You only need to watch a minute or two of "Dance Moms" on Lifetime to see that the show isn't at all about talented little girls in pursuit of big dreams. It's actually a show about a bullying, screaming coach and a group of mothers who fight back against her but keep enrolling their kids in the bootcamp-style dance program.
The volume on those shrieking adults has turned down slightly this week. And now it's Katherine Heigl who is getting all waggy-fingered.
Blogging out her frustrations, the mother of 3-year old Naleigh wrote that dance coach Abby Lee Miller diminishes the girls' self esteem and that the routines unnecessarily sexualize the young dancers.
"I watched with open-mouthed amazement as girls as young as seven were encouraged to dress provocatively and shimmy around a stage doing a dance performance that could just as easily been a burlesque routine," she posted yesterday.
Heigl says that a "significant part" of mothering her daughter is to both protect her and build her up, which she did not see happen on "Dance Moms." And while Heigl's surely familiar with the competitiveness and pressure of the arts industry, her childhood experience was far from that.
"I used to perform in a local dance academy when I was growing up and we did jazz routines that were fun, imaginative, high energy, hip and age-appropriate," she remembers.
Her post seems to be a wish that the dancers, who she calls "wonderfully talented, spirited ladies", would feel more of that empowerment and fun and less of the yelling and berating she saw on-screen.
"I think we all know through experience that the world gets tough enough soon enough," Heigl wrote. "I strongly believe there is no reason to break anyone down in order to prepare them for inevitable disappointment or unkindness. There is no reason to diminish anyone's self-esteem in order to get them to try harder next time. Especially not a child's."
What parent would not side with Heigl on this one? I imagine the number of parents who truly believe in the Abby Lee Miller-methodology would all fit into one of auditoriums where the 7-year old girls mimic Beyonce moves in tiny, bedazzled tuxedo bikinis...with any extras filling up the seats at the "Toddlers & Tiaras" taping down the hall. But most of us don't want a terrifying middle-aged lady screaming "PLIE! PLIE!" at our little girls with the hope that maybe, possibly, there's a 1% chance she will get called back on a Broadway show one day, right?
And if I am right that we're much more crunchy-granola, preferring the soft-spoken hipster guy piano teacher or the soccer coach who insists every kid who tries is a winner, then why is "Dance Moms" so popular?
Why are we tucking our tender little ones into bed with glowing "participant" medals for Tae Kwon Do and finger-painting hanging over their headboards proudly and then sitting down to watch mothers sob and daughters yanked into size-6x corsets and a coach losing her shiz over a double cartwheel instead of a triple?
Why are so many of us so fascinated with bad parenting, terrible coaching, exploited kids that we can't stop making these shows earn tons of views and money for their networks?
Maybe it's time to take a breather from "Dance Moms" and other prime-time examples of heinous child-rearing, to step out of those studios and take a look at how we're playing into the whole scene.
If Heigl's on target, if we agree, don't we owe it to all our attempts at great parenting, outstanding coaching, ambitious and happy and thriving and talented kids to stop listening to all that screaming coming out of our TVs?
More on Shine:
How motherhood changed Katherine Heigl
Talk about talent! I'm raising a card shark
Amazing kid photographers recognized by National Geographic
25 things to teach your daughter before she's a teen
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