When news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would continue ballet lessons as part of his school program this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)
This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by “Good Morning America” host Lara Spencer.
In yesterday’s episode, the conversation turned to what the 6-year-old has on file when he returns to school this fall. After joking that she was happy she didn’t have to do her homework anymore, Spencer said:
In addition to the usual things in the first or second year, such as math, science and history, the future King of England will drop the Play-Doh to take care of, among other things, religious studies, computer programming, poetry and ballet.
It could have been a joke about the young prince touching on topics that seem far above the grade level. (Which begs the question, why are the advanced accomplishments considered a joke?) The talk show host held back an audible laugh as she said it, and followed it with an expression that might gently being called condescending, eliciting laughs and then full laughs from her co-hosts and studio audiences. And then it got worse.
As images of a smiling Prince George showed up on screen, she quipped sarcastically, “I mean, he looks so happy about ballet class!” She continued,
Prince William says Prince George loves ballet. I have news for you, Prince William: we’ll see how long this lasts.
How, in 2019, is this considered, even remotely, acceptable?
I could brag about the many benefits that dance training has for any human being, not to mention one who will grow up to be a head of state. I could point out the physical benefits, the positive effects of dance on mental and emotional health, the long-term benefits of the discipline and focus it requires, and, perhaps more importantly, how l he dance training confers the value of empathy.
But the point is, I doubt Spencer cares. This is really bullying.
Because that’s what we just saw: an adult woman bullying a 6 year old. On national television. To laughter and applause.
If that’s okay with you, I would recommend finding the nearest dance studio and signing up for an open class, as your empathy might need some serious tune-up.
It’s no secret that young boys who sign up for dance lessons are bullied to an exceptional degree, according to the documentary DANCER, the number is 85% male ballet students in the United States. We all know the hateful, illogical rhetoric that goes with it (ballet is effeminate, the boys who do it are sissies, or worse, gasp!, gay) and one would like to think that if the adults in the room were aware of it, they would end it.
That’s what makes this whole debacle so sickening. Of course, Prince George will be largely immune from this and will grow up with thick skin to be the center of so much public scrutiny. But what message does this send to young boys who love dance lessons, or maybe want to give it a go, but don’t want to be abused? What does this say to those who initiate the abuse? That bullies, rightly or wrongly, can get away with it, and even be commended for it. The woman on TV certainly seems to be doing quite well.
Spencer’s remarks also reflect the sadly common attitude that dancing (ballet in particular) is not something anyone could or should take seriously, that it is something to be stepped out of. It’s not like public and government support for dance, and the arts in general, is in crisis, is it?
If there is a positive point in all of this, it is in observing the reaction of the dance world. Ballet stars have flocked to social media to share their support for the young prince and their disgust at Spencer’s comments, and to demand an apology. (There’s even an online petition calling for “GMA” to produce a segment on the benefits of ballet training for young men.) Just a handful of the many articulate responses, including from the former New York City star Ballet Robbie Fairchild and the Washington Ballet, are below.
Because it’s not just Prince George, and it’s not just ballet lessons. It’s about the fact that no one should be bullied for what they love to do. And we refuse to endorse it.
Update: Lara Spencer took to Instagram to respond to the flashback, writing,
My sincere apologies for an insensitive comment I made in the pop news yesterday. From ballet to everything you want to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I firmly believe that we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain and love every minute.
Comments on the post call on him to take it further and apologize on “GMA”.