What is ‘Dance Moms‘?
When I ask this I’m not asking for an analysis on Abbey Lee and her love for Maddy, or how addictive this show is, or how annoying Cathy from Candy Apples is (OMG!!! so annoying though). Instead, what I’m asking is what this show, and others of the sort, really are, and mean in society?
For those who have no idea what I am talking about or what (literally) ‘Dance Moms’ is (have you been living under a rock??) let me explain: ‘Dance moms’ is a reality TV program that follows an elite group of dancers at Abbey Lee Dance Studio. The girls are freakishly talented, the moms are insane and Abbey is basically the devil. Sounds amazing right? Despite all of the controversy its faced, it still carries a popular impact in todays society, and this is due to ‘The Public Sphere’.
‘The Public Sphere’ cannot really be defined by one concrete example, for in todays society it amalgamates itself in many forms. The news, a reality TV show, a talk show, or even Facebook. We all may forget, or not realize, its there, but it is the basis of discussion. To put it simply, it is an area of social life where people come together to discuss social problems and influence political action.
Despite this idea obviously being partaken in much of societies history, the ‘theory’ wasn’t made known until 1962 by Jürgen Habermas in ‘The Structural Transformation of Public Sphere’. Habermas explained the theory as a kind of 18th century coffee house, where men would meet and discuss issues. This has faced much backlash and retaliation today due to the exclusion of women, the lower classes, and all other minorities. However, it was the first general idea.
Today it is no longer likened to a coffee house, as for us, it is everywhere. Now, as soon as you comment or share a post on Facebook you are interacting in ‘The Public Sphere’.
Taking it back to ‘Dance Moms’, this isn’t just a ‘Public Sphere’, but a ‘Mediated Public Sphere’. Which is basically the same thing but you could describe is as a controlled production of a ‘Public Sphere’. In this ‘Public Sphere’, the participants are the dancers, the moms and Abbey. There is always a debate sparked with the participants due to an issue being discussed in the show. And more often than not, this debate can reach the viewers, creating a wider discussion in ‘The Public Sphere’.
Take this episode linked above for example, the girls are partaking in a dance about texting and driving and its implications. This is a terrible and real issue in todays society. It could have easily sparked debate in viewers, and the moms, about the issue and how real and dangerous it is, most likely through the sphere of social media.
Not just the specific issues discussed, but the ones implied, such as the strain on the dancers, or Abbeys influence, in the show itself allows viewers to discuss the series. This creates debate and political action. Take this for example.
As we can see, ‘Dance Moms’ is just a minuscule example of ‘The Public Sphere’, and how we all interact in it. Despite this series being part of the ‘Mediated Public Sphere’, it is still ‘The Public Sphere’ none the less.