand, it’s kind of entertaining as most of America is laughing at you people more than ever. And believe me, America laughs at you moonbats all the time.

    What’s going to be even more entertaining to watch is how you moonbats act once Sarah Palin brings down your inept President and takes the Oath of Office in January of 2013.

    I’m buying stock in Orville Redenbacher for the event!

  6. She had one skill and management of the show used it to their full credit, she had the ability to increase ratings. Had you and others not written about it, I would not have known, never saw the show, never will, as you note the voting is not jam up to any standards other in places where you vote often and even if you are dead. Clue, neither is voting at the state and federal voting booths. Many states have no way of telling if the voter is a legal voter or not…As far as the show went, voting under the vote often rule was legal.

  7. One advantage of not having a TV is that I was oblivious to this entire fiasco until reading about it just now. Sadly, the lesson learned here is that Momma Palin is using this same strategy to set her self up to win the 2012 election for US president. And yes, Pam, I DO question the value of voting when the system is so rigged. And having run against Issa, the man who has vowed to take down our Congress in the next 2 years, in 2006, getting NO help from the Democratic Party (Boxer’s people didn’t even want me on the stage when she made appearance for Phil Angelides at MY campaign manager’s business just before the election!), I question the value of anyone putting their life into a campaign when the game is rigged no matter what they do. Yes, “That’s just the way it is.” I’m not bitter, just wondering how we can beat the system when it’s so critical that we do?

  8. OK, I know this show doesn’t matter and “who cares?” but I seriously believe that it is ridiculous things like this that are going to push people over the edge. Just like marriages can withstand many things and then couples end up splitting over toothpaste tubes. I also think that this causes people to question the value of voting, if the polls on this show were as corrupted as alleged.

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