God bless the slow week that is the Thanksgiving Holiday, because it's the best possible time to learn what Washington Post etiquette doyenne and professional thought-haver Sally Quinn thinks about Bristol Palin's stint of amateur teevee dancing!
And what does Sally Quinn have to say about Bristol Palin, in the most uncalled-for online column since that time she explained her deeply dysfunctional family to the zero people who were interested in finding out more about it? Lots, as it turns out! Twenty paragraphs of feelings, each more precious than the last.
In case you've been trapped in a mountain crevasse and haven't yet resorted to chewing your own arm off to escape starvation, here's what's going on with Bristol Palin. Palin is a competitor on a reality game show called "Dancing With The Stars", which is watched by millions of people who have thus far accepted the fact that terms like "stars" and "dancing" are to be viewed on something of a sliding scale. Palin is a figure of controversy, apparently, because she keeps advancing on the show, on the strength of Palin fans who rabidly vote for her despite what some observers say are substandard performances in the field of dancing.
That this is a notable phenomennon is somewhat surprising, because "extreme favor for overall substandardness" is something that most people say when their therapists say, "Tell me the first thing that comes into your mind when I say a word," and then the first word is "Palin." (A few holdouts still say, "Beloved Monty Python comedian.")
I remain surprised that so many people have these intense feelings about Bristol Palin dancing, because a) she dances way better than I do, trust me, and b) the fact that maybe Palin supporters are somehow "gaming the vote system" shouldn't be the first time that humans in America should have had cause to question the integrity of reality television.
Why does Sally Quinn have so many feelings about this? First, you have to understand that Bristol Palin is doing mortal damage to Quinn's fantasy life:
My secret fantasy is to be on "Dancing" but of course I would never dare. I can see Len saying in a caustic British accent, "That was absolutely the worst Paso Doble I have ever seen in my 11 seasons on this show!" And Bruno, standing up, tearing at his hair, "What are you thinking?! Where is the passion? The sexuality? The character? That was PATHETIC!" And Carrie Ann, regretfully: "Sally, you're a good journalist. Why do you want to put yourself through this?"
Beyond that, Quinn is also deeply aggrieved because Bristol Palin has intruded upon Quinn's most sacred turf -- her social life:
My husband and I are "DWTS" fanatics. We plan our social life around it, often regretting invitations that fall on the night of the show. Only in emergencies would we try to TiVo. Not only that, but I vote. Under the show's rules, you're allowed to vote five times on one line. I have six lines at home and my cell, so I vote as many times as I can for my favorite. This season, I'm voting for Jennifer Grey all the way. She is by far the best dancer on the show.
Can humanity even live with itself if Jennifer Grey doesn't win this show? The question is essential, actually. See, all of these ruminations are taking place on the Post's "On Faith" blog, where the paper aggregates all of Quinn's various idea-farts alongside whatever homophobic content they've got on hand that week. And so, these aren't simply questions for Beltway hostesses, these are questions that should be pondered theologically.
Thus, the piece comes freighted with a helping of quasi-religious fufflepoo. Bristol Palin is not just a minor pop-cultural controversy, she is an "unholy (se)lection." And we can't just leave Palin's DWTS success as a logical and predictable result of Palin-fandom. No, no! This is the time for questioning whether the "Christian right" harbors values that are, in some way, hypocritical, for the first time in Quinn's life:
Polls have shown that the majority of tea party members are conservative Christians. Are these Christians who are voting 300 times and not using valid email addresses? Doesn't it offend their sense of fairness, if not ethics and morals?
Are these the same people who voted for Sarah Palin, for many of the candidates she endorsed this past election, and will be voting for her candidates in 2012? They may well be voting for her for president.
THEY MAY WELL BE VOTING FOR SARAH PALIN FOR PRESIDENT!! And what then, America? WHAT THEN? Does this mean that Jennifer Grey will not carry any states in the electoral college?
I wondered what I would do if I were Sarah Palin and my daughter were in this situation. Bristol is clearly getting votes she would never have gotten had she not been Sarah Palin's daughter. Those who think they are doing the right thing by doing wrong are only hurting her. They are putting her in a vulnerable position to be vilified by her mother's enemies.
Perhaps Sarah Palin could say to her supporters that she hopes the stories of rigging the vote aren't true; that she doesn't approve of cheating and may the best person win.
Why doesn't Sarah Palin understand that she is poised at the Rubicon to make a choice that will forever define her?
My favorite story is that of 67-year-old Steven Cowan who couldn't stand it another minute and blasted his TV with a shotgun after Brandy lost. He thought Bristol was not a good dancer.
Emphasis Quinn's, because you simply must understand the extraordinary restraint she's placing on herself and her intense desire to shoot her teevee, with guns, everytime she sees Bristol Palin dancing! (Also: that is her "favorite story!")
But I really think that Quinn's astute political analysis deserves to be highlighted:
This could be a metaphor for things to come. Sarah Palin is a force to be reckoned with and if her supporters can influence a TV show of 23 million viewers they can have more serious influence on elections. And if they can mobilize the religious right then the Democrats better pay attention and start dancing as fast as they can.
So there you have it! Sally Quinn has had a series of important theological revelations and game-changing political realizations, all thanks to a television show where D-list celebrities waltz to Bon Jovi songs.