Lifetime’s newest reality show, Dance Moms, premiered last week. Focused on a Pennsylvania dance company in the middle of competition season, Dance Moms is everything you’d think it would be: a harsh task mistress, cross-country travel, choreography, music, moms obsessed with their daughters, and little girls in vaguely inappropriate outfits and makeup, and abundant tears.
But something about it was even more familiar: mothers caught up with making their children “stars” to the exclusion of all else. You hear it in a dozen reality shows, an obsession with performance and fame.
Toddlers and Tiaras is the same way: make-up on babies, encouraging children to “shake it,” and telling us their kids are “stars.” It makes me squeamish. What are we telling these girls? That what they look like is more important than anything else? That tantrums from children AND adults is appropriate behavior? By all means, feed your kid another pixy stix so they’ll sparkle on stage.
I admit it: we’re judging these moms, and we’re supposed to, the networks are counting on it. “What kind of mother would do that?” I hear over and over. From Supernanny to A Baby Story, and even Hoarders. Any time there’s another mother on TV we’re supposed to compare our mothering to their mothering. Is that fair? Is that right? Does it help?
I don’t know, but I do know that it sells a lot of soap.