TV Tropes Thursday: TV Tropes: Stage Mom

This is somewhat related to my previous post about former child stars.

Stage Moms are mothers who are heavily involved with making their children stars.  They are often depicted as being overly aggressive.  They may try to prevent other children who compete with their children.  They may try to dictate various aspects of their children’s work.  Many stage mothers do what they do because they wanted to be stars when they were younger, but lacked the talent or chances that make that.  Many are trying to live off of their children’s fame and earnings.

Stage dads and stage parents are less likely to be visible in fiction and in real life.  Men are expected to earn things on their own.  Even if a child has a stage mom and a stage dad, the mom is the one who will receive most of the blame.  Stage dads are more likely to be involved with a child’s athletic pursuits.

It is common for teenage characters to be played by young adults, often those who are in their 20s.  One of many reasons for that is to avoid having to deal with stage parents.

Some examples:

Real Life examples:


  • Successful entertainers who have children typically wind up getting accused of this if their children follow them into showbiz.


  • Minnie Marx, mother of the Marx Brothers. It was mainly her hard work that ever got them recognition in vaudeville before their breakthrough.
  • One of the earliest (of the modern age) was what inspired The Coogan Act in the US, after Jackie Coogan’s parents spent all of the money he had earned through his various acting gigs as a child.
  • Natalie Wood, who starred in the film version of Gypsy, had plenty of real-life preparation for the role due to her own mother, Maria. Natasha, the biography by Suzanne Finstad, reveals some shocking details; for example, that Maria would take a live butterfly and tear its wings off in front of young Natalie in order to make the child cry before scenes that called for it.
    • Similarly, the real life Rose made June cry by telling her their dog died.
  • William Shatner‘s Star Trek Memories claimed that wife of the actor who played Christopher Pike in the pilot insisted he be shot from certain angles, among other techniques, in order to make him look good. Eventually, Desilu Studios couldn’t handle this and stopped using the actor.
  • In Star Trek IV, Sulu (George Takei) was meant to have a chance encounter, while walking around 20th-century San Francisco, with a kid who would turn out to be his ancestor. Unfortunately, the kid who was to play the part had what Shatner described (in Star Trek Movie Memories) as “the most over-the-top stage mom” he had ever encountered, and she ended up making her kid so stressed out that she made it effectively impossible to actually film the scenes.
  • Nearly all of Macaulay Culkin’s Hollywood crash-and-burnout can be attributed to his father/manager, Kit Culkin. To give an example, one of the reasons Macaulay was pushed into the horror film The Good Son was Kit’s pushing and threatening to withdraw Macaulay from Home Alone 2. Kit’s presence onThe Good Son wound up forcing the first director to quit. Eventually, studios were turning the kid down for roles specifically because they didn’t want to deal with Kit, leading to his retirement from acting at the age of 14. Macaulay has since become estranged from Kit and refuses to speak to him.
    • When auditioning child actors for the Harry Potter movies, producer Chris Columbus interviewed the parents of all of the children being considered for roles and immediately eliminated the children of those who came across as stage parents. He said he did that because of all the problems he had with Kit Culkin while doing the first two Home Alone movies.
  • Judy Garland’s mother was this, in addition to being an Abusive Parent. According to Garland’s sister, this led to her drug abuse and possibly contributed to her death.
  • Dina and Michael Lohan, parents of Lindsay, are exemplars of the self-serving side of this trope. Dina took Lindsay to nightclubs and let her drink when she was underage, then used her daughter’s personal troubles to launch her own career in entertainment, getting herself a reality show on E!. Then, she pushed her younger daughter Ali to enter showbiz as well, causing many people to fear that Ali will end up with as many or more problems thanks to her mother. Michael, meanwhile, blabs about Lindsay to the media every chance he gets, and went on Celebrity Rehab for seemingly no other reason then to get attention and talk about her.
  • In a blog post on SMBC Theater, JP mentioned that, while he and some others were talking about the show in a diner, a 10-year-old girl came over and told them that her mother said to tell them she’s an actress. If you don’t get why he didn’t like that, let’s put this into perspective: A woman had told her 10-year-old child to introduce herself to a group of men neither one of them were familiar with, just so the girl might get an acting position.
    • It would have been worse if the mother was familiar with SMBC Theater, since most of the material is not safe for kids. This is why they always have adults kneeling when they have children in the sketches.
  • Drew Barrymore‘s mother Jaid could be blamed in large part for her daughter’s drug and alcohol problems at such a young age. Jaid regularly took young Drew to such adult hangouts like Studio 54 and the China Club. Years later, some time after Drew posed for Playboy, Jaid decided that she wanted to pose nude too!
  • Hilary Duff‘s parents are said to be the reason why the Lizzie McGuire franchise was cancelled after The Movie.
  • More than one similar accusation has been leveled at Billy Ray Cyrus (Miley Cyrus‘ father and co-star) in regards to the Hannah Montana franchise. Billy Ray says it’s the other way round: that the executives were the ones abusing and restraining Miley. Then again, he’s also blamed atheists for the same thing. Billy Ray might just be cuckoo.
  • Thora Birch‘s father (Jack Birch, a former porn star) has meddled in his daughter’s affairs enough that he’s caused a hit to her reputation. He reportedly showed up on set during production of the 2007 film Horrified and watched over his daughter while she performed a simulated sex scene with Dean Winters, then in 2010 he reportedly stayed in her dressing room at a stage adaptation of Dracula and tried to micromanage the production. This ended up getting her fired from the play.
    • Thora was also fired from a biopic about the Manson Family girls, and the director specifically blamed her father’s interference.
    • Equally distressing, Thora doesn’t appear fazed by her dad’s behavior, nor is she upset that he has cost her work. After she was fired from Dracula, she said, “My dad is my support, and he is the best support that I ever could have.”
  • Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been accused of pushing their children into showbiz at too early an age. Their son Jaden is an actor (best known for The Karate Kid remake, which was produced by Will and Jada), while daughter Willow is a singer.
    • Though their children do seem to have some control over their own careers as well, as Willow voluntarily dropped out of the upcoming remake of Annie because touring as a singer took too much out of her, and she “just wanted to be 12” again.
  • This is part of the reason Galactica 1980 did so poorly. Because it was aired during a time-slot that was considered “child friendly”, ABC’s Standards and Practices demanded that the show include more children. This, of course, brought a large influx of pushy stage moms, “all of whom ought to be locked up”, according to executive producer Gary Larsen.
  • Chrisoula Workman, mother of Ariel Winter, was a bad enough case of this that the state revoked her custody over Ariel and put her under the care of her adult sister, the also actress Shanelle Gray .
  • Terri Shields, the mother of Brooke Shields, use to happily admit to being a stage mom. She also didn’t seem that bothered by Brooke’s nude scenes inPretty Baby, which were done when Brooke was twelve.
  • The documentary Life After Tomorrow chronicles the lives of the women who played orphans in Annie. A full segment was devoted to talking about the stage moms (and one stage dad); though not all were as horrible as the trope described, some were, and usually her daughter would not continue acting because of it.
  • Heartwarmingly averted with Benedict Cumberbatch, as his parents, both of them actors, encouraged him to pursue a career other than acting because of how hard it was for them financially. A turning point came when they saw a performance of his at University and they agreed that he could be better at it than they ever were.


