How do you get all riff-y joke-y about something that sparks hopeless, bleak despair? Presumably, that’s part of the gist behind Todd Phillips’s The Joker. It’s the guiding force behind all manner of rueful, introspective comedians and performatively nihilist brand Twitter accounts. I think Roberto Benigni leapfrogged over all of those celebs that one time because of it. A few people manage to make it work, but for the rest of us, it’s a Boo Boo the Fool’s errand. So I don’t entirely know how to tell you about Sean Spicer’s self-effacing, buffoonish debut on season 28 of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
Monday night was the season premiere of ABC’s longstanding ratings juggernaut, and this season’s contestants include Lamar Odom, Karamo Brown, Christine Brinkley’s daughter Sailor (not to be confused with Liv Tyler’s 4-year-old son Sailor), and former Trump administration press secretary Sean Spicer. You know, the goof-up prone mouthpiece behind the inauguration crowd size lies and the whole “Holocaust centers” thing, from back when “don’t normalize it” was a slogan. He soon became a symbol of the indignity of the office under this administration and its open antagonism toward things like press and facts. He was also a symbol of the goofy banality, and the flattening of everything into a meme, that became the discourse’s response to the onslaught of ludicrous White House headlines. In other words, normalization. See also: Spicer making that appearance at the 2017 Emmys.
Anyway. He donned a flouncy slime green blouse (does this mean we have to cancel Gen Z green?) and did a one-minute salsa routine to “Spice Up Your Life,” which, how dare you ruin that song for us, Sean Spicer. The judges lauded his “fluorescent shimmy,” said “I like your sense of fun,” and gave him the second-lowest score of the night, an F-grade 12 out of 30. It’s the sort of thing that plays at humiliation but is really more about performing humility, a way for Spicer to keep himself in the conversation and show he’s just an ol’ goofy goof who can take a joke. Rhonda Garelick got at exactly what makes this whole spectacle so stomach-churningly on-the-nose in the Cut, writing:
It’s fun to watch Dancing With the Stars, but you wouldn’t fire the entire New York City Ballet company and replace it with the cast of World Wide Wrestling. Yet, in a sense, that is what we have done with our democracy. The American citizenry is now watching our country’s reputation disintegrate and its moral compass collapse, while our nondancer president tries vainly to convince us he is Fred Astaire. Watching the hapless Spicer cha-cha will be far too close a reminder of this other terrible scenario unfolding in our government. Spicer’s dance gig, that is, creates a microcosm of a far graver casting error happening on a far vaster scale. No wonder we’re all so upset.
After the episode aired, TMZ published photos of Spicer wiping away tears in his car — photos that I think a lot of us wanted to convince ourselves were out of embarrassment, but which were apparently just from FaceTime-ing his kids. Then Spicer tweeted (and deleted) that voting for him to stay on Dancing With the Stars was a way to “stand for #Christ.”
How many degrees removed is Sean Spicer on Dancing With the Stars from Trump doing “Hotline Bling” on SNL? How many degrees removed from that is our playing into ABC’s hand, and blogging about it? But how could we not? Anyway [existential sigh] watch it here. Or better yet, don’t.