The Summer of the Stage Mothers

This has certainly been the summer of stage mothers-- at least on television.

We have the Dance Moms on Lifetime, who continue to bring the crazy. If anything, it's ramping up as the Abby Lee Dance Company prepares for its big "nationals" in Tahoe. Stay tuned for a smackdown with Crazy Cathy from Candy Apples... I can't wait! In the meantime, the moms have moved on from sniping at one another to fighting with the dance teacher. In the latest episode (Episode 9: From Ballerinas to Showgirls) mom Christi confronts dance teacher Abby about her favoritism and not treating her daughter Chloe like "a human being." Mom Kelly has a meltdown over solo costumes, gets into a huge fight with teacher Abby, and pulls her daughter Paige's number from the competition. You can watch this, and more, by clicking here.

While Dance Moms has certainly produced some cringe-worthy stage mom moments this summer, they still can't approach TLC-levels of stage mother craziness.  So, not surprisingly, Toddlers & Tiaras moms still win the crown (though some of the mothers from TLC's Outrageous Kid Parties *almost* take the cake-- pun intended). From the mother reliving her own child beauty pageant days by putting her four-year-old in her old Dolly Parton costume, complete with "enhancements" of the bust and bottom, to the mother dressing her three-year-old as Julia Roberts' prostitute character in Pretty Woman, what can you say?

Good for this pageant mom speaking out against the Pretty Woman costume in "Celebrity Wear" in a very articulate way, acknowledging existing criticisms of child beauty pageants. Notice her daughter is dressed in an age-appropriate Shirley Temple costume, so at least she walks the walk. That said, part of me wonders if some women are being more outrageous to try to get their children media attention. The Pretty Woman mom has made numerous national media appearances in the past week. Sure, she's being strongly criticized, but perhaps that was her plan all along? We know that much of Dance Moms is also staged for the cameras and people are now so savvy about "reality" television that you have to wonder; or maybe I'm just being too hopeful.

While there is always at least a kernel of reality in our reality programming, there is no better exhibit than Kate Gosselin to illustrate just how packaged these shows have become. Kate is perhaps the greatest "stage mother" of our era-- not just for pushing her own kids to be on camera as themselves (a twist to the traditional Momma Rose narrative, since they aren't really "performers)-- but also for presenting herself as the world's greatest "mother."  The change in her own appearance from frumpy frau to yummy mummy is evidence enough of her willingness and ability to literally transform in front of the cameras.  Tomorrow is the series finale for TLC's Kate Plus 8, and it's possible it's not a moment too soon if these children will have a chance at a non-reality/reality-filled life. You only have to read the People Magazine cover story this week to start to comprehend the deep psychological, psychosocial, and sociological effects that growing up in front of the cameras has had on the Gosselin eight, not to mention how they relate to money and view financial stability for their family. These kids have had to work as themselves basically since they were in utero, so hopefully they can eventually make the transition to a non-reality reality.  Then again, twin Mady wants to be a Disney pop star, and Kate seems bully on the idea... And we know how well that usually turns out! (Check out this great Yahoo article on the end of the show, featuring comments by yours truly on the financial repercussions for the Gosselin eight!)

While the end of the Gosselin reality show is the end of an era in many ways, I can't help but wonder if this is just the start of seeing more and more stage mothers on TV doing outrageous things with their kids on camera in the pursuit of celebrity and some fleeting fifteen minutes of fame. What do you think-- is this the apex or the nadir of this trend?