Strictly Come Dancing is the British ratings juggernaut that returns every year with more glitz and glamour.
But every year I’m disappointed.
Each year, the tabloids question whether Strictly Come Dancing will finally allow celebrities to have a same-sex partner.
Many involved in the show, from the judges to the professionals, are open to it. Gay celeb Dr Ranj, participating this year, is forced to dance with a woman despite saying he was open to dancing with a man.
Again and again, the LGBTI community gets nothing.
Strictly 2018 ‘will incorporate a same-sex partnership in a professional dance’
Today it was ‘revealed’ that the latest series will incorporate a same-sex partnership in a professional dance.
The Sun reports at least one of the pro dances, typically performed on the Sunday results show, will feature a pairing of two men or two women.
A BBC spokesperson said it was not new or unprecedented.
‘Every week some of the world’s top choreographers create stunning routines that showcase the skills of our pro dancers,’ they said.
‘They can cast and direct the dances however they think best tells the story.’
The BBC has defended itself by telling us they have showed same-sex pairings several times.
Their examples were:
Run Boy Run (2017)
In the dance, the ‘male’ pairings are literally separated by a pole. The male and female professionals actually touch while they’re dancing.
What The World Needs Now (2016)
This is indeed a tribute to the way that dance encompasses all ages and abilities. The BBC spokesperson claims that judges Bruno and Craig dance together at one point, but as far as I can see they’re dancing with women. If they did dance together, the camera didn’t feature it.
However, I was able to spot a male pairing in the crowd. Don’t worry if you couldn’t spot it. I’ll circle it for you.
Rock This Town (2014)
A cops and robbers routine saw 20 seconds of a 2:30 routine involve same-sex pairings. At least, this time, it was visible. Even if it was just 12.5% of the routine. One minute and 10 seconds of it had opposite-sex pairings.
Young Hearts Run Free (2013)
According to the BBC, this has ‘lots of female partnerships’? It doesn’t. It doesn’t have two women, in hold, ever. Women dancing next to each other. That does not count.
If the BBC is trying to boast about these four examples, they shouldn’t. It’s not good enough and it’s insulting. It reminds me of Disney’s ‘exclusively’ gay moment, that featured LeFou dancing with a man in Beauty and the Beast.
Week after week, British TV watchers are treated to the same celebration of heternormativity.
Even if the dancers aren’t romantically involved, they’re acting as if they were a couple. They act romantic, they act passionate, they act loving with one another.
To remove the story of gay love from mainstream television is to deny its existence.
When you say something ‘is for everybody’, as a singer shouts during the 2013 performance of Young Hearts Run Free, it says LGBTI people don’t matter. They might make the dresses or choreograph the routines or hang the lights or watch the show, but they have to stay in the shadows. It’s not something to be celebrated, it’s something to ignore.
I have sympathy for the producers.
Executives know introducing a same-sex partnership on the show would trigger shrieks from the right-wing press:
The BBC would be accused of being too ‘left’ or having an ‘agenda’.
How same-sex ‘moments’ could work on Strictly Come Dancing
But it’s time to be brave. When you have one of television’s biggest shows, you can take risks. The show has evolved to allow props, a new head judge, a new host. It’s 2018, it’s time to allow ‘gay’ moments on television.
Show me a waltz, suggesting a romantic stroll in the park before two men in top hats and tails dance to some old ballad.
I want a fiery tango between two women, unafraid of burning passion, heating up the floor.
What about that is so scary? It’s not. And before anyone starts on how opposite-sex pairings are ‘traditional’, then I think it’s time to modernise.
It’s already worked in other countries. In Italy, a very Catholic country, a same-sex partnership reached the final in their version of Strictly Come Dancing.
For the first celebrity to be matched with a professional of the same gender, you probably need someone like Tom Daley. Someone loveable, an athlete who would do well in a competition, and someone unafraid to take chances with the press. If Tom doesn’t want to do it, you could get someone hilarious and popular like Sue Perkins.
Once we’ve opened the flood-gates, then who knows what’s possible? Who knows, maybe something like this?
This would get four 10s from me, the judges, and everyone at home.
Joe Morgan is the editor-at-large at Gay Star News. Follow him on Twitter.