Lifetime’s reality series “Dance Moms,” which follows young girls training at the Abby Lee Dance Company, is being ripped for its latest episode involving the child dancers wearing costumes that simulate nudity.
Tuesday night’s episode, titled “Topless Showgirls,” featured girls as young as eight performing a sexually charged, provocative showgirl-like routine in a local dance competition, donning barely-there sparkly flesh-colored bras and panties to give the illusion of nudity.
“All the girls and I feel kind of nervous because we feel kind of naked,” one of the dancers said prior to taking the stage.
Pyschological experts and parents groups we talked to are up-in-arms over the stripper-esque theme, and fear that the episode could act as encouragement for pedophiles and sexual predators.
“As a treatment professional of sex offenders, I can tell you that adults who are attracted to minors definitely seek out shows just like this to whet their appetites,” Los Angeles-based psychologist, Dr. Nancy Irwin, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “They may attend the shows in-person, watch them on TV and seek out Facebook still photos and YouTube clips to pleasure themselves. The sexual body movements are more concerning than the costumes.”
The raunchy routine involved girls thrusting their chests forward and backward, shimmying across the stage and even pretending to cover themselves up with big feathers as they bounced from the stage.
“I’m hot, I’m mean, you can’t have me, you can’t afford me,” Miller recited to the girls as she taught the moves, before telling the cameras: “The moms are ridiculous because all they’re worried about is their kids and their bodies and blah blah. Once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. This is show business kid.”
Several moms on the episode expressed their horror regarding the choreography and costumes, yet not one of them intervened. Dance school matron Miller went on to defend the costumes as “stunning” and stressed that that they were “harmless” because “everyone in the industry knows the girls are completely covered.”
Human behavior expert Patrick Wanis, PhD, begs to differ.
“This condones, encourages and motivates adults to imagine little girls dancing naked for their pleasure,” he said. “Of course it will arouse pedophiles and offer them a new legal avenue to engage in their lustful thoughts as they watch the little girls ‘nude’ on television.”
Lifetime did not respond to a request for comment, but the network is clearly not shying away from the extra attention as they encouraged show fans to weigh in on the “showgirls” on the official “Dance Moms” Facebook page.
“Horrifying, irresponsible, exploitive, damaging. This didn’t just cross the line, it exploded it. I am very disappointed that the moms didn’t stop the misdirected nightmare,” said one viewer.
Another wrote point-blank that “the show should be canceled,” while another mom vented: “Pedophiles ALREADY justify sex with kids saying the ones they abuse are ‘hot’ and ‘sexy.’ This show gave them more ways to justify their behavior. Sick sick sick…”
Several viewers, however, said they couldn’t see a problem with the skin colored outfits and adult theme.
“Art is just that ART! I love the idea and it adds a little flare to the dance resume too,” wrote one viewer. Another weighed in: “the girls have worn bras as costumes many times before so it’s not that big of a deal. Abby is the director and what she says goes, so the moms need to keep their mouths shut and trust Abby.”
TV ratings aren't being adversely affected, that's for sure. “Dance Moms” continues to gain traction – the controversial episode this week reached a series high across all key demographics, with 2.7 million total viewers. However, Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for the Parents Television Council, says the show is out of control.
“When you have pre-pubescent girls performing what is essentially a Las Vegas showgirl strip tease to a nationally televised audience, things have clearly gone too far,” she added. “Those responsible for the costumes and choreography should be ashamed of themselves, but one has to wonder if they would have chosen such deliberately provocative costumes if the possibility of being featured on ‘Dance Moms’ weren’t being dangled in front of them. Lifetime, and the producers and executives behind ‘Dance Moms’ are complicit in the sexualization of these innocent young girls.”