The second season of So You Think You Can Dance Australia? is over and a woman won. This was a small shock, not because Talia Fowler is a bad dancer but because of the way women are treated on that show (and the history women have with winning reality television shows, but that’s a different post). The very structure of the show glorifies gender roles as contestants compete in male/ female partnerships, then those gender roles are re-established by the stories within the dances (approximately half of which can be summed up by “heterosexual romantic couple + angst = lots of expressive arm movement”) and the costumes the dancers are given to wear. The dancers are expected to be eye candy, enormously talented and astonishingly versatile. It is a tribute to human ingenuity that some of them actually manage to pull it off.
The most irritating part of the show is the judge’s commentary after some of the Spanish dances. They praise masculinity, which in this context appears to be the act of flexing your muscles while pretending not to care about your partner. I happen to think that men can do better. Also, idolising jerks traditional masculinity probably isn’t a good strategy for a television show that relies on some boys going against cultural expectations and learning how to dance, especially given how proficient the show’s representatives are at talking about promoting dance within Australia.
The gender roles aren’t the only retrograde part of the show. No, when they aren’t telling stories about “tired old hookers” (don’t you think it’s interesting that one of the only all-female performances explicitly invokes the male gaze?) they’re blatantly ripping off other cultures with stereotyped costuming.
Then there was the fact that the first three people voted off the show were the only three black contestants, something that has been largely ignored by the media, the audience and on the show itself.
I want to make it clear that I’m not attacking the dancers. For the most part their work is choreographed by other people and they don’t get to choose their costumes. Furthermore the female contestants have gotten away with some Spice Girl feminism moments in the show which almost make me want to give it another chance. Almost.
I guess I’m going to grrlcott. Anyone want to plug feminist/ woman-friendly/ anti-racist/ progressive dancing groups in comments?