Dancing While Fat

Last night, Iain said something to me I never thought I'd hear him say: "Can we watch Dancing with the Stars?"

Now, it's no secret that we watch lots of garbage television, but DWTS doesn't even meet our barrel-bottom requirements for garbage entertainment. The thing is, Iain loves boxing, and he wanted to see Sugar Ray Leonard, who's one of the contestants this season. This worked out very well for me, because I was too embarrassed to tell him that I wanted to watch this season because of Ralph Macchio, whose trifecta of playing Johnny Cade (The Outsiders), Daniel Laruso (The Karate Kid), and Bill Gambini (My Cousin Vinny) made him a staple on my Wall of Crush Posters for the entirety of my teenage years.

So we watched. Sugar Ray Leonard sinks. Ralph Macchio, on the other hand, is pretty great, at least by DWTS standards.

Shakers, this man is 49 years old and still looks like he's 23, which is the age he was when he made The Karate Kid, convincingly playing a teenager. When I remarked upon how he truly has not aged a day, Iain said, "There's a portrait in an attic somewhere..."

Okay, but Iain's and my respective crushes or whatever aside, I had also been debating tuning in just to see Kirstie Alley perform, because, for weeks, ever since this season's cast was announced, I've been seeing multitudinous headlines about how she's too fat, such a fattie, how can that fatsronaut think she can dance, what a fatso, fattity-fat-a-tat-fat etc. And I was hoping (and, truthfully, expecting) that she would prove all that shit wrong and shove her fat dancing awesomeness right in the faces of all the haters who were tuning in just to watch her fall flat on her fat ass.

Well. I wasn't disappointed.

Alley and her partner landed the second-highest score of the night. (Macchio came in tops.) She was a good dancer, a good performer; she was fun and sexy. I said to Iain, "Tomorrow, all the headlines will still be about how fat she is."

This morning, the first DWTS-related headline I saw was: Kirstie Alley Celebrates Her DWTS Lead by Going out to Dinner – Naturally!


That story contends Alley "surprised everyone with her cha cha cha," but a more accurate assertion might be that she surprised everyone who's an ageist and/or fat-hater with her cha cha cha. Because there's really no legitimate reason to be surprised that one of the best physical comediennes to ever grace the small or big screen can successfully navigate her way through a cha-cha unless one believes every single woman who reaches the age of 60 or a size 16 automatically ceases to function.

Which isn't actually true.


Certainly no one is more keenly aware of the fucked-up expectations of older women and fat women than Kirstie Alley, and surely no one was more eager to see her defy those expectations than she was herself. That's a lot of extra psychological baggage to carry onstage, in front of a nation, in addition to the usual nerves and anxiety of performing live, no less at something outside your expertise.

That she performed with grace and humor, despite balancing the weight of those hoping to see her succeed because of her age/shape, and the weight of those hoping to see her fail because of her age/shape, makes me admire her like whoa.

She is a feisty and fearless lady, and she made me glad I tuned in to Dancing with the Stars.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus