Popularity Beats Skill on 'Dancing with the Stars' Finale


Since I was rooting for Mya to win Dancing with the Stars last night, I feel a bit like the nerdy kid in high school who loses the race for student body president to the quarterback of the football team. Donny Osmond won, and proved definitely that it's not about how you dance, it's about how popular you are.


Back when the 16 cast members for Dancing with the Stars season 9 were announced, we asked fans to vote for who was the most famous. After more than 1,000 votes, Donny Osmond was light years ahead of everyone else with 62 percent vote. Melissa Joan Hart was in second place with just 10 percent.


In other words, Donny Osmond's victory on Dancing with the Stars was pretty much ensured before he even stepped foot on the dance floor. Donny wasn't just the most famous and popular, but he was the only contestant with any real fan base. There aren't a lot of people who collect Kelly Osbourne memorabilia or who look back fondly on watching Mya when they were kids.


In the semi-finals, Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough beat Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson by seven points in the judges' scores. But, because no one knows who some random Polish model is, Donny got all the votes. People like what's familiar and safe, and rather than voting for the one they actually think is the best, they vote for the one who they like.


If it sounds like bitter grapes, you're right. I'm a staunch advocate of reality shows being meritocracies, so my biggest pet peeve is when the best doesn't win. I know that reality shows are based on voting and that people aren't necessarily required to decide on merit, but in my world, you need to earn it.


You can say that Mya shouldn't be in the competition because she has formal dance training and you can say that Donny is very charming and entertaining. What you cannot say is that Donny was a better dancer. Mya was, objectively, the best dancer. But I guess that doesn't matter to the people who vote.


For the second year in a row, Dancing with the Stars proved that, beyond all the pomp and circumstance, it's just a popularity contest. Donny and Mya got the exact same score in the finale, just like Shawn Johnson and Gilles Marini did last season. And just like season 8, the overall better dancer, the one with the higher season-long average, lost.


Mya and Gilles didn't lose because they were worse dancers than the winners. They lost because they weren't as famous and weren't as popular. Some things never change, and it looks like this high school cliché is still the way of the world.


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