Judges go easy on Bristol Palin during Dancing with the Stars finale, not that it matters

The Dancing with the Stars judges went easy on this season’s resident bad dancer and pseudo-controversial competitor, Bristol Palin, during the show’s finale, scoring her just below perfect Jennifer Grey and near-perfect Kyle Massey, who ended up with a 56 out of 60. Bristol received 52 out of 60 for her two dances, including three nines for her do-over but still bad jive, from judges Bruno Tonoli, Len Goodman, and Carrie Ann Inaba. Though she’s at the bottom, we’ve seen before that is often irrelevant in this competition.

msnbc.com’s Ree Hines wrote that “the redemption dance just reinforced the fact that Palin is out of her ballroom depth. It’s a shame the judges failed to notice that fact.” On the other end of the spectrum, People uses their insider access to insist that “in the minutes that followed Monday night’s performance show, it was clear inside the ballroom that Palin was just as deserving as Jennifer Grey and Kyle Massey of a shot at the mirror ball trophy.” The Chicago Sun-Times Paige Wiser jokes whatever the vote is, “the future of the country is at stake.”

Meanwhile, if you still don’t believe that this show is not about dancing and thus Bristol’s survival isn’t really that surprising, I recommend reading blog posts written by two very smart people: Time’s James Poniewozik discusses the alleged controversy and observes that “if the assumption of the show is that intangibles are going to factor into a public vote, it seems like hair-splitting to say that that’s only OK up to some arbitrary point but not beyond it.”

And NPR’s culture blogger Linda Holmes takes down the voting system arguments by writing that “it doesn’t really matter how they run the voting system, because one kind of popularity contest (allotting power to the depth of people’s devotion to you by allowing multiple votes) doesn’t necessarily have any more “integrity” than any other kind of popularity contest (limited votes per person, with validated e-mail addresses).”

To summarize: It’s a popularity contest, period. Keep that in mind when you watch the results show tonight, or, better, read about the results and save yourself two hours.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.