I've never seen an episode of Dancing With the Stars, which in some respects makes me the worst person to write about Dancing With the Stars, but today makes me actually the best person to write about Dancing With the Stars, because if you have no great love for Dancing With the Stars, you come to stories about Dancing With the Stars clear-eyed and realizing just how inconsequential Dancing With the Stars is in the grand scheme of things, and that it is in fact just a show, with dancing and stars.
It turns out Dancing With the Stars is very serious business to many people. You see, former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer is a contestant on the newest season, but everyone knows that Trump is Bad and Spicer is Bad. Therefore, this decision is Bad.
"Don't Let Sean Spicer Tap-Dance Out of Infamy on ‘Dancing With the Stars'" complains a New York Times columnist, arguing that "His casting on the ABC reality show makes political deception into a joke." An NBC op-ed from Breitbart-hack-turned-Resistance-hack Kurt Bardella intones that, "By inviting Spicer to be a part of the new season, ABC and ‘Dancing with the Stars' are helping normalize the very behavior that is undermining the pillars of our democracy. What's next? Sarah Huckabee Sanders hosting ‘Celebrity Family Feud?'" CNN asked nine—nine!—sources within ABC News for their thoughts on Spicer's spot on the show. Staffers hyperventilated that "It's a slap in the face to those of us who had to deal with his baloney and the consequences of the ongoing lies and disinformation campaign at the White House," and "It's disgusting to think he is getting on the show and getting paid by our company."
I feel the need to reiterate here that we're talking about a dancing show.
That the most shocking slippery slope Bardella can conjure is that Huckabee Sanders might end up hosting mediocre daytime game shows is an accidental admission of just how low the stakes are. Most of the ABC News staffers CNN spoke to were understandably apathetic. There are flashes of awareness in the NYT column, which opens, "you could say that being cast on ABC's ‘Dancing With the Stars' is punishment enough. It is not generally a sign of a thriving career," and later remarks, "I know I might sound like a humorless scold for attacking the stunt-casting of a silly reality show." Yup!
It's a dancing show. Far from "normalizing" Spicer, Dancing With the Stars is a show to highlight has-beens, D-listers, and assorted curiosities. In previous seasons, Spicer might've tap-danced alongside Honey Boo-Boo, Gary Busey, two different Kardashians, Mr. T, Marla Maples, Tonya Harding (or Nancy Kerrigan!), Vanilla Ice, Jerry Springer, The Situation, and Snooki. His co-stars this season include the runner-up on American Idol eight years ago, one of the members of a girl group that placed third in X-Factor six years ago, last year's Bachelorette, Meredith from The Office, the embarrassing half of Kenan and Kel, one of The Supremes who isn't Diana Ross, one of the Queer Eye guys who isn't Jonathan Van Ness, and James Van Der Beek.
Arguably the most famous celebrity this season is NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, but even that calls into question the consistency of Spicer's critics. Lewis after all was charged with murder following the stabbing of two men at an Atlanta Super Bowl party in 2000. He managed to avoid prison by pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and flipping on his two friends, but key evidence, such as Lewis's blood-stained white tuxedo, have never been found. For all the talk of Spicer's complicity with the various misdeeds of the Trump administration, Lewis was complicit in literal murder.
Another dancer this season is former NBA star Lamar Odom, infamous enough as a Kardashian husband, but also for his DUI and overdose in a Vegas brothel. I already mentioned Harding (accessory to assault) and Vanilla Ice (domestic assault, assault). Previous contestants also include Floyd Mayweather (serial domestic assault), Andy Dick (serial sexual assault), Metta World Peace (domestic assault), Chris Jericho (assault), and Sugar Ray Leonard (domestic assault). Hell, Tom DeLay was on the show while under indictment and a month after asking on MSNBC, "Why can't the president of the United States produce a birth certificate?"
At no point did any of these contestants spark conversations about whether ABC was "normalizing" their various misdeeds. There were no anonymous quotes from journalists that it was "disgusting" contestants were getting paid by ABC, no feverish columns about "infamy." And why would they? They weren't hired for their moral fortitude; they were hired to debase themselves on TV in exchange for 15 more minutes of fame.
Sean Spicer danced for Trump, and now he dances for our amusement alongside his fellow monkeys and circus freaks. The notion that this is some societal place of honor, or that his involvement in this Disney product impugns the journalists who work for a separate Disney product, is ridiculous. It's a dancing show.