Stars or Stripes?

The hot topic in celebrity gossip: Bristol Palin’s advancement on Dancing with the Stars. According to The Globe and Mail, a man in Wisconsin was so angry after watching Palin Jr.’s dance routine, he shot his T.V. at point blank range with a shotgun.

“How did Bristol Pailin get so far?” George Stroumboulopoulos asked on last night’s episode of The Hour. “She’s a terrible dancer!”

As much as I love you, Strombo, I think this is the wrong question: the question is not “how did Bristol Palin get so far,” but “how does Bristol Palin even qualify for the show in the first place?”

Dancing with the Stars is supposed to feature stars. We use this term so loosely that we’ve lost the metaphor: the word “star” is supposed to represent an exceptional and shining human being in the entertainment industry, someone who glistens above everyone else because of their supernatural talent: Betty Davis, Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart, Julie Andrews— these individuals were stars, as they represented the best in the performing arts.

Even our sharpest cultural critics don’t seem uncomfortable with Bristol’s presence on Dancing with the Stars, demonstrating our collective acceptance of the age of show business (For more on “the age of show business” see my earlier post on Sarah Palin’s Alaska entitled amusing-ourselves-to-death)

“Bristol’s presence alone is a cultural statement” said Strombo. And I have to ask—what does that cultural statement sound like? What are we saying when we allow a politician’s daughter to claim star status?

Star-status should be reserved for those we value in the entertainment industry. If we don’t pause and ask ourselves why Bristol Palin even qualifies for stardom, then what happens to the quality of both entertainment and politics? When we lose the distinction between celebrities and politicians, both arenas suffer.

I don’t want to shoot the T.V. because Bristol Pailin advanced to the next round on Dancing with the Stars, I want to shoot the T.V. because she’s on it in the first place.


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