Posted on | August 16, 2014 | 32 Comments
Andrea Clevenger with daughter Kylie (left); going to prison (right).
Did you ever watch reality TV and think, “These twisted freaks need to be in jail”? I mean, the entire cast of Jersey Shore, for example, or the parents of Honey Boo-Boo, or the “Real Housewives” or that evil sadist Abby Lee from Dance Moms — so-called “reality” shows offer up a sociopathic smorgasbord of exhibitionist weirdos who get paid to parade their neuroses in front of the cameras for the entertainment of America’s cable-TV audience. If somehow, by the modern miracle of satellite communications, the Lifetime network is accessible in the remote mountain regions of Pakistan where fugitive al-Qaeda terrorists are still hiding out, you can understand some of their Islamic rage: “Who is this hateful Abby Lee woman? Death to the infidels!”
For 16 episodes from July 2012 until its cancellation in October 2013, the TLC series Cheer Perfection featured the training and competitions of youth cheerleading teams from Cheer Time Revolution, based in Sherwood, Arkansas. It was, to some extent, a spin-off of TLC’s creepy pageant show, Toddlers & Tiaras, because some of the families from T&T were also on Cheer Perfection. Hyping the pilot episode, ABC’s Juju Chang reported for Good Morning America:
In Sherwood, Ark., where cheerleaders are like royalty, Alisha Dunlap is the queen bee.
TLC’s new reality-TV show, “Cheer Perfection,” depicts the competitive world of cheerleading, and shows that the cheerleaders’ mothers are just as competitive as their daughters and are unapologetic about living vicariously through them.
The show takes viewers behind the scenes of a sport that is not for the faint of heart. And Dunlap, the co-owner and coach of Cheer Time Revolution in Sherwood, is tough.
“If you fall again, I’m going to replace you,” she tells daughter Cambry, a cheerleader.
Asked whether she could be viewed as being too hard on the cheerleaders, Dunlap said, “These kids know me so well. It doesn’t even bother them. … I think they like to get me excited. They know I care.”
“They know I care.” Yeah, and 15 years from now when that girl is on Prozac and going through an ugly custody battle with her abusive ex-husband, I’m sure you’ll be there for her, right? When the show got picked up for its first eight-episode season in December 2012, New York Daily News critic David Hinckley was brutal:
Watching children get abused to satisfy the performance fantasies of adults got old several reality shows ago.
But it sells, so here’s the latest, an eight-episode look at a cheerleading program for preteen girls.
How is it that cheerleading, an extracurricular activity that began as simple rah-rah squads for school football teams, has metamorphosed into this high-pressure all-or-nothing cutthroat competition? Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor of anything that gets kids off the videogame console and engaged in vigorous exercise, but why indoctrinate girls in this Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest mentality? One could criticize this phenomenon from either a feminist or a traditionalist perspective, politically. More importantly, however, one could criticize it from a psychiatric perspective. Parents who maniacally push their kids into this stuff are clearly crazy, and they’re making their kids crazy, too. Which brings us to the disturbing story of Andrea Clevenger:
Andrea Clevenger, a mom who was on the TLC cheerleading show, “Cheer Perfection,” pleaded guilty [Aug. 7] to having sex with a 13-year-old boy.
She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Clevenger acknowledged in court that she had sex in her home and in a car with the teenage boy, who knew her own daughter. She also admitted sending him sexually explicit photos.
The 34-year-old mom, who is from the Little Rock, Arkansas suburb Sherwood, will have to register as a sex offender . . .
Clevenger received two 10-year prison sentences — one for sexual assault, another for engaging a child in sexually explicit conduct — but will serve them concurrently.
The boy was reportedly a friend of Clevenger’s daughter Kylie, who was one of the cheerleaders featured on “Cheer Perfection,” and I’m sure all the kids in Kylie’s school were entertained when police released to the media her mom’s arrest affidavit:
I, Detective Frank Spence of the Sherwood Police Department, do attest the following statement is true and known to me through investigation.
At approximately 9:22 a.m., on November 27, 2013, I received a referral from the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline regarding a juvenile victim, a 13-year-old white male, having disclosed being raped by Andrea M. Clevenger (white/female/DOB 05/21/1980), at her residence, in Sherwood, Arkansas. . . .
The juvenile victim said he was at the home when Clevenger began making advances toward him. The juvenile victim said Clevenger instructed him to sit on the couch in the common area of her residence and remove his pants, and he complied. The juvenile victim told me after he removed his pants at her direction, she got “on top” of him, put his penis in her vagina and engaged in sexual intercourse with him. The juvenile victim related she also told him to relay when he was close to ejaculation and when he did so, she removed his penis from her vagina and placed it in her mouth, where he ejaculated. He also told me she engaged him in oral sex by putting his penis in her mouth on two separate occasions, both times in mid to late October of 2013, while parked in her vehicle in an area unfamiliar to him. In addition, he said she sent him multiple multimedia messages depicting sexual explicit conduct . . . and sent him pictures, depicting herself without clothing. . . .
While the victim’s mother wrote her statement, I published to the victim the images extracted from his telephone and he identified thirty-two (32) images as those he received from Clevenger. . . . Of those images, eighteen (18) depicted bare breasts, seven (7) depicted breasts in a bra or corset, and six (6) depicted a bare vagina.
Any psychologist would say that this kind of depraved behavior between a 34-year-old mother and her daughter’s 13-year-old friend is symptomatic of an extremely selfish, narcissistic and irresponsible personality. Leaving aside any question of why a grown woman would be sexually attracted to pubescent boys, we must ask why Clevenger would act on that deviant urge, heedless of the potential consequences for the boy, for herself, and especially for her own daughter. Kylie Clevenger is surely now traumatized twice over: First, by the devastating knowledge that her mother is a pervert, and second, by the predictable cruelty of her peers. We shudder to imagine what taunts her schoolmates now hurl at this poor girl because of her mother’s infamous criminal conduct.
As the ABC News report said, however, we’re talking about a mother who was “unapologetic about living vicariously through” her daughter, and any Freudian would have a field day psychoanalyzing the implications of Andrea Clevenger’s heinous perversity.
Maybe TLC should produce a new “reality” series about female sex offenders. Call it Creepy Criminal Cougar Moms.
(Hat-tip: Interested Participant.)
ADDENDUM: If you want to understand the cultural impact of media on young people, please permit me to recommend Neil Postman’s 1994 book, The Disappearance of Childhood.