No, she's not the best dancer on the show, by a serious stretch. That's precisely why I want her to win. Kyle Massey is a child star, accustomed to pleasing crowds. Jennifer Grey has a nice come-back-from injury story, but she's also the ultimate ringer. (Of course she's in the lead. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.)
Bristol, on the other hand, is the most reluctant "Dancing" contestant in history, a "star" only by dint of being dragged into her mother's giant media-aggrandizement machine. Most political children are fairly cloistered until they come of age. (And when Amy Carter was shoved in the spotlight, look how she reacted.) But Bristol has long been a political prop, and a fairly good sport about it. In 2008, she was forced to sit with her lug-nut boyfriend, in front of a leering nation, during the Republican convention. Now, TLC's docu-"reality" series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," makes cheerful reference to her teen pregnancy and her Levi-spotted past. On last Sunday's episode, Sarah dragged her daughter onto a fishing boat and made her whack a bunch of halibut with a billy club. Ma Palin kept talking about how this excursion was a great way to get Bristol away from the media attention. She neglected to point out that her daughter was trailed, the whole time, by yet another camera crew.
The episode happened to air the week Bristol's media exposure hit its peak; her unlikely ascendance to the "Dancing" finale made one viewer so angry that he shot his TV screen. Bristol has been as mocked and pilloried as the worst "American Idol" candidate, and through it all, she's held her head high. It's not easy, even for a seasoned showbiz veteran, to handle the harshest criticism. It's even harder for a teen mom from Wasilla, Alaska, who has never even seen the movie version of "Chicago." But Bristol has gamely made PSAs and apologized (eventually) when her younger sister made a homophobic slur. And every week, despite the jeers, she's put on a sequined outfit and danced.
Has she been propped up by Tea Party supporters? Probably. But she might also be getting the underdog-everyman vote. Bristol is the kind of dancer most of us would be if we went on "Dancing With the Stars": unsteady on her feet, learning as she goes, without a creepily-perfect Hollywood physique. She's not a trained athlete or a figure skater or somebody from "Jersey Shore" who loves to hog the spotlight. She's a shy girl, making the best of a fairly horrid situation. She deserves a trophy for that.