Thursday, May 21, 2015

I am a Closet Dancing-With-The-Stars Watcher

So On May 19, Rumer Willis and her professional partner Val Chermkovskiy won the 20th installment of  Dancing with the Stars.  Rumer is the daughter of super stars Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. A close second were singer-songwriter Riker Lynch and his professional partner Allison Holker. In third place were Iraq war veteran and amputee Noah Galloway, superbly coached and accompanied by Sharna Burgess.

This very popular American reality show, now completing its 20th season on ABC,  pairs up a dozen professional ballroom dancers with a dozen celebrities who usually don’t dance very well, and they compete with each other, receiving scores from a few judges. Each week one of the competing couples is eliminated, until only one survives - the season’s champion.

This season, I was somewhat conflicted about Noah surviving longer than some other dancers, for example 14-year old actress Willow Shields and Olympic gold medal winner Nastia Liukin. Noah Galloway is a severely injured veteran of the Iraq war. Despite missing one arm and one leg, he provided us with heroic dancing performances for two months, lifting his partner high above his powerful body, twirling as best as anyone with a prosthetic leg could, and much more. But of course, he had to compete with people like Nastia Liukin, an Olympic gold medal winner in gymnastics, still young, vibrant, and a super dancer. Clearly, the criteria used to place Noah into the finals were somewhat different from those used to judge some of the other contestants. It’s obvious that a man missing an arm and a leg cannot compete with a healthy, young and talented Olympic gold medalist on a level playing field. But I don’t want to belabor this. The war veteran’s performance was great, and as far as I am concerned, he earned his spot in the finals.

Instead, let me focus on something else, something I hope you will find amusing:

The day after the ebullient, festive and wildly popular conclusion of the show (14 million people watched it), the subject happened to come up a few times in small talk between me and some of my friends:

In the morning I went to my health club for my daily work-out. In the weight room I bumped into my friend Joe and we chatted for a while. I happened to mention that I had watched the finale of Dancing with the Stars the night before.

Joe’s reply: “Oh, yeah, my wife likes to watch that kind of stuff...”

A bit later, Joe said that he really didn’t understand how Noah, the maimed Iraq war veteran, had been able to reach the finals. He should have been eliminated way before Nastia, that Olympic gold medalist...”

Later I had lunch with my colleague Bill, and once again the subject of Dancing with the Stars came up, as a casual conversation topic.

Bill said that he was sort of obligated to watch the show sometimes, to make his wife happy...”But I don’t really follow it,” he added dismissively.

Towards the end of our lunch, Bill said that he felt that the rock singer Riker Lynch should have won, not Rumer Willis. “Of course, the cards were stacked against the poor kid. How can you win when your opponent’s parents are Bruce Willis and Demi Moore?”

In the evening, my computer tech guy came over to my house to fix my browser. While he was working on my computer, we chatted about this and that, including the previous night’s finale of Dancing with the Stars.

“I don’t have time to watch that sort of thing,” he said, “I barely have time to see a game of baseball once in a while...”

“I know what you mean,” I replied. “I prefer sports too...still, the competition and the scoring of these amateur dancers by the judges can be quite interesting...”

“Right, like when Shawn Johnson won the trophy in the Spring of 2009. Should never have happened!” he remarked vehemently, adding: “And then, in the Fall of 2009, they gave it to Donny Osmond! What a crock!”

“Wow,” I said, full of admiration. “You sure know your stuff!”

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went out to dinner with three other couples. As often on such occasions, the four guys sat at one end of the table together, the women at the other end.

As the conversation meandered from the NBA post-season to golfing in Ireland and from the growing list of Republican presidential contenders to various other topics, someone mentioned Dancing with the Stars. For the next twenty minutes, the four of us ended up talking about 14-year old Willow Shields’s unfair and premature elimination, Nastia Liukin’s chances of reaching the final, and which of the two brothers Max or Val Chermkovskiy is the better dancer.

Visualize this for a moment: Four old-fashioned American guys spending a good portion of their dinner party talking about Dancing with the Stars!

Sociologists will ask, why is this reality show (now in its 20th season) so popular and so durable? Is it because of the personal stories of some of the stars, like Noah Galloway’s admirable response to his tragedy, or the saga of Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player? Is it because of the public’s insatiable appetite for gossip about celebrities?

Today, I just want to share with you this funny observation: These friends I talked to, they all professed indifference to Dancing with the Stars, thereby asserting their masculinity, but then, they all turned out to know every detail!

I first thought, could the fact that American men watch this show mean that they are getting more in touch with their feminine side?

But I came to realize what Dancing with the Stars is really about: This glamorous, glitzy, over-the-top, flamboyant show is ultimately about gorgeous women with stunning bodies, stunning legs and unbelievably skimpy and suggestive outfits (and also about shirtless men with fantastic abs and pecs), in sum: S.E.X.

I can’t speak for women, but I am not surprised that four gray-haired geezers like my friends and I spend hours watching and discussing this show, as do probably millions of other American men. Admit it, guys: You are all closet Dancing-with-the-Stars watchers. leave comment here

© Tom Kando 2015