When Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews, the hosts of “Dancing with the Stars,” take to the fabled ballroom staircase to introduce the cast of “stars” each season, it’s pretty safe to assume that viewers are not expecting the best, brightest and up-and-coming to appear on their screen. With alumni including Master P, Kate Gosselin and Nancy Grace over its 28-season run, “DWTS” has amassed a reputation for being an anti-Met Gala of sorts: You can pretty much expect everyone who isn’t anyone to turn up eventually. And while the show has had its share of bizarre seasons, this past Monday’s season premiere felt particularly absurd. Almost too absurd.
Of course, there were the usual suspects: The former athletes (murderer Ray Lewis and sentient skyscraper Lamar Odom), the ringer (Ally Brooke of girl group Fifth Harmony) and the shameless ABC plug (former “Bachelorette” Hannah Brown). Then came the questionable: Meredith from “The Office” belting “She Works Hard for the Money” on live television. And of course, the downright confusing: Kel Mitchell attempting to prove to America why we were wrong to choose Kenan over him. But, of all of the casting decisions born out of a fever dream, none seemed as surreal or as irresponsible as the decision to cast former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, as a star.
No, not Melissa McCarthy reprising her “Saturday Night Live” spoof — the real Sean Spicer, stuffed like a Hillshire Farm sausage into an ill-fitting, electric green flamenco blouse and skin-tight white pants. Yum.
From the first minutes of the season premiere, it became apparent to me that during the show’s year-long hiatus it underwent more upgrades than a Real Housewife — new graphics, sharper camera quality, improved props and possibly most irritating of all, new lengthy bits that precede every couple’s performance. According to Deadline, changes to the show’s classic format were implemented this year as a means to maintain audience interest in the show as it racks up more seasons. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Enter the Spice Rack.
Despite the outpouring of criticism from the Internet when Spicer was first announced as a part of Season 28, ABC remained steadfast in the decision to televise the middle-aged white man’s powerful journey towards redemption and attaining rhythm. Although it would be irrational to believe for a moment that ABC would opt for integrity over ratings gold, it was not the mere decision to cast Spicer that drove me to the edge. What irked me to the point of near-insanity while watching live on Monday night was the show’s blatant and, frankly, condescending attempts at normalizing the former White House staffer as a sort of screwball sitcom antagonist, and not a political tool who has downplayed the Holocaust, lied on several occassions to the American public and continued to defend the fascist who tossed him out of D.C. like yesterday’s trash. To save you the ire, I’ll recount the most infuriating example of this.
“What one word describes you?” Spicer is prompted, to which he smugly replies, “Beyoncé.” For future reference, ABC, Beyoncé is infallible, not people who simply co-opt her fame to dupe The Youth™.
Spicer stumbles through both interactions with others and his dance — a salsa to the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life.” Yes, that really happened. Although the entire viewing audience deserves an apology (and maybe compensation) for bearing witness to the ungodly pressure of Spicer’s slacks on his crotch, who truly deserves an apology is the Latinx population of America who had to watch a man partially responsible for their ongoing disenfranchisement essentially take a steaming dump on their culture.
Because that’s who we forget, right? The real people affected by Spicer, his political cronies and his supporters who chant “Build the Wall” one day and celebrate Cinco de Mayo the next. In the rush by some moderates to absolve Spicer of his “minor” sins and see him as a man separate from — oh yeah — the career decisions he’s made as an autonomous adult, we don’t create a harmonious society or even “begin a conversation.” We are just complicit.
Almost more importantly, we ruin the sanctity of escapist reality television. No longer can “Dancing with the Stars” merely be a place where America retreats from the pain of the real world to watch old has-beens break bones and dance the Foxtrot. With Mike Huckabee mobilizing Ford F-150 Twitter, panhandling online for prayers and votes to keep Spicer on the show for another week, the sustained blurring of lines between politics and entertainment continues and “Dancing with the Stars” becomes some sort of battleground for conservatives to “own libs.”
I beg of you, before it gets too dystopian in here, vote this man off. If not for me, then at least so we can focus on the true underdog of this season, America’s sweetheart, James Van der Beek. The electoral college is not on their side this time.