Here’s a tip for Real Housewives of New Jersey star Danielle Stuab: If you believe the only way anyone is going to know you are a good mother is by sitting down and saying to a camera, “I am the best mom in the world,’ chances are you need some help from a parenting coach.
Staub demonstrated her less-than-stellar parenting and life skills in this week’s episode, which featured daughter Christine’s Sweet 16. Danielle quickly decided that the nationally televised party would make a great vehicle for … daughter Jillian, an eleven-year-old aspiring singer/songwriter. There was only one problem with the plan. Daughter Jillian wasn’t so sure this was a great idea. “I don’t want to sing in front of people. I’m afraid people won’t like it,” she told her mom. But Danielle wasn’t deterred. “You are going to be bigger than big,” she tells her reluctant daughter. When her daughter breaks down during a practice session Staub, who has never met an audience she couldn’t perform for, was not exactly sympathetic. “You need to do it,” she tells her, and more or less bullies her into continuing on.
That the child did finally sing nicely for a crowd of more than 300 guests, admitting to the ever-present cameras that all her nervousness vanished as soon as she got up on stage to sing, seems almost beside the point. The entire episode was cringe-inducing, and pointed to the desperate need for state authorities to step in to protect minor children who are featured in reality shows.
Many observers have noted in the past that Staub’s daughters seem almost mortified by the constant filming of their lives, not to mention their mother’s repeated attempts to leverage the show into attention for the entire family. This week’s episode, however, seemed to cross an invisible line. It’s not really cinema verite documentary film-making when a mother appears to force her child into a recorded public performance, a performance one suspects would not have taken place if it wasn’t going to be televised. There’s another word that applies here. That word is abuse.