  • Britney Spears‘ mother Lynne pushed her and her sister Jamie Lynn to become stars. You know how this ended. Britney eventually resumed her career and got her life back together, but she remains under her father’s conservatorship.
  • Joe Simpson, father of Jessica and Ashlee.
  • Joe Jackson really, really didn’t want his kids to become criminals on the streets of Gary, Indiana. He probably could have found a better way to do this, however. Many of his children have said in interviews that they felt abused by him with hours upon hours of incessant after-school and weekend rehearsals, including being slapped or spanked when they made mistakes and becoming belligerent when they showed interest in activities and hobbies removed from the family performing business. Part of the reason Michael Jackson turned his home into a private amusement park was that he felt (with a good deal of justification) that he had spent his entire childhood performing and doing adult work that now that he had some breathing room with his solo career that he wanted to take some time to make up for it.
    • For worse, he has hinted that he wants to do something similar with Michael’s kids…
    • A clear example came in the wake of Michael’s death. An interview with him a few days afterwards had him tell a reporter, “We lost one of our biggest stars”, along with him repeatedly pitching a record label project he was involved in.
  • The Beach Boys suffered through years of dreadful stage-fathering. Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, was a mildly successful songwriter/producer who, for their first few years, acted as manager, producer, and publisher to the group. Among other questionable practices and decisions, he allegedly whacked Brian Wilson in the head with a 2×4, causing hearing damage. Celebrities At Their Worst, a collection of, well, you know, features a 10-minute outtake of the elder Wilson guilt-tripping his sons through a recording session for “Help Me, Rhonda”.
  • Luis Gallego Sánchez aka Luisito Rey, father and manager to Mexican singer Luis Miguel. Luisito Rey was a rather populat singer whose career was starting to decline when his oldest son was born, and once he saw that “Luismi” was a Child Prodigy in singing he became this to him, controlling all of his son’s early career and allegedly being physically and mentally abusive to him. It was so bad that, in the late 80’s, once Luis Miguel reached legal age he told his dad off and fired him; Luisito Rey became so depressed that he died in 1992.
  • The Shaggs, a band comprised of three sisters, came into existence due to a prophecy their father believed that they would form a popular music group. As soon as they were old enough, he pulled them out of school and bought them instruments and lessons, and forced them into gigs and the studio from 1968 until his death in 1975. Despite his efforts, the band would go down in history as legendarily So Bad, It’s Good.
  • Taylor Momsen has accused her parents of being this. This may explain her transformation from a teen soap star to a raunchy, scantily-clad rock frontwoman before she turned 18.
  • Pop girl group Destinee & Paris’ mother is like this. The main reason they became Destinee & Paris was that their mother suffocated the previous members of their rock band (Ariel and then Sarah, who lasted less than half a year as the Clique Girlz) and they were forced into it after all the bad publicity. (Ariel went on to name her next band NMD — No More Drama — as a Take That.) When the two were featured on the E! reality show The Dance Scene, their mother continuously told everyone around them they weren’t ready to perform on the night of the performance despite Laurieann Gibson (choreographer for Lady Gaga) saying they were great. Laurieann dropped them as clients not long after.
  • Quite common in Classical Music:
    • Older Than Radio: A number of well-known classical composers – especially of the “child prodigy” variety – were pushed into playing and composing music from an early age due to their parents’ wishes. For example, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, Maria Anna, toured Europe as little kids playing piano and violin, under the tutelage of their father Leopold, a well-known composer in his own right. Of course, there are also darker examples, like Ludwig van Beethoven‘s father, who was so obsessed with his son becoming the next Mozart that he beat him if he didn’t practice enough. But overall, the “child prodigy” notion has become so ubiquitous in classical music circles that fans are often surprised to find out that some of the greatest composers – such as Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms – didn’t start writing music until middle age, and even the so-called “child prodigies”, including both Mozart and Beethoven, didn’t really hit their stride until at least their late teens.
    • It’s fairly common in some musical families to start kids on piano or a stringed instrument at a preschool age, although there usually aren’t any expectations of fame and fortune until the kid is in their teens or older. It’s ubiquitous enough that if you play one of those instruments, it’s harder (but not impossible) to get ahead in your career if you didn’t start at a young age, and most music schools are full of pianists and violinists who’ve been playing almost their entire lives. That’s not usually the case with wind players or classical singers, though, as starting young on those often poses physical risks that will hurt your chances for an adult career. And the best examples of this are the poor kids whose parents and teachers pushed them in it anyway.
  • One of the rare positive examples: George M. Cohen, one of the biggest names in vaudeville, was brought into the act as a child by his father (who’d also brought his wife and daughter into his act). He eventually took over the family’s show. George once stated that his entire life, he would see his father in the audience whenever he performed, encouraging him.
  • Nick and Aaron Carter’s parents, whose behavior wound up having disastrous consequences for Aaron later in his life. At the height of Aaron’s career, they blew through his earnings, leaving him saddled with tremendous debt before he turned 18; he cut all business ties to them when he found out what they were doing. Between that and his drug problems, Aaron eventually had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2013, at the age of 25.


