OK. So. You know I love you, right? I mean, I love you for the renewable energy source that is Cat Deeley’s awesomeness alone, but also for the inspiration and wonder and insane talent, for the fact that there’s a show on TV that encourages an interest in the arts, and for being a reality show talent competition that revels in building people up without spending much energy at all tearing anybody down.
So. This is hard to say, but…sometimes? You hurt my feelings. I mean, I know you don’t do it on purpose. But it still hurts. Like when you make like it’s some big thing for two men to dance together, when in reality men dance together all the time, both on big professional stages and in the privacy of their own homes and everywhere in between besides. Or when you relentlessly fetishize the female dancers’ butts. All season long. While creating this huge cheesy story about how all the guys are hot for all the women, when odds are some of those guys are gay, and those who aren’t are trying to get taken seriously as dancers. As are the women, who’d probably rather be seen as athletes and artists than as sex objects.
Speaking of which, can we talk about the choreography? Why is it that like 80% of the time when a male and female dancer are paired, it’s a story about a romantic relationship and/or about sexual desire? And yet 0% of the time, when men are paired with men or women with women is it about a romantic relationship and/or sexual desire? You took such a great leap forward this year with the same-gender pairings, but it made me so sad to see the male-male pairs fighting so much of the time, and kissing not at all.
You’re probably thinking I should go easy on you. You’re thinking there are way more offensive shows on TV when it comes to gender stereotyping. And that’s true. Completely true. But that’s also one of the reasons I care: because I can tell you’re trying. You’re trying to be better than those shows, and you succeed in so many ways, and I know you can succeed in this one, too. I mean, look, you still managed to constantly praise this season’s winner, Lauren, for her power and athleticism as well as her sensuality. But I wonder: what if she had been butch? Or trans? What then? If she wasn’t a pretty blonde all-American cheerleader-type, would the athleticism have been OK?
I’m certainly not saying dance shouldn’t be sensual or even sexy. Bring on the hotness! I’m just saying: don’t reduce individual dancers to their sex appeal. I’m just saying: break out of your tiny little idea of what can be hot. You’re all dancers, or people who work in the dance world. You know that many dancers are gay, and that choreography can be done on all kinds of bodies — in fact, some choreography is even more beautiful on “non-traditional” kinds of bodies. And you also know how much pressure is put on dancers to conform, conform, conform. You have arguably the most powerful dance platform in the U.S. right now. You could be leading. You could be modeling a New Dance Order, in which only talent matters, and narrow ideas about gender expression are exploded through movement. You could be as awesome as Cat Deely. Not everyone can say that, so please? For me, and for the millions of young people watching who are still trying to figure out where they fit in the world of gender? Try a little harder next season? It hurts when you fail, because I love you so much.