In the performing arts, a stage mother is the mother of a child actor. The mother will often drive her child to auditions, make sure he or she is on the set on time, etc. The term stage mother sometimes has a negative connotation, suggesting that the individual is prone to obnoxiously demanding special treatment for her child, or suggesting that the individual has placed inappropriate pressure on her child to succeed, perhaps for reasons of vicariously living out her own dreams through the child. Entitled and grandiose demands have sometimes led to reportedly veiled threats from a stage parent.
A stage mother may also be the official manager of her child (e.g., Rose Thompson Hovick, Dina Lohan, Ethel Gumm, Teri Shields, Susan Duff, etc.)—representing her child in negotiations for the professional services of her child. Such managers have often been referred to as "momagers" in the film industry.
In certain cases where a mother and child both work in the film industry, an automatic labeling of "stage mother" can be affixed to the mother[by whom?] without cause. Kathie Lee Gifford has been against the concept of stage mothers and had explained that when her son Cody co-starred with her in the film Model Behavior, it had been on his own volition to try acting and not at her insistence. Gifford plays a stage mother in that movie.
Notable stage mothers
Fathers have also been known to manage their children in this way, such as Joseph Jackson (patriarch of the Jackson family), Murry Wilson (father of three of The Beach Boys), Joe Simpson (father of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson), Jeff Archuleta (father of American Idol runner-up David Archuleta), Mathew Knowles (father of Beyoncé and Solange Knowles) and Kit Culkin (father of Macaulay and Kieran Culkin). A historical example of such a father was Leopold Mozart, who recognized his son's musical ability at an early age and made the most of it.
Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., father of Tejano superstar Selena, is credited with having discovered Selena's gift of singing; he rounded up her and her siblings as a band (Selena y Los Dinos), named for his band in his younger days.
Stage fathers share a similar role with parents promoting their children in professional sports. The drive to enhance their child's success, and vicariously the father's own financial furtherance and fame can include implementation of strength and exercise regimens at a young age and backhanded actions such as delaying enrollment in school so their sons will be bigger than their classmates. Lavar Ball, father of NBA player Lonzo Ball, achieved notoriety for spurious self aggrandizement and inflation of his son's assets, including questionable claims that his son's basketball skills exceeded those of Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
A variant of the term has been a "script mother", or a woman writer who sees her children as a means for writing books or screenplays based on humiliating events in the child's life, to the detriment of the child, or exaggerating a child's personal problems. Script mothers can be writers, comedians or cartoonists.
An example of a script mother has been Lynn Johnston, who has been criticized for exploiting her children (and husband) in her comic strip For Better or for Worse, as opposed to many cartoonists such as Charles Schultz and Berke Breathed who make up fictional characters. Johnston's children eventually had to be pulled out of school due to the constant bullying and embarrassment they received in being compared to their comic strip counterparts, and placed into a private school with tougher regulations on student conduct.
In popular culture
- The hugely successful and popular musical Gypsy is the story of Rose, a domineering stage mother of her children, June and Louise who go on to become June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee respectively.
- Stage Mother is a 1933 film about a frustrated vaudeville performer who pushes her daughter into becoming a dancer.
- The 1982 biopic Frances stars Jessica Lange as American actress Frances Farmer, whose mother, Lillian Van Ornum (Kim Stanley) pushed her into an entertainment career after her own acting ambitions were thwarted.
- Bellissima by Luchino Visconti is about a stage mother in Cinecittà, Rome, starring Anna Magnani.
- An episode of the television show Kate & Allie was titled "Stage Mother". In the episode, Allie is overly enthusiastic about Jennie getting a job to sing on cable television.
- Bakekang, a Filipino TV series, which stars Sunshine Dizon is a story of an ugly woman who begets a very beautiful girl from a foreigner. A movie fan as she is, she compels her daughter, named Krystal, to join show business. Her daughter becomes a big star and Bakekang, a stage mother.
- The sketch comedy show Little Britain has a duo called Sandra and Ralph Patterson. Sandra is very desperate for her son, Ralph, to get a part in acting. Whenever he fails, she treats him very badly and even beats him.
- The fourth episode of the third series of BBC comedy The League of Gentlemen features a stage mother named Nancy Glass who forces her daughter to perform at the Little Miss Elegance Pageant.
- Watchmen features Silk Spectre, a superhero who acts as a stage mother for her daughter, forcing her to become the modern incarnation of Silk Spectre against her will.
- Carl Hiaasen's 2010 novel Star Island centers around a talentless female pop star whose fame is entirely the creation of her greedy parents, and whose mother/manager acts as her "primary enabler, exploiter, and apologist".
- Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel Gone Girl features the female protagonist, Amy Dunne, whose childhood shortcomings were the basis for the eventual accomplishments of her mother's fictional "Amazing Amy" character featured in a series of extremely successful children's books. The mother in this instance is a "script mother" as opposed to a stage mom.
- The sixth episode of the second season of FX's Atlanta features a disturbed man named Teddy Perkins, who was the victim of an abusive stage father as a young boy.
Real-life stage mothers and their children have been a popular subject for reality television shows, including the shows I Know My Kid's a Star (2008), Dance Moms (2011–present), Toddlers & Tiaras (2008–2013) and its highly successful spinoff Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (2012–2014).
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