  • Anthony Hamilton, Lewis Hamilton’s dad and ex-manager. Lewis admits they’re not in speaking terms ever since his dad stopped managing his stuff.
  • Both of NHL hockey player Eric Lindros’ parents were like this. Widely expected to be the next great superstar in the early 1990s, both his father (also his agent) and his mother were very vocal as to what they saw as acceptable for their son, including having him hold out from playing for the Quebec Nordiques who had drafted him first overall (the city being too small, French and provincial to properly market their son). This got Lindros’ career off on the wrong foot and made him an early pariah with a Jerk Ass reputation. After the Philadelphia Flyers acquired his rights, the Lindros parents continued to attempt to stage-manage his career to the great annoyance of the organization. Eric did go on to become a very good player until his career (and that of his little brother) was cut short by injuries.
    • In a Hilarious in Hindsight moment for Quebec, Lindros’ trade to Philadelphia turned them into a playoff contender almost overnight. They went on to win two Stanley Cups as the Colorado Avalanche, the first of which was in their first season in Denver.
  • Tennis seems to love this trope:
    • Australian/Serbian player Jelena Dokic’s father/coach Damir was notorious for his aggressive and abusive courtside behaviour when she began playing in major tournaments; he also moved his family back to Serbia from Australia after accusing Australian tennis officials of match-fixing. She eventually managed to break away from him, sacking him as her coach and moving back to/competing for Australia.
    • Mary Pierce’s father/coach Jim, who admitted to training her when she was a child by repeatedly serving balls with his full strength at her face, notoriously screamed “kill the bitch!” at her from the audience during a match when she was twelve, and was on the receiving end of a restraining order from her in 1993, after which he got stabbed by her bodyguard.
    • Bernard Tomic’s father/coach John was banned from the ATP tour after he assaulted his son’s hitting partner Thomas Drouet and has reportedly been verbally and physically abusive to his own son for a long time with Drouet saying that he once saw him punch Bernard in the mouth during practice.
    • German icon Steffi Graf was introduced to the sport by her father, a car-salesman-turned-tennis-coach who later became her manager and kept a tight grip on her schedule. He eventually landed in jail for tax fraud.
    • Plenty of fans would like to see Andy Murray’s mother/former coach/now heavily involved in the women’s game Judy take a step back.
  • Bill Butterfield was a man whose athletic aspirations were cut short in high school when his girlfriend became pregnant. He then tried to mould both his sons into sports stars in his place, through a strict diet and training regimen, and years of verbal and emotional abuse. His elder son Billy eventually just walked away, leaving his father to focus on younger son Lance, who was eight at the time. Over the years Bill became increasingly controlling, abusive and crazy towards Lance, dictating his life, recording his matches, giving him steroids and eventually beating him daily; Lance eventually snapped and shot him. It’s telling that, at Lance’s murder trial, it was the prosecution that was booed by the crowd, and, while the defence could field dozens of character witnesses for Lance, including a sworn affidavit by his paternal grandfather that Lance shouldn’t be prosecuted, the prosecution could not find a single person who would testify that Bill Butterfield was a good man.
  • Marv Marinovich, father of former NFL player Todd Marinovich. Todd earned the nickname “Robo QB” because he was like a machine — this is because his father engineered him from birth to be the perfect quarterback. In high school and college, there was simply nobody else at his level because his training and diet were so far ahead of the curve. In the NFL, however, he was an infamous bust; Apparently Todd never especially liked football, but didn’t dare express that to his obsessed father.


