'Dancing with the Stars' - Rewarding bad behavior

Time for a little TV-as-culture criticism here on ABC making it official today that Bristol Palin and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, of MTV's "The Jersey Shore," will be contestants on "Dancing with Stars" this fall.

I took a pass on writing at length about Disney-ABC recently casting Palin in an episode of "Secret Life of the American Teenager," a series on the ABC Family channel about an unwed teenager having a baby, because I knew it would result in another day of angry, back and forth, culture war comments.


But I did state my problems with the ABC Family series insofar as it celebrates teen girls getting pregnant. Yes, I know there's lots of talk in such productions about "new responsibilities" and blah, blah, blah. But another big message that some girls read from the show (the ultimate message) is this: If you are lonely and ignored, get pregnant, and suddenly your parents and everyone else in your life who has been ignoring you will pay attention -- you'll be the center of the universe. That is pretty tempting to kids who are feeling alienated, neglected, ignored.

And now comes Bristol Palin famous for accomplishing nothing except getting pregnant as an unmarried teen and having a mom who preached conservative values on a national stage -- and she's going to be celebrated in prime time, wearing glittery gowns and dancing amid all those flashing lights and applauding fans. Teen motherhood as Cinderella fantasy.


Wait, let's be fair. Bristol Palin has accomplished other things besides getting pregnant: She's involved in a constantly-publicized soap opera relationship with a high school dropout, Levi Johnston, the father of her baby.

I refrain from describing their marital status because it seems to shift every other week. Help me out. Are they reconciled or not, and has he condemned Grandma Sarah or said she's a saint this week -- or recanted both and said something else because he is a damn fool who wouldn't be on national TV if the media had any sense of social responsibility.

And, yes, I am also calling out the lowly-rated and perpetually dismal CBS morning show, "The Early Show," which has had Johnston on six times saying ignorant stuff, and all the other media that have led this fool to think he can run for mayor of an Alaskan town because, after all, as he put it, it's just a "popularity contest." Levi, I wish you would have managed to make at least one or two civics classes.

I'm getting wound up.

Out of deference to the dictates of keeping it short in Blog-Land here, I'll take a pass in this post on Mike "The Situation" Sorentino. Did you know he has a book, a line of vitamins and an exercise DVD coming out? Of course, he does.

I swear to God, I wouldn't be surprised if CNN announces tomorrow that he's got a prime-time show with Eliot Spitzer debuting this fall -- given the way our debased culture is going.

Too late, CNN. ABC's going to put this fool in a tux and try to make a buck off him, too, along with Palin, under the dazzling lights of ABC prime time.

Hey, maybe Sorrentino and Palin. It could happen -- another made-for-fools TV story line from Disney-ABC, the fairytale factory of America, the primary teller of fairy tales and fantasies for American children.


Except this isn't funny. It's the story of a socially irresponsible media -- my generation of media leaders refusing to take responsibility for the values they disseminate to millions of young Americans.

Last week, David Bauder, of the Associated Press, wrote about the relationship between CBS News and Johnston. Here is how his piece ended:

In the media industry, Bragman's remarks are thought of as savvy and in-the-know. And maybe he is right in his cynicism that the good folks of America just want to have fun.

But in part because the media pays more attention to fools like Johnston than it does people who talk about housing or the Federal Reserve, this nation has homeless folks sleeping on the steps of City Hall and an economy that is in more trouble than its been since 1929.

But just as we did in The Great Depression, we have no shortage of people in tuxes and gowns dancing onscreen -- only instead of MGM and the movies, it's Disney-ABC and television today. Our collective sex-and-money fantasies have been downsized to fit the small screen. Instead of Fred and Ginger, though, it's Bristol and The Situation. Ain't it a shame?