Reality TV and me

Monday  nights have gotten into sort of a pattern around here.  I tuck the boys into bed, eagerly settle into the couch, and devote the next two hours to watching  — yes, I’ll admit it – Dancing with the Stars.  A girl can’t think spiritual thoughts all the time.   Sometimes, she needs a little entertainment.

Actually, though, I think I can make a pretty good case for why this show is more than just fluff.  I honestly think there are some profound spiritual insights to be gleaned from the glitzy spectacle.  (Stop laughing; I’ll explain.)

For one thing, if you’ve watched the show (and I’m a relative newbie who is only on her fourth season), you know that anyone who signs up for this show is prepared to work hard.  This is especially true if they happen to be a star who has never done much dancing before.  Ballroom dancing is not exactly easy, as I know from my very brief and inglorious participation in a social dance class in college.   There are very precise things expected of each dance, be it rhumba or waltz or quickstep.  You can’t  make it up on the spot, and you can’t dial it in. You just have to practice and learn it from scratch.   And I think that’s true of many things in life: there’s no way to get to the prize without good old-fashioned effort.   I once had a friend who was a distance runner, and one of his favorite quotations was from the Tanzanian runner Juma Ikangaa: “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”  DWTS sure is proof of that.

I also love watching the pros dance.  Dang, they are good.  I have a profound respect for them, mostly because I am sadly lacking in both coordination and grace, as well as rhythm.  If you aren’t convinced, let me just say that there are only two people in the world who think I’m a good dancer, and I gave birth to both of them.   So I have an intense respect for anyone who can move his or her body in  a smooth, graceful, precise, seamless way.  And as someone who spends so much of her life in verbal and written communication, it’s enthralling to see dancers who are able to express so much simply through movement.   It can’t help but make me think of the One who is behind all those good gifts.

I also think there’s a bit more overall supportiveness on this show than on, say, American Idol, which I used to watch years ago.  For all the great moments when an Idol contestant busted out a gorgeous tune, there were the snarky and sometimes cruel comments made by the judges (okay, by Simon).  And that always bothered me.  It always made me think of the line from Blanche Du Bois, about how deliberate cruelty is never forgivable.  (This is the occupational hazard of being an English teacher: significant quotations from great literature  take up permanent residence in your brain.)  And it really bothered me that many of those cruel comments were directed at people who came in to audition and who were clearly mentally disabled in some way.  They were turned into objects of national ridicule, which made me think that Jesus would wince and change the channel if he were watching with me.   It was enough to turn me off of the show for good.  The DWTS judges have their faults, but in general they give constructive feedback, and always include something positive to say.  You get the sense that they are more interested in building up than in flattening … and I like that.

And in the final analysis,  I like DWTS because it illustrates one of the universe’s  biggest truths: life is better when you are willing to leave your comfort zone.  You have NFL quarterbacks and singers and astronauts and tennis players all trying something that they’ve never done before, and they don’t know in advance whether they are going to be great or flop terribly, but at least they are trying.   They are taking the risk.  And if there is one thing that I have learned, it’s that sometimes you have to step over that carefully-drawn line that marks the edge of the Comfortable.  If I only did things that I was fully confident I could do well, I’d have missed out on a lot in my life.  “Becoming a mother” is actually the first item on the list, because having kids is definitely something that took out of my comfort zone.  And I’m not saying I’m a pro at it, by any means.  But I keep showing up to the studio and putting on the shoes and learning the steps and spins and, I think, getting a little  better all the time.

What do you think? Do you also watch DWTS?  Are there other “fluff” TV shows that you find meaningful in some way?

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