If there isn’t a big bunch of flowers and a thankyou note from the producers of Dancing With the Stars on Kanoa Lloyds’ desk right now, there should be.
Because she more or less single-handedly saved the show from even greater embarrassment, had their intention of casting Hannah Tamaki as a contestant gone ahead unchallenged.
It’s one thing to have to back track on a decision that hasn’t yet become public. Yes, you cop a bit of predictable outrage and have to endure the sanctimony of Twitterati who probably wouldn’t watch your show anyway.
But to have to renege on an actual launch announcement, with all the manufactured hype and hysteria that attends the latest season of whatever reality or entertainment show we’re meant to care about – that could have been genuinely humiliating.
* Hannah Tamaki’s campaign manager sacked as police consider social media complaint
* Hannah Tamaki dumped from Dancing with the Stars lineup
* Kanoa Lloyd says Hannah Tamaki on Dancing with the Stars is ‘dangerous’
* Destiny church’s Hannah Tamaki looks set to compete in Dancing with the Stars
For it to be left to the infotainment division of a media company to point out the problematic nature of a show to the entertainment division of the same company does raise questions about who talks to who these days.
The separation of church and state in media organisations is a fine principle, especially when it comes to advertising influencing editorial policy. But you’d think keeping an actual church with a well-documented history of homophobic and xenophobic utterances separate from, well, just about anything might have been a wise idea.
Maybe next time someone at MediaWorks headquarters could kindly show the DWTS team the way to the Newshub newsroom, just down the corridor, where they might seek a second opinion from people who know what happens in the real world.
Because with Hannah Tamaki leading Vision NZ, the political expression of Destiny’s fringe beliefs, and with her having previously stated she would ban construction of “mosques, temples and other foreign buildings of worship” should she somehow have the power, and this being an election year, and because we know the normalisation of extreme prejudice affects vulnerable minorities … maybe someone might have seen a problem.
Maybe. Even as I write these words, though, I’m wondering if the people making such decisions really mind the fuss at all. Have we simply been recruited as unwitting and unpaid influencers in a devious plot to generate headlines for an entertainment franchise that needs every drop of publicity it can get?
Does the old showbiz adage that all publicity is good publicity make it OK? You certainly have to wonder, especially in a tiny country where real “stars” willing to risk reputational and physical damage in return for a bit of primetime exposure are about as rare as kakapo (just not as cute).
The conspiracy theorist in me likes to imagine that fateful production meeting where potential contestants for this season were discussed. No doubt there was a long list of possibles, including the requisite desperate politicians (current or former), faded television personalities, sporty types who’ve hung up their uniforms, and the requisite “controversial” choices.
One can picture the glee with which the name Tamaki was received by the assembled gatekeepers of free-to-air fun.
Being an international franchise, DWTS will have a user’s manual easily as long and detailed as the one the glovebox of your car. Generating a little early media heat will be part of the marketing prescription, and what better way than to rip a name from the headlines and tap into their personal grid of self-promotional energy?
So our very own Melania Trump of Pentecostal fundamentalism must have seemed like a natural fit. After all, Australia’s most-likely-to-offend politician Pauline Hanson had strapped on her dancing shoes as long ago as 2004. Clearly the potential for hurt and distress has not been a major criterion in the past.
In the US, the list of past contestants readymade to trend on social media includes such dubious figures as banned-for-life figure skater Tonya Harding, Fox News rabble-rousers Geraldo Rivera and Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump’s ex Marla Maples and his widely ridiculed former press secretary Sean Spicer.
So, given the clear absence of taste boundaries when it comes to DWTS, why did Hannah Tamaki trigger such a backlash? With all due respect to Kanoa Lloyd, she doesn’t yet wield the same power as Helen Clark, who derailed RNZ’s youth radio plans with a few well-aimed and strategically tagged tweets.
In fact, had Tamaki’s Vison NZ campaign manager Jevan Goulter not dropped his guard so badly on Facebook, it’s conceivable we would still be looking forward to the spectacle of the co-leader of Destiny Church being dropped on her backside by some hapless dance partner.
So maybe the producers should send Goulter a bunch of flowers and a thankyou note, too – for making it abundantly clear why shows like DWTS shouldn’t become portals into the worlds of Destiny Church and Vision NZ.
As the church itself is so fond of saying, enough is enough.