'So You Think You Can Dance' Issues Apology Over Upside Down Marine Emblem

Wow. It appears that choreographers Mia Michaels and Wade Robson whipped up quite a bit of controversy in response to the 10 anti-war dance solos that were performed on Wednesday night's episode of the Fox TV reality series So You Think You Can Dance. I hadn't realized that Mia Michaels was wearing Marine Dress Blues with upside down Marine emblems on the sleeves when I wrote yesterday's article discussing the solos. (video here)

According to Michaels the blouse was a gift and she had no idea that anyone would be offended. But her explanation misses the point. (all emphasis mine throughout)

Emmy-nominated choreographer Mia Michaels thought she was going to have a wonderful day. She woke up this morning to find hundreds of messages posted on her website. "And I thought, wow, I must've been a really good judge last night," says Michaels.

But then she opened the messages and was shocked by their tone and content. "It was hate mail," she says simply. "Saying things like, 'You should be ashamed of yourself.' It was really intense. It was awful."

The writers were responding to a jacket worn by Michaels on Wednesday's show. She had no idea that anyone would be offended by it, she says. She simply thought she was being fashionable by wearing a navy blue military jacket that happened to have a Marine emblem, upside down, on the sleeves. After hearing the feedback, Michaels tried to make amends on the air. "I understand why people were upset and I respect that," she says. "That symbol is sacred to the Marines, it's what they earned. The problem needed to be addressed and I'm glad we addressed it. That's why I made a public apology."

First of all let's dispense of the notion that the phrase "You should be ashamed of yourself" is anything related to hate mail. That is simply ridiculous. Why is it always considered hate mail when people disagree with the views of anti-war expression? People are rightfully upset.

I accept the fact that perhaps Michaels' didn't realize how strongly people would feel about the issue but this goes beyond a simple upside down emblem. The dress blues themselves are sacred to the men and women who have earned the right to wear them. Military personnel follow strict guidelines pertaining to dress codes. Even more importantly, fallen Marines are often buried in their dress blues. The uniform is important to the families and members of the U.S. military and it should be respected.

The fact that Mia Michaels wore the blouse (not jacket) with an upside down Marine emblem on the same night that Wade Robson choreographed an anti-war dance solo is not some mere coincidence in my estimation.

Getting angry e-mails from people who are sensitive to these facts should be expected.

Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe also apologized for the misunderstanding on last night's follow up show.

But the problem didn't stop with her. Adding to the perfect storm of controversy on Wednesday night's show was Dance's other Emmy-nominated choreographer, Wade Robson. He had fashioned the 10 identical solo dances around an antiwar theme. Set to the music of John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change," the dancers wore peace symbols and printed slogans. That put executive producer Nigel Lythgoe in the crosshairs of more angry feedback from those who believe that an antiwar dance means the show and its dancers are unpatriotic and do not support the troops. "Who would've dreamt - with the dancers using words like 'humility,' 'love' and 'passion' - that I would be defending a television show that uses words like that?" asks Lythgoe, who also apologized on air.

But at the same time, Lythgoe stood his ground. "Art should be allowed to make statements," he said. "I'm so proud to be part of a show that allows freedom of expression," says Michaels. "Nigel has allowed us to be who we are. He never edits us and he lets us express ourselves as artists. I think that is rare and extraordinary."

I agree with Lythgoe, art should be allowed to make statements. But as an entertainer he must also be aware that not all people who enjoy the tremendous talent being presented share the same views. You should expect people to react if you are going to present an anti-war or pro-peace performance with Vietnam era anti-war symbols. This isn't rocket science yet all of these people act as if they are absolutely stunned that people would react to such artistic statements. Isn't that the point?

That being said, both Michaels and Lythgoe did apologize and perhaps we can all move on from this incident. I personally believe that people tune into shows like So You Think You Can Dance as a form of escape. Entertainment is a way to get away from the realities of life. That is the winning formula that most everyone can appreciate.

Terry Trippany is the editor at Webloggin