FIRST-PERSON: Look, it's only reality TV

Baptist Press
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Posted: Nov 19, 2010 5:15 PM
FIRST-PERSON: Look, it's only reality TV
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, has survived to dance in the finals of the reality television program "Dancing With The Stars." Interestingly or amusingly, Bristol's success has some people upset.

In fact, the young Palin's invitation to appear on the show garnered a chorus of complaints from left-leaning types. "Why was Bristol invited to be on the show?" some asked. "Other than being the daughter of someone famous, what credentials does she possess?"

Of course, these connoisseurs of culture have failed to realize that in the wonderful world of reality entertainment a stellar resume, or even talent, is irrelevant. Just consider some reality TV success stories: Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, the "cast" of "Jersey Shore," etc.

In present day American pop culture a person can, and do, become famous for all the wrong reasons.

There is no doubt Bristol was invited to be on DWTS because of media attention and not talent. She first became known when her mother became John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election.

The media spotlight grew intense when Bristol was found to be pregnant and unmarried. The glare became garish when her former fiancé tried to use his new found "fame" to enhance his pocketbook in some unsavory ways.

In an attempt to redeem her poor choice of sexual intimacy before marriage, Bristol launched a campaign urging young people to abstain from sex until married. As you would expect, the media had a field day.

In light of some, or all, of the above the DWTS producers invited her to be on the program. So why shouldn't she be on the program? It would seem her media resume is as good as any in reality television.

Left-leaning media watchers have been angered by Bristol's ability to remain on the program week after week. Though she repeatedly receives low scores from the judges on her dancing, the viewers of the show continue to give her enough votes to advance her to the next round.

Contestants on DWTS are evaluated by three judges which comprises 50 percent of their score. The other 50 percent comes from viewers who cast votes via cell phone or the Internet.

Bristol's fan base recently responded with enough votes to overcome one of the programs better dancers and place her in the final. Commentators expressed shock over the turn of events.

More than one observer blamed a political conspiracy for the outcome. It was asserted that support for Bristol was an organized effort by the dreaded Tea Party people. Yes, according to some observers, DWTS has been tainted by a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Could it be that Americans who tune into DWTS just like Bristol? She is a young lady who has acknowledged her sex prior to marriage was not a good choice. She has been given media attention she did not ask for and who now seems to be trying to make the best of her life. Many find such a story worth applauding or, in the case of DWTS, voting for.

Then there is the ugly reality of the vulgarities expressed by Bristol and sister Willow on Facebook responding to negative comments about their mom's new reality program. They have since apologized. It remains to be seen how that will affect America's view of Bristol.

Pure democracy is on display in a free-market. People vote with their time by watching a TV program or with dollars by purchasing products. What reality programs like DWTS do is allow quick feedback from their consumers.

In a free-market, any product or celebrity has the opportunity to do well -- at least for a season. Remember the pet rock craze of 1975? The creator, Gary Dahl, made millions literally selling rocks to people.

There is much that is popular today that makes me shake my head in disbelief. However, I chalk it up to the state of the culture, not some left-wing conspiracy.

Many liberals don't seem to mind the current state of American popular culture. I don't hear many of these same activists or pundits lament the sorry state of movies, music, literature or television. However, let the daughter of a well-known conservative achieve success with voters on a reality TV show and they get up in arms.

I don't understand why some people in the media even bother with DWTS. After all, it is only a reality TV show. It contributes nothing at all to the advancement of our culture. My advice is they should do what I do: Just ignore it.

No doubt, Bristol Palin's DWTS staying power is based more on her likeability than it is her dancing prowess. And according to some people, that is a bad thing. Bristol's DWTS success simply reflects the not only nature of reality TV, but also the nature of popular culture.

Will Bristol win DWTS? Besides the Palin family, why should anyone really care? It is, after all, reality television.

Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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