Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 18th, 2010

A Round-Up of Thoughts: Bristol Palin, War Poetry, and more

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The last few days, I’ve been under the weather, so I have more than one subject I’d like to talk about today.

First, if you haven’t been to yet, now’s the time to go.  They have a War Poetry contest every year and the winners have been announced; I read the top three winners’ poems along with several of the finalists and honorable mentions, and can say without equivocation that they contain some of the most harrowing imagery I’ve read in quite some time.  Two of the top three poets are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while the third is not . . . if you enjoy poetry but think there’s nothing new under the sun, nor that there’s any way for poetry to convey war in any sort of meaningful or relevant way, I urge you to go to and check out the winners of the War Poetry contest.  (The links will not work unless you’re a member, I found out with an earlier version of this blog, which is why I have not posted links.)

Second, and far less serious: what on Earth is Bristol Palin still doing on “Dancing with the Stars?”

(While it may seem a travesty to have the erudition of war poetry and Bristol Palin in the same blog, these have been the two major things that have gone through my mind in the past two days, thus this blog.)

Listen.  I have nothing against Ms. Palin.  She was asked to be on “Dancing with the Stars,” has competed to the best of her ability, and has shown improvement.  She’s done what she’s supposed to do, but something has gone wrong with both the voters at home (voting by e-mail or telephone or text) and the judges panel of DWTS.

Put simply, Ms. Palin is not up to the level of previous finalists, and while she’s been compared most to Marie Osmond or Kelly Osbourne or even Warren Sapp (all of them being finalists that were good performers, or in the case of Mr. Sapp, a good performer and a professional athlete, being a retired football player, but not necessarily outstanding dancers), I don’t really see that in her because Ms. Osmond was beloved by most of the audience because she was over 45 during her season on DWTS, was out of shape and overweight when she started, and while she’d had an extensive performing career (and still does) as a singer, she’d never danced much beyond some very basic moves on stage with her brothers (most particularly her brother Donny).  And Kelly Osbourne was overweight and not exactly in shape when she started her “journey” on DWTS (by the way, the word “journey” has been so overused by DWTS and other reality shows; I’d prefer a different word such as “struggle,” or “toil” or “Labor”), so she won the hearts of the voters by how hard she tried.  And of course Warren Sapp was out of shape and also overweight when he started DWTS; all three of these contestants, Osmond, Osbourne and Sapp, lost significant amounts of weight and thus their hard work was able to be seen and measured.

I hate to stress the “they were all out of shape and overweight” part, but they were — the other thing that binds Osmond, Osbourne and Sapp together were that none of them were expected to go to the finals, yet you could tell how much they enjoyed being on DWTS.  To be blunt, the only competitor this season who engenders any of the feelings Osmond, Osbourne or Sapp did is Kyle Massey (whose professional partner is the inestimable Lacey Schwimmer), not Bristol Palin.

Ms. Palin is at a disadvantage, yes, because she’s not a performer, is not an actress, not a model, not a professional athlete, yet she is athletic — she played volleyball, softball and other sports in high school and hikes and bikes and does all sorts of athletic things for fun in her off-hours.  So in that sense, she’s certainly healthy enough to do well at DWTS, and as I said before, she has improved.

So why am I upset about it?  Well, there is evidence that many people who follow her mother, politically, have power-voted for Ms. Palin using fake e-mail addresses, exploiting a bug in that other power-voters have apparently done before (I’ve followed this show since the second season, and never knew about this; I’ve always used only my legitimate e-mail addresses to vote).  This has skewed the voting somewhat in Ms. Palin’s favor because apparently more people have done this for her than have ever done it for anyone else in the past, plus, they’ve done it publicly.  (There are multiple stories online about this at the moment; I prefer the LA Times one which has timed out for me — apparently it’s getting many hits.  Type in “Bristol Palin voting scandal” into Ye Olde Search Engine and you will find it, though.)

Because of these “power-voters,” Ms. Palin has outlasted better contestants — five of them, to be precise.  She’s taken out Brandy (this week), Kurt Warner (last week), Rick Fox (the week before that), Audrina Patridge (the week before that) and Florence Henderson (the week before that).  All of those — all — danced better than Ms. Palin does right now at the time of their elimination, and considering Florence Henderson is over 70 years old, that’s saying something.

Ms. Palin can’t help who votes for her, or the method in which they’re doing it.  But she can ask that people who don’t watch the show refrain from voting; that would be a classy move and would take away some of the negative publicity she’s been getting since Brandy, and not Bristol Palin, went home this last Tuesday night.

Now, as for the judges?  They’ve been giving Ms. Palin marks she doesn’t deserve for weeks now, and that has to stop.  Ms. Palin has improved, yes, but she’s improved from a three on Len Goodman’s scale (he gave an explanation of how he votes a few weeks ago during the results show) to probably a six on a good day.  She has no natural rhythm and no performance skills, and at some level she must know this because her body is stiff and her face has almost no expression on it much of the time.  She does not look happy while she’s dancing and she does not look like she enjoys herself; instead, it looks like dancing is a struggle for her (which I sympathize with; I’d do very poorly on that show, which is why I’d never be a contestant even if I were famous), and that she’d rather be anywhere else than dancing in front of millions of people (hundreds in person, the rest via television, of course).

The judges must score her honestly; if she only gives a dance that’s a six on Len’s scale, that’s what they should give her — not nines, like she got last week, or eights, or sevens — sixes.  And if the others are not giving ten-worthy performances (it’s very hard to get a perfect score in the real world), don’t give them tens, either!  (How tough is this, judges?)

I’ve been thinking about this for the past two days now, and while it’s probably a waste of my time and energy, I can’t help but to dissect the problem.  Ms. Palin didn’t ask for anyone to use fake e-mail addresses to vote for her, and she’s done what she’s needed to do — dance, improve, and have fun (I’ll take it on faith that she’s had some fun as for the most part I’ve not seen it).  But that doesn’t mean she’s learned to dance well enough to become a DWTS finalist, and she would’ve been better off in many respects to have gone home this past Tuesday.

It’s time for DWTS to realize that their voting system has been subverted and deal with it, openly, honestly and in a completely above-board manner.  Only in that way can I have any hope as a longtime viewer of DWTS that whoever wins this season’s “coveted mirror-ball trophy” is the true and legitimate winner.

** Note: Host Tom Bergeron recently said in a long interview that if you don’t vote, you shouldn’t complain.  I did vote — though my five votes can’t help Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer much compared to the “power-voters” for Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas, I did vote.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm