Monday, September 5, 2011

Chaz, Dancing With The Starz

I want to say that I don’t know Chaz Bono, and I’ve never really watched Dancing With The Starz.

Now, like many people, I’ve seen a few minutes of the show here and there while channel surfing, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two or three minutes of it at one sitting. I’m just really not interested in celebrities, other than for the influence, or impact, they might have on our culture. If I’m going to watch dancing I’d honestly rather watch people that I know nothing about. I find them to be far more interesting than the cultivated images of celebrities who are constantly being force-fed to us like fruitcake during the holiday season.

Chaz Bono, however, is different. She’s not really a celebrity, she’s an enigma.

I know she’ll be a contestant on Dancing With The Starz because I’ve inadvertently kept up on the guest list for the show. I’ve never intended to, but it’s almost impossible not to, short of never watching television, or turning on a computer.

Having said that, I want to offer my impression of Chaz being recruited as a dancer. As you probably know, Chaz is the daughter of the famous hippy pop duo, Sonny and Cher, and she’s recently undergone gender reassignment surgery (sex change) in order to begin identifying as a man, rather than as a woman.

In any event, there is always an agenda connected to the producer’s choices of who will be invited to dance on the show. And, although that agenda might look political, and many people believe that it is, I’m here to say that it is not. It is always financial. Every guest decision is based solely on the probability of getting ratings, on how many viewers a ‘celebrity’ is likely to bring to the show, on how much money can be made from their appearance. In the case of Chaz Bono, sHe has been heavy in the media recently for her transformation, so there’s a lot of curiosity about her. Why not invite her, why not exploit her new condition; why not make some money off of, what has been, her personal tragedy.

I’ve been reading some opinion pieces, along with some reader responses to the whole controversy. Needless to say, there is some pretty heated expression about her addition to the cast, and that, ultimately, is what has drawn my interest. The different perspectives, the different points of view, the different ideologies connected to the approval, or disapproval of her inclusion.

As you can imagine, people’s opinions run the gamut from considering Chaz to be disgraceful, a failed human being, to her being a champion of individuality, and her inclusion being a brave and compassionate gesture by the producers of DWTS on behalf of the transgender ‘community’. I might add that I have yet to read a comment about the exploitive nature of the producer’s decision.

Anyway, the problem I have with the whole situation is that it is bound to be clothed in a celebration of Chaz’s courageous re-emergence, her self-discovery, if you will, even though she was chosen for ratings, and only for ratings. I don’t know if she can dance or not, and I don’t think it really matters. People will watch in record numbers just to see how a woman dances as a man.

Maybe for Chaz it is a courageous re-emergence. Maybe the whole gender reassignment surgery is a bold statement of re-emergence, a separation from her lifelong problems (her parents), the problems that have clung to her like leaches since early childhood. But it is not a celebration of self-discovery by any means. Chaz has not discovered self, she has just created a new persona, an identity she can hide behind to protect her from her lingering pain.

Life cannot have been easy for Chaz. With just the little I know of her life, it is a life that few of us would have survived intact. It is a life we would neither have asked for, or willingly embraced. But it was imposed upon her, and she had to live with it. If you think differently, go to Wikipedia and read about the phenomena that was Sonny and Cher. Then read about the troubled life of Chaz Bono. The bio’s don’t necessarily make her life out to be troubled, but it certainly doesn’t take a genius to be able to read between the lines.

For God’s sake, her parents named their baby girl ‘Chastity’. What did they think was going to happen to that precious little girl?
In the big picture, Chaz is not so much an icon of individuality, as she is an example of a child exploited, of a life gone tragically wrong, and of a confused and wounded woman ultimately doing the best she can to feel better about herself.

What saddens me is that Chastity never got the chance to have a grounded and well-balanced life. Her parents never gave her that. She had to become Chaz in hopes of finding happiness.
And now it will all play itself out before our curious eyes on Dancing With The Starz. The network, to be sure, will make a boatload of money from her pain.

So I’m just saying, everybody, especially those of you who wish to condemn her for her choices, “Give Chaz Bono some empathy, the kind you might like for yourself if you were in her shoes. And give her long-troubled soul a break.

She’s still Chastity beneath it all.
And I hope that someday she will end up
truly dancing with the stars.