I’ve been watching Dancing with the Stars since it’s second season. I danced a bit growing up, but I was never a ballroom aficionado. Yet, I was drawn to this reality show that paired people I’d sometimes heard of with professional dancers I came to know and love. Over the years, the show has become more about the professional dancers than the so-called stars, but one thing that has stayed the same is that the show is a popularity contest. No one is tuning in because they think Celebrity X is going to do the best cha-cha ever. They’re tuning in because they like Celebrity X and would watch them eat oatmeal. Sean Spicer’s run on Dancing with the Stars, which ended recently, is further evidence of the show’s design that has always existed. His success over “better dancers” doesn’t mean the show is failing, it means you’re not paying attention. 

In case you missed it, last season, radio host Bobby Bones won the Mirror Ball Trophy and people were up in arms because he wasn’t the best dancer. You know what he was though? The one with a nationally syndicated talk show where he could tell people to vote for him. To combat that happening again, the judges scores are supposedly weighted heavier now. So, in theory, the better dancers should be surviving. However, Sean Spicer, despite lackluster scores, prevailed until he was the sixth person eliminated of the season. People were up in arms from the second he was announced as joining the show. Then, his success really got people talking about the so-called “flaws” of the show. As a long time DWTS watcher, I wasn’t surprised at all. People like Sean Spicer are meant to thrive on DWTS. It’s what they’re banking on, even if they hate his politics. 

First, let’s talk about the “scandalousness” that is casting Sean Spicer. DWTS has been on for…a long time. Sure, Sean Spicer gets people riled up because he was Trump’s press secretary for a hot second, but did anyone know who he was before that podium? Absolutely not. He’s also not the first political person who has been uh…viewed less than favorably…to appear on the show. Tucker Carlson, who now is almost a household name, was on Season 3 on the show. And boy, was he…rhythmically challenged. Tom DeLay, the former Speaker of the House  who had resigned in the face of criminal charges several years before, was on Season 9 of the show. Bristol Palin came in third on Season 11. Geraldo Rivera made an appearance. Heck, Tonya Harding…you know “banned from skating for masterminding a violent crime” Tonya Harding even appeared on the show. They don’t shy away from scandal. The show courts the possibility of it to draw you in, to make you watch and talk about it and write opinion pieces like this. 

Many, many people have appeared on the show as a way to redeem themselves and as a way for ABC to milk the audience into tuning in. Don’t think for a second that they didn’t love President Trump tweeting about them, even if their hosts and judges complained about “exploiting” the system. If this wasn’t a popularity contest, they wouldn’t let you vote at all. But they do, because they like that audience engagement. The judges aren’t there to be arbiters of the final ruling. They are there to indicate to the ignorant audience what is and isn’t a good dance within their guidelines. Most people can tell when someone’s just dancing around a chair (sorry Tucker…) but a paso doble that scores a 9 looks almost identical to the one that scores a 10 if you’ve got an untrained eye. Therefore, the popularity aspect of the show often dominates. There has been uproar time and time again through the history of the show about great dancers who have been eliminated while less talented.

Let’s not forget that Buzz Aldrin was on Season 10 of DWTS. Literal astronaut Buzz Aldrin, American hero, and he was eliminated second. Pamela Anderson lasted longer. This show is super weird. I love it, but it doesn’t always make sense. The Olympians are always great dancers, yes, but sometimes popularity and a social media presence matters. If Barack Obama had tweeted his support of Buzz Aldrin’s dancing career, this might be a very different world today. Snooki lasted longer than Bill Nye the Science Guy. The American voting base isn’t perfect, that much is clear. 

Sean Spicer’s success is inherent to the show. The person who can garner the tweets and the Instagram likes about their success on the show is going to survive longer than the old fogie or unknown person who can’t. It’s simple, folks. This is the same reason that so many DWTS partners let “dating rumors” fly. It gets votes. Chemistry sells, and staying on DWTS week after week pays the bills and creates future opportunities. Don’t think for a second that Hannah B and her partner aren’t letting those rumors fly and showing up to awards shows together to encourage that. It’s a tale as old as…this show. And it works. 

So next season, don’t be surprised to see Anthony Scaramucci, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Candace Owens Omarosa, or someone else that grinds people’s gears. ABC will let their hosts and their judges poke fun at these people and their politics all day long, but they’re still going to cash that big check that comes in when everyone can’t stop watching the show and talking about it.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member