Nation strictly split over the cha-cha-cheats

Chemistry: “Seann and Katya hit it off from day one,” an inside source told The Sun. © BBC

Should Seann Walsh have been booted off Strictly? BBC bosses confirm that he and Katya Jones will perform on Saturday — despite their “drunken kiss” sparking a national scandal earlier this week.

It all started last Sunday, when The Sun published photos of Seann Walsh and his Strictly Come Dancing partner, Katya Jones, kissing outside a London pub. Both were in separate long-term relationships, and the mix of showbiz and infidelity made a juicy tabloid scandal: “Blame it on the boozy,” cried The Sun’s front-page headline the following morning.

The pair soon apologised on Twitter. Walsh said the kiss was a “one-off drunken mistake”.

A day later, the story took a deeper turn when Walsh’s now ex-girlfriend released a statement of her own: “My name is Rebecca Humphries and I am not a victim,” it began.

She describes how she raised suspicions about Walsh’s relationship with Jones the evening the photos were taken, but he “aggressively, and repeatedly, called me a psycho/nuts/mental. As he has done countless times throughout our relationship.”

What Humphries describes is known as “gaslighting” — a form of emotional abuse in which one person manipulates another to doubt their own sanity or perception of events. Her account caused a sensation. It was shared thousands of times, fuelling calls for Walsh to be kicked off Strictly altogether.

“If the makers of Strictly Come Dancing had a shred of respect for his ex, they’d have booted him off the instant she made her devastating statement,” declared Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine.

Instead, Walsh will face the music, with reports confirming he will appear on Saturday’s show. “Seann has denied it and said there are two sides to every story,” a BBC source told The Telegraph. “The feeling is that he is innocent until proven guilty, so he and Katya will continue."

Some, no doubt, will support this decision. “People who claim to be shocked are not really paying attention,” columnist Allison Pearson wrote. “This is Strictly Come Dancing’s guilty secret: the most popular family show on television is also the most sexually-charged… How could it really be otherwise?”

Should Walsh be booted off the show?

Dance Off

Of course, some argue. The BBC must set an example and take Humphries’s statement seriously: keeping Walsh on the show is an insult to all the women who have suffered psychological abuse. Furthermore, his presence will transform a family show into a tabloid circus, overshadowing the hard work of the other dancers involved. It’s time to go.

Not necessarily, others respond. Private lives are complicated. And before we rush to condemn, we should let him respond to the allegations. If the public think he deserves to go, they can vote him off. After all, Strictly is not so different to shows like Love Island or Big Brother — it thrives off personal drama. We might be loathe to admit it, but us viewers love it too.

You Decide

  1. Should Seann Walsh be booted off Strictly Come Dancing?
  2. Do the public care too much about reality TV?

Activities

  1. Strictly Come Dancing is one of many popular reality shows on TV at the moment. In general do you think that reality TV is worth watching? Discuss in pairs or small groups. Come up with three reasons why reality TV is important, and three reasons why it is a waste of time. Which view do you agree with?
  2. Using the links in Become An Expert, read Sarah Vine’s Daily Mail opinion piece. Write a paragraph answering this question: “In the piece, how does the writer use language to persuade you of her point of view?” In your answer, analyse examples of effective vocabulary and language techniques that she uses.

Some People Say...

“We should be wary of reducing other people’s lives to entertainment fodder.”

Frances Ryan

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Rebecca Humphries’s Twitter statement has been “liked” over 90,000 times, and shared a further 12,000 times. By contrast, Jones’s husband Neil has yet to comment directly on what happened. Known as the “Strictly curse”, we know that the show often puts a strain on the personal relationships of those involved. However, this is the first time a tabloid scandal like this has hit the show mid-series.
What do we not know?
How the audience and voting public will react to Walsh’s appearance on Saturday night, should he perform. “I hope… the British public show their solidarity with Rebecca and withdraw their votes for him,” writes Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of NIA, a domestic violence charity.

Word Watch

Relationships
Seann Walsh had been dating actress Rebecca Humphries for five years, while Katya and Neil Jones were married in 2013.
Infidelity
Being unfaithful to a spouse or partner.
Front-page
The story made it onto the front pages of the Daily Mirror, The Sun, Daily Star, Metro, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Daily Express — something criticised by former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on Twitter.
Evening
Humphries also stated that the pictures were taken on the same night as her birthday.
Gaslighting
The term comes from the psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 play Gaslight. In the play, a husband tries to convince his wife that she is insane by changing parts of her environment and insisting that she delusional.
Saturday’s show
Reports claim that the couple were supposed to dance a Rumba — a sexually charged Latin dance. However, this has been changed to a less risqué Charleston.