dancing with the stars might seem like a strange topic for me for several reasons, the main ones being that i personally don’t enjoy dancing nor am i currently able to dance (because of my balance and coordination, or lack thereof).
well, it has to do with this:
i remember watching this live and feeling the importance of what muhammed ali was doing. no, smartypants, not lighting the olympic flame although that is also important. ali was brave enough to stand up in front of the world, literally, as himself without hiding. i remember being really moved by that, and watching it now i’m even more moved. and i think that i better understand the bravery. i had to summon it, on a much smaller scale, when i was taking daily walks down my busy street when i was first learning to walk with a cane. feeling exposed and nervous about people seeing me look weak, but doing it anyway.
so, dancing with the stars. i’ve only watched it this season and the last one. it’s not the dancing that i find myself thinking about. this season i’ve been thinking about this guy j.r. martinez. i’d never heard of him before dwts. when he was in the army and stationed in iraq, he was severely burned over 40% of his body. now he’s a motivational speaker and was on the soap opera all my children. i don’t pay much attention to pop culture, but i know that chaz bono was the big controversial casting on this season of the show. personally, i love that an out gay man, carson kressley, is not the controversial one. ideas and situations that are scary to us are made less scary once we know someone involved. and tv is one way that we get to know new people. i think that homosexuality became less scary and strange to people who didn’t know any out gay people once they got to know jack and will on will & grace. with dwts, without any lecturing, people were exposed to some transgender issues (and correct pronoun usage) because of chaz bono. and by casting j.r., who has significant facial scarring (and has himself pointed out that he only has one ear), dwts is allowing viewers to look at him and move through any discomfort they might see into paying attention and into his personality and his skills. now his trauma and mine are very different, but i identify with him as a person who looks different. and i appreciate that a show filled with sequins and feathers and spandex and spray-tans can help people to see past those things. j.r. is treated like a regular person because that’s who he is.
thanks in part to netflix instant, lately i’ve been watching a lot of obsessed, hoarders, and intervention – what i like to call recovery porn. those shows are interesting to me because they’re basically short documentaries about recovery. through those shows i’ve been introduced to the concept of “sitting with” emotions. the idea is that you acknowledge unpleasant or foreign emotions and then “sit with” them until they pass. on obsessed the therapists use this process to help people with fears related to ocd overcome those fears. by having the person sit with their fear, the person sees that the fear will pass, and can eventually start dealing with other issues that are involved. i guess that dwts is having viewers (15 million for the most recent episode) sit with any discomfort they might feel about looking at a person with major facial scarring. what viewers are likely finding out is that the discomfort eventually passes and and that the man has other qualities.
i think that j.r. martinez is brave, and not only because of his army service. he’s living his life, and by living part of that life on primetime network tv he’s helping other folks at home in their own communities be met with a little more understanding and compassion.