Making a song and dance out of it: Strictly's same-sex dance controversy

Kate Baguley looks at the recent Strictly Come Controversy

Kate Baguley
8th December 2019
Credit: BBC Strictly Come Dancing, Youtube

A few weeks ago, Strictly Come Dancing featured it’s first ever same-sex dance routine in its 15-year history. This celebration of their LGBTQ+ dancers, judges, and audience was a landmark in Strictly history. And let’s be honest, the show desperately needed this inclusion. Strictly needs to strive away from its heteronormative roles within dance couples to create a more inclusive, celebratory environment. This same-sex dance was performed by Graziano Di Prima and Johannes Radebe to Emeli Sand’s song ‘Shine’. The dancers were liberated from a reliance on ‘male’ and ‘female’ roles, allowing a more lucid movement of two bodies that resulted in nothing less than a beautiful, emotional dance.

Despite this step forward, the news was shortly flooded with headlines focusing on the backlash from the dance. Take, for example, The Guardian’s headline: “Strictly Come Dancing's first same-sex routine sparks almost 200 complaints”. If you read the article, you’d find out that this figure has been inflated from 189 to 200 complaints. This may seem insignificant, but those 11 invented complaints gives these complaints more weight than there actually is.

Why can’t this be a success for them? Why can’t same-sex dancing be celebrated for the future?

Now, let’s do some maths: Strictly has around 8 million viewers, give or take. 189 of those complain. That leaves over 7 million happy viewers. So, why is there a focus on a group of small-minded people that clearly don’t represent the majority? I am in no way condoning the behaviour of these complaints. It is truly infuriating that a show can’t showcase a same-sex dance without backlash. However, what is more infuriating is that the LGBTQ+ community constantly see negative headlines. Why can’t this be a success for them? Why can’t same-sex dancing be celebrated for the future?

The worst part about it is what these portrayals can lead to. Negative press leads to companies backing away from projects such as these – that’s how the world works. If the news is so focused on these inflated ‘200 complaints’, then surely the BBC will have to stop and think, despite the millions that enjoyed this celebration. Luckily, the BBC issued a statement stating that “Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and is proud to have been able to facilitate the dance”. It will be interesting to see if the BBC will stick by this inclusivity for the future, perhaps, one day, including same-sex couples in the competition.

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