The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children. ~Edward, Duke of Windsor
I just wanted to add an addendum to last weeks post about addictive T.V. shows. Not necessarily addictive because it’s such good television – but because sometimes you just can’t look away.
The World Champion of “I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-this-and-why-isn’t-someone-stopping-this?” shows is one I’ve only caught a couple of times called Toddlers and Tiaras. I can’t believe I left it off of last weeks list because it’s just beyond bizarre.
In case you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a behind the scenes look at kiddie beauty pagents. I wish I could tell you that there is some kind of campy appeal to the show. But really I think it’s just kind of a fascinatingly disturbing sociological snapshot – in short it’s just amazing what people will do for and to their children.
Toddlers And Tiaras shows the families and the kids -- mostly the moms and the daughters, since the fathers rarely play into the whole fiasco other than to put on a bewildered expression and shrug helplessly . The show usually highlights three or four contestants -- usually an "old" one (9-11 years old), then one who's around six or eight, and then an actual toddler. They go to a pageant that costs a pile of money and then they either win or do not win a mix of various titles such as “Prettiest Eyes,” “Most Beautiful Face,” “Most Beautiful Hair,” and some variety of Super Supreme something or other with a “Ginormous” crown.
There are some other common factors:
- They are usually from a small town in the South. My apologies to anyone from the South - I'm not trying to pick on y'all. Maybe it's a cultural thing or maybe they're just focusing on pageants in the South.
- Their mothers are split 50/50 between being incredibly poor, and having to borrow money to pay the thousands of dollars it takes to participate in this “hobby”, or being incredibly rich and doing it more or less out of boredom. The mother's also seem to be split 50/50 between those that seem to pour all of their efforts into their daughter's appearance and absolutely none into their own and mom's that give their little ones a run for their money on layers of lip-liner and some big 'ol hair.
- There usually seems to be is one jaded contestent who has been on the pageant circuit for her entire young life, has a wall full of crowns to prove it, and behaves like Varouka Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Then there always seems to be one girl who is utterly miserable and just wants to go home.
You understand that many of these kids are four years old or under, and some of them clearly have no idea what or why they are doing what they're doing. The mothers often stand in the audience making sexy poses and dancing through their child’s choreography hoping that their little beauty will see and emulate them on stage. If I were actually attending the pageant I’m pretty sure the parental performances would trump the contestant performances every time (they should have a special “best imitation of a toddler by their mother” crown for the moms).
Proponants would probably argue that pageants give their children confidence and the opportunity to earn money for their futures. I’m all for self-confident kids and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I was involved with my kids in the world of ballroom dance so I’ve seen my fair share of stage-mothers not to mention kids wearing make-up and spray tan. But this show is stage-mothers on steroids with an extra 6 pack of Red Bull on top of that. And don’t even get me started on the sexualization of children.
Confidence or not, I'm going to have to agree with Ebay's assessment when he caught a few minutes of the show with me one evening.
"Wow," He said. " This is really creepy."