Mother of a "Teen Mom"

Can MTV handle having alleged abuse tossed into its domestic drama?

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published January 20, 2010 1:01PM (EST)

News broke this week that 18-year-old Farrah Abraham, star of the reality TV show "Teen Mom," was allegedly hit and choked Saturday by her own mother, but it's hard to imagine it came as much of a surprise to regular viewers like myself. After all, we watched her mom, Debra Danielson, take a hand to her during Farrah's MTV premiere in "16 and Pregnant." 

Police reports obtained by local newspaper the Daily Nonpareil allege that the pair were arguing in their Council Bluffs, Iowa home over "childcare issues and other 'problems'" when Danielson threw an "MTV shirt" at her daughter, but it reportedly fell near Abraham's daughter, Sophia, and caused the baby to start crying. According to the paper, this led Abraham to start screaming at her mom and Danielson allegedly responded by choking her. When Abraham pushed her mother's hand away, Danielson allegedly hit the teen in the face, leaving cuts on her lips.

Danielson was arrested on domestic abuse charges and is expected to enter a plea on Wednesday. We'll leave the verdict to a judge, but it's worth taking a look back at what we do know about the mother-daughter pair, at least as they were portrayed on MTV. Their volatile relationship was worrisome even before things got physical on-camera; the two engaged in countless yelling matches over the boy-crazy teenager's priorities -- namely dating, as the devoutly religious Danielson saw it. And, toward the end of Farrah's turn on "16 and Pregnant," Danielson was caught on camera smacking her daughter while driving. 

In a "Life After Labor" special, Dr. Drew called it "the smack heard around the world" and, bless him, he asked Danielson whether it was OK to hit your kids, whether she would want Farrah to hit her daughter Sophia like that. She dubiously defended herself by saying: "I don't even know that I actually hit her. I was driving down the road kinda fast and I hit something." As Farrah laughed -- anxiously, it seemed -- her mom continued: "I think that it's, as a parent who loves their child, you have to tell them when enough is enough." Of course, the issue wasn't that she told her "enough was enough," it was that she hit her. 

In another MTV clip, she explained her explosion as the type of "private moment" that "every family has." She added that the show's editors had scrapped footage of things Farrah "had been saying and doing" before she lost her cool -- but, unless they left a clip on the cutting room floor of Farrah attacking her mother, it doesn't matter. Unsurprisingly, Danielson didn't express any remorse or embarrassment, in fact, she said that most "other parents understood."

Farrah's stressful and seemingly toxic home environment is hardly unusual among her fellow "Teen Mom" stars. In a truly sad and disturbing clip, Amber, an anxiety-ridden teen mom, pushes, chokes and slaps her on-again, off-again fiance -- in front of their daughter Leah. Even in households where things don't devolve into such heartbreaking violence, domestic tension drives the show forward. There are lovers quarrels (Maci and her fiance are in constant conflict over parenting responsibilities) and parent-child feuds (Tyler's father disagrees with his teenage son's decision to opt for adoption and the two refuse to talk to each other for some time). 

This isn't the type of drama that arises from tossing seven randy strangers into a house stocked with free booze. The pain, the violence, the domestic abuse charge against Farrah's mother -- this is the stuff of the real real world, and I wonder whether MTV can handle it.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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