Here's hoping that the on screen drama of Dancing With the Stars Season Thirteen (which premiers tonight) will quickly overshadow the off-screen heckling of homophobic critics who attacked the reality dance competition for casting Chaz Bono as one of the celebrity dancers.
Every season ABC's Dancing With the Stars recruits celebrities, who are paired with professional dancers, trained in the art of ballroom dancing and then challenged to perform these dances for the judges and TV audiences.
This year's recruitment has been unusual, ever since the producers announced they would be bringing on higher profile celebrities then they had recruited in previous seasons. When the Season Thirteen cast was announced, the eclectic group of dancing stars included Crime TV host Nancy Grace and repentant ballplayer Ron Artest (who may soon be going by the name Metta World Peace).
But some critics were upset by the casting of transgender activist Chaz Bono. And DWTS producers were accused of having a "gay agenda."
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Conrad Green replied, "We don't have an agenda of any sorts. I think of the 120 celebrities we've put on the show, we've had, I think now, three transgender or gay contestants. If that's a homosexual agenda, we're not doing very well at it."
With his appearance on the Dancing With the Stars, Bono (who is not gay) may become the most visible transgender man in America. While the show didn't set out to recruit Bono to raise visibility of transgender individuals, the fact that DWTS airs on a network like ABC, will increase visibility for this minority group.
And, as the controversy around his appearance demonstrates, despite political gains for gays and lesbians, transgender people continue to suffer from prejudice, discrimination and outright ignorance.
Bono's presence on Dancing With the Stars is just one reason to tune in this season. There are also new professional dancers like Peta Murgatroyd; and, of course, the diverse group of celebrities who may stumble over their own feet or glide effortlessly across the dance floor.
Before the show airs, check out About.com's guide to Dancing With the Stars (and tune in as the season progresses and more material is added).
The dance competition premiers tonight on ABC with a two-hour live broadcast 8/7 Central. The results show airs tomorrow, September 20th at 8/7 Central.
Photo © ABC.