Dancing With The Stars was broadcast on Disney+ for the first time ever in this, its 31st season.
Although I’ve always kept tabs on past seasons here and there, this is the first season that I watched every single episode from the beginning. And please note – I am of the TikTok generation. So when ….
Charli D’Amelio was announced as the winner, I had no issues.
But the reaction on social media has been all over the place—from what I’ve seen, there's been a whole lot of complaining that Charli shouldn’t have won. I wholeheartedly disagree (and that’s coming from a HUGE fan of Bachelorette Gabby Windey who was the first runner up).
I understand the reaction is a little more complex than just not wanting her to win, because there’s also a group of people saying it was just too predictable of a finale because she won. And it was predictable.
But I don’t think the predictability comes from favouritism because she’s the cool young girl on the block. While those things may have played a role in the public voting aspect, it’s hard to believe that the judges were praising her because of any TikTok girl advantages. The reason why it was predictable is because she is a stunning dancer and she was clearly the best on the show. I would only be suspicious of producer favouritism if anyone else but Charli won.
Like, c’mon??? This is perfection.
One of the big arguments online is that she shouldn't have been cast in the first place because she’s already a dancer which gives her an unfair advantage. While Charli did grow up doing competitive dance, it wasn’t ballroom dancing. Yes, having any kind of background in dance would help with technique and musicality, but so did a lot of other cast members. Bachelorette Gabby Windey was an NFL cheerleader. Third place winner Wayne Brady has been on Broadway. Fourth place winner Shangela is a Drag Queen with lots of performance experience. Heather Morris was a cast member on Glee and also did backup dancing for Beyonce before she was on the cast of DWTS season 24…she was sent home week 6 even after getting a perfect score from the judges. Zendaya, who also grew up dancing, finished second place on season 16. (Lainey: record scratch…huh? Zendaya was on DWTS?!) Which brings me to my next point…
The show has ALWAYS been somewhat unfair because there is no way to pick a cast of stars that have the exact same experience with performing. Cast members with a lot of dance experience have lost in the past as well, and a big part of that is because judges scores only amount to half of the final—the other half comes from the public vote.
Judges' scores can only do so much. The show is basically a popularity contest. Yes, some people watching at home are genuinely giving their votes to people whose dancing impressed them that week. But I am pretty confident that most people vote for who they like the best. We see it every season—some cast members stick around longer than what the judges’ scores are saying because they have a big fan base, and others, like Heather Morris, get sent home despite getting a perfect score from judges because she wasn’t getting enough votes from the public. The reason Charli won is because she had the best of both worlds.
Gabby and Charli ended last night’s finale with the exact same score from the judges, meaning the winner was going to be chosen by the public. Although Gabby is likeable and hilarious, she doesn’t have 148 million followers on TikTok like Charli does. I also suspect that some people didn’t want Charli to win because influencers have always had a hard time being considered in the same spaces as “traditional” celebrities because there’s a perception that they got lucky and work less than actors and singers to get to where they are. In my opinion, I think she had to work even harder to prove herself—especially since there was already so much expectation because people already see her as a dancer. The amount of followers she had compared to others may have been unfair, but that’s how reality competition shows that involve fan voting are built from dancing to singing to dating.
But the real winner here might not be Charli… it’s Disney+ and the DWTS franchise. This show lived for 30 seasons on network television – and the audience for network tv skews older. In their first season on streaming, they brought on a digital superstar with a huge following and she brought in the votes, meaning she brought in the viewers. That was the game plan all along: getting the TikTok generation to watch a show that used to be for old(er) people. And that will be the appeal and the challenge going forward: will they be able to hold this audience and, for the celebrities who might be considering joining in future seasons, that’s the potential Disney+ can offer, opening them up to a huge social media audience.
I’ll leave you with this ADORABLE video of Charli celebrating her win.