  • Wanda Holloway, the woman who inspired The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom and Willing to Kill: The Texas Cheerleader Story. She asked her brother in law to hire a hitman, who then was supposed to kill the mother of her kid’s rival in a cheerleading competition.
  • Watch any show about child pageants. All the moms and more than one dad shown there will be like this, more often than not, to sickening degrees. This is the whole point of the show Toddlers And Tiaras.
    • One particularly sickening example is the story of Kerry Campbell, who gave her eight-year-old daughter Botox injections. When she was found out, she not only defended this practice (claiming it was never too early get your child cosmetic surgery to “get rid of the lines”), but also claimed that otherpageant moms practiced this as well. The fact that the story turned out to be fake did nothing to dispel it.
    • One 5-year-old girl named Carley developed an alter-ego called Darla to cope with her mom’s pushing.
    • Joel McHale of The Soup fame usually saves his most vicious snark and insults for these particular parents, including, at one point, essentially saying thatCronos, the Titan who ate his children when they were born, was a better parent than one of the parents he featured!
  • George Sampson, the winner of Britain’s Got Talent in 2008, should have had a very promising career after his victory in the show. Unfortunately, his career was run into the ground in less than a year, in no small part due to his obnoxious and extremely demanding mother, who was largely responsible for Simon Cowell’s company ditching Sampson after they became sick of her. Sampson is making a rebound, however, as he has starred in the 2010 Street Dance.
  • Rose Hovick, mother of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc. She became legendary for this trope following Gypsy’s 1957 autobiography and the subsequent musical adaptation Gypsy as mentioned above.
  • A common nickname for Kris Jenner (mother of Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian, as well as Kendall and Kylie Jenner) is PMK — short for “Pimp Mama Kris”, due to the perception that she forced her daughters into Reality TV stardom and modeling careers as a means of living out her own dreams of fortune and celebrity.
  • Claude Drouet, mother of Child Prodigy poetess Marie Noelle “Minou” Drouet. For worse, Claude was accused of being the real author of Minou’s works; while this was ultimately cleared when Minou wrote stuff without her mom being present, the pressure soundly affected the poor little girl.


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