Should We Stop Applauding The "Break Dance Dad"?

The "break dance dad" has received tons of support from people, including Elon Musk.

By Meredith Evans5 min read

Recently, a young woman named Madi Hart made a viral video about her father, Ben Hart, on TikTok. She asked her audience, "What's a piece of trauma that you have that's funny?" 

Madi shared her "trauma," stating that her father abandoned his four kids and ex-wife to pursue a career in breakdancing. He was 60 at the time, so he blew up. She showed clips of him performing on Good Morning America

However, Madi said he didn't pay for her medical bills and that there was no "split custody" or anything. The young woman goes on to display text messages between her and Ben. "Hi Madi, I lost track of the date," one message read. "Happy birthday? I hope you are doing well. Love, Dad." Ben also sent her links to his breakdancing videos.

Shortly after Madi's story went viral, Ben woke up to a barrage of hate messages calling him a "deadbeat dad." So, in a 10-minute video, he explained his side of the story. If you’re unfamiliar with the “feud” between them, I suggest you read the summary below. 

Ben Hart's Response 

Hart took to X (formerly Twitter) to write, "I wake up at 6 a.m. to find that my daughter has posted a TikTok video trashing me. She's a big social media influencer with millions of followers. Here it is . . ." I did check Madi's TikTok – which is now private – and she had 75,000 followers. Now, I'm not saying that's not a lot, but it's definitely not in the millions (unless she has another account I don't know about). 

Ben says that he loved his daughter's video and that they got along "great," and he can see (from her perspective) how she was hurt as a child. "First, I can see that as a 5-year-old, Maddie would see her dad as having abandoned the family," Ben said. "One day, I was living there; the next day, I wasn't. And that will look like abandonment to a child."

He then explains how he was living "just a mile or so down the street" from Madi's home. He added screenshots of him providing $2 million to his ex-wife. So, while Maddie claims that he had abandoned them, Ben insists that he supported the family financially. "I was paying her $18,000 per month in child support and alimony. This was later reduced to $12,000 per month. And, of course, I paid health insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs. I also put $600,000 into the kids' college fund. In all, I paid out about $5 million to my ex-wife to cover costs for her and the kids." 

Still, Madi was a child. There was no way for her to know how much he was paying. Ben also saw his kids "all the time" but admitted that he was "70% at fault" for the divorce. His children are all doing extremely well for themselves due to his financial support.

As for the breakdancing, well, Ben clarifies that he did not abandon his family to pursue his career in dance and that he was in the advertising business, hence why he was able to pay Madi's mother. "Madi's mom and I separated in 2004 and divorced in 2005. I took up breakdancing entirely by accident in 2012, as a way to get in shape at the age of 54. I then just kept doing it. I'm now age 66."

He ends the video addressing his daughter: "I love you, Madi. You are very creative and talented."

Part Two

Madi Speaks out

After Madi saw her dad’s response video, she doubled down on TikTok, claiming that her dad was a "completely absent father" and that they never visited him at his house, even when he was close. She says that she was trying to make her dad seem like a "whimsical, funny guy," but the situation in "real life" was "a lot darker." Madi says the response video was "hurtful and weird" and that they don't have a relationship, so it doesn't really have a "huge effect" on her. 

"If this is actually his narrative, it's, like, delusional," she says. 

Ben Defends Himself Again

In Ben's second response video on X, he suggests Madi is only repeating what her mom has been telling her for the last 19 years. He shows a compilation of him hanging with his kids when they were young, specifically Madi. He was present at her middle school and college graduation. The reason why Ben made a response video is because everyone he knew had seen it, including his clients, potentially hurting him professionally. His post was an attempt to "correct" her inaccurate claims. 

Here's a bulleted summary of the rest of his video for those interested:

  • Madi's mom purportedly freaked out and sent him text messages asking him to take the video down.

  • They divorced in 2005, and it was a bad one (they apparently weren’t compatible).

  • Madi's mom got remarried in 2012, and they moved an hour away to Wilmette, Illinois, but he would make the drive to see them.

  • It's true that the girls didn't visit him when he was close by because he got remarried (he got married in 2006 to Wanda).

  • He didn't force his kids to hang out with him, especially since "generally, teenage girls don't like to hang out with their parents," and he saw his son the most.

  • His son Peter would come to hang out.

  • In 2015, Wanda and Ben moved to Florida. At the time, two of his kids were in college, while the other two were in high school.

  • Wanda and Ben would travel between Illinois and Florida.

