Hey, TV… Leave Those Kids Alone

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On my brisk walk to work this morning, I looked up from the pavement for long enough to notice an ad on the side of a pay phone- yes, a pay phone, which believe it or not is still very effective ad space in NYC, but not in say, Los Angeles. Anyway, I digress. The ad was for a reality show called “Dance Moms.” Wait… does that say? Yup, it says “Dance Moms.” Seriously? Yet another reality series that exploits children and puts on display the despicable, non exemplary behavior of their parents for the sake of “entertainment?” Have we not had enough??

Believe me, I’ve been a fan of situational reality TV since MTV unveiled the very first episode of Real World. It was new and exciting, and highly entertaining to watch a house full of people (note: not children) trying to find their way in this dog-eat-dog world.  But somehow, since then, the bar has been lowered time and time again bringing us such doozies as 16 & Pregnant, and its spin-off Teen Mom (so much for paving the way, MTV), the unbelievably inappropriate Toddlers & Tiaras, not to mention the freakishly fertile families of the Gosselins and Duggars, whose children were probably already struggling with identity issues well before the cameras ever started rolling.

But back to the show at hand (which is already on its second season, I came to learn). Honestly, how did they take a healthy extra curricular activity where children learn the art of dancing, team building, and performance skills and turn it into a spectacle for insatiable reality TV addicts? Young girls are already delicate and vulnerable and these creative outlets are meant to make them stronger and help them build a strong sense of self. I remember what a great experience dance school was for many of my friends growing up (so much so that I wish my parents had enrolled me!) I remember feeling a tinge of jealously when they would scurry off to dance class after school, to learn their new routines choreographed to the latest and greatest pop hits. I’d help calm their nerves when they faced upcoming dance recitals (I too did a lot of performing as a child- my outlet wasn’t as much dancing as it was singing), and I’d happily help them choose the best photo from their packet of glossy prints for their families to proudly display on their walls of fame in their respective homes.

Of course, the formula only works when you have wholesome families who have their children’s best interest in mind. Obviously, that is not the case with this program (or any of these types of shows, which is sadly the very reason they are on the air). Instead we have a bunch of irrational self centered stage moms and a highly competitive and eccentric dance instructor who actually enjoys pitting the children against their moms (i.e., “Why didn’t you get a solo? Blame your mom!”), and add a bit – or perhaps a lot – of coaxing by the show’s producers, and suddenly you have what it takes to attract audiences: TV so bad you can’t help but tune in.

To be fair, I’ve only watched a few minutes of a single episode, so maybe it’s not all that bad. And since we’re so positive here at People’s Choice, I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’ll do right by these young girls and make it so they won’t spend the rest of their lives trying to reverse the emotional damage the whole experience caused them. One can only hope! In the meantime, to all reality TV producers out there, I beg of you – in the infamous words of Roger Waters and David Gilmour… leave those kids alone!

Of course, there’s still plenty of respectable reality TV out there. So voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these positive-spirited reality shows is your favorite?

The Amazing Race
The Biggest Loser
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

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