I’ve been a faithful watcher of Dance Moms since the first episode. There is a lot of reality television on the air today but there’s nothing quite like it. The closest comparison would probably be Toddlers and Tiaras but since it focuses on pageants and different people every episode, the comparison is not necessarily a fair one.
Abby Lee Miller reminds me of teachers I had growing up. She’s tough on her students but it’s not for nothing. Being in the entertainment industry is tough in itself. For as much flack as the show was given especially when it first came out, the dancers on this show are extremely talented. I don’t think I could ever learn and compete in a dance that I only learned a few days before. It takes a lot of skill to do that and all of the girls seem to have that in spades. But talent isn’t enough to get one through that type of work. One has to be tough in order to keep going. And to me, it’s better to have someone who cares about you as a kid vs. a stranger. Also, since this is a reality show we don’t get to see Abby have more positive interactions with her students because that’s not drawing viewers in.
Miller has generated a lot of commentary regarding her treatment of the girls and their mothers. She has said some not very nice things to them in the process of the show and the mothers themselves have also said some things that are unkind as well. And that is ultimately part of the draw of the show; people want to see the drama and conflict between everyone. Dance Moms shoots many hours of footage every week during filming and by the cast’s own admission, what the audience sees does not reflect the entire week that went into the episode. We only see the most drama filled and intense moments on screen thanks to the magic of editing.
But do the mothers really have to keep bringing up Abby’s weight on the show? This has been something that has been brought up many times over the course of the show’s series run. And while it might have been ironic and slightly amusing once upon a time, it is getting stale and offensive quite quickly.
I am a plus-size woman myself and I’m also a realist. I know that we as human beings judge each other all the time whether we realize it or not. And I am also aware of the pressure we exert on one another to be a certain way. The pressure to be thin is real. We see it on television, in movies, and other media all the time. Likewise, obesity is another topic that is talked about quite often. Either way being fat or thin is an issue.
And in the case of Dance Moms, I believe that consistently bringing up Abby’s weight does the show a disservice. Not only does it perpetuate both of the issues above, it also teaches the younger audiences that watch the show that calling someone out about their weight is acceptable. And it’s not. The cast members might say a lot of outrageous and mean things on camera, but the constant refrain about Abby’s weight is something that is said about people in the real world all too often.
By all accounts, Abby Lee Miller is a very successful woman. Not only does she have a long and storied career as a dance teacher but she also has Dance Moms and now Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition. When Dance Moms first started, it was originally supposed to go cover another studio after the first season. But the popularity of Miller, the dancers, and their moms has turned the series into quite a success for Lifetime. Yet, its star is constantly ripped on for being fat, unmarried, and not having a family of her own.
This is reality television and part of the Dance Mom “brand” in a way. But as a show that is different from any other on TV, why perpetuate a negative attitude for someone’s success, especially a woman? There is nothing wrong with being different from the norm. Being unique and different is a way in which society should be able to move forward, not stay the same.
I know commenting on weight is an easy target, Lifetime. But you’re supposed to be a network that is centered on women. You can do so much better.
Image Credit: Lifetime