  • Maddi graduated in 2021 and moved to LA. She asked Ben for $5,000 to get her "set up" in the city, which he agreed to.

  • Madi's mom and Ben split the costs of a used car (which totaled around $7,500.

  • Around that time, Madi had just gone through a breakup and needed to go to grief counseling and therapy, which she and her mom wanted Ben to cover.

"That's where I drew the line," Ben said. "I consider medical care to be when you're sick, or have a broken leg or need stitches, got into a car accident, stuff like that. Not grief counseling over a breakup with a boyfriend." Ben was concerned about therapists influencing Madi to put the blame on him. 

Okay, back to the bulleted list:

  • Madi lost her job after the strike, and Ben paid her $250 a week for 10 weeks until she started working at Netflix.

  • But Hollywood jobs pay hardly anything.

  • Ben shows messages between him and Madi from last Christmas. She asks for $300, which he agrees to send her – this is to show how they still communicate. He shows more "receipts."

  • In the end, he blames his ex-wife for "brainwashing" his kids against him and talks about the leftist woke insanity. 

"I love Madi to pieces," he concludes. "I love all my kids. And that's really all I have to say. What I prefer to be talking about is Bitcoin and why Bitcoin is really the only hope for freedom survival.”

Chaos Ensues 

The internet is split over this, but I would say Ben is getting most of the support. He came with “facts and logic,” as some would claim, while Madi was all emotions and "lies."

“I honestly hope their relationship gets mended, but this happening publicly will foster a much-needed societal discussion about divorce, male-treatment, and woke society,” Candace Owens tweeted.

On one hand, people feel like Ben providing for his family financially is not the same thing as being a father. Allie Beth Stuckey, conservative commentator and author, tweeted, "Really? We’re cheering this guy on? He left his wife and young children and is now making a video mocking his daughter, who was abandoned by him when she was 5. He expresses no regret over that. He’s a narcissist. Gross."

No One Wins

The younger crowd and most women want to support Madi – how could they not? She witnessed her father leave suddenly one day, as she stated. It makes sense why she would call this entire situation her “trauma.” Her father, whom she loved deeply, left, and with that came a strong sense of betrayal that takes years to heal. Sometimes, people never recover from that. 

I'm not picking a side because both stories aren’t wrong. As Ben said, Madi’s perspective is hers. Ben's perspective is also his. This was a complicated situation that didn’t need to be broadcast to the world. It would have been better if Madi had approached her dad – but then again, in her eyes, their relationship seemed to be held together by the makeshift bond of financial commitments. Sure, Ben’s monetary aid kept a roof over their heads and food on the table, their college degrees even, but it couldn't fill the void left by her father's departure. It was a Band-Aid on a wound that never seemed to heal for Madi. “Logics and facts” are not going to fix that pain. 

So when her dad finally decided to stop helping her, I think it only fueled the rage she had suppressed, and her way of acting out was to make a video about him. Not good. As a result, she received a ton of backlash for being a "liar."

At the same time, it seems that Ben feels he tried his best. He was there for his kids’ graduations, paid for their tuition, and visited them on Christmas. I have to commend him simply because most absentee fathers would never put that amount of effort into parenting. Still, to Madi, it was not good enough. Maybe the occasional visits and family outings on holidays and special events meant nothing to her anymore. She still saw Ben as the father who abandoned her family deep down. I’m not saying that Ben ignored her emotions – there’s a high chance that Madi struggled to open up to him. This is not an easy conversation to have. 

As for her mom “brainwashing” Madi, maybe that’s true. That’s the thing: We don’t know the whole story; we’re hearing two sides, two different universes of experience. Ben owns the fact that the divorce was largely his fault. You can see why, then, his ex-wife would be bitter over the father of her four kids for ending their relationship; like Madi, she probably feels she was abandoned. Ben’s success and his new wife – as his kids stay behind to watch him excel – possibly added another layer of hurt.

To me, Ben was genuine in his efforts to remain connected and fulfill his paternal role. His ownership of his role in the divorce reveals a certain level of self-awareness here. There are not too many men who can admit to such a thing.

But my concern in all of this is the audience's heavy focus on facts and logic to the point that it leaves no room for empathy, no acknowledgment of the complexity behind human emotions, struggles, and relationships. Should Ben have been called a "deadbeat dad" and his reputation damaged? No, but the young woman shouldn't have been name-called or bullied to oblivion when she genuinely thought she was abandoned.

There's one thing that I am sure of when it comes to this drama: Ben and Madi have a fractured relationship, and I fear that this "feud" has only made things worse between them. I wish both of them the best.

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