Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Television! Toddlers and Tiaras

Yeah, that's a real child over there.

So, I was working this morning with the TV on, as usual, and I happened upon this show, "Toddlers and Tiaras," on TLC. The show follows child beauty pageant competitors, their moms, and sometimes dads, as they prepare for competition. In the process, they practice little hip shaking dances, get spray tans, makeup and nails, sometimes fake teeth, often big old fake hair, and lots and lots of rather high pressured encouragement. Once I started watching, it was difficult to turn it off.

Sometimes, the kids seem to enjoy it. Sometimes, you can tell that they're trying to make Mama happy. The focus on the worth of physical beauty, plus the fact that many of these five year olds end up looking like cocktail waitresses in Atlantic City, is fairly upsetting. Very often, the moms use words like "disappointed" and "could have done better." That upsets me more than dressing these girls up like kind of skanky adults.
Girls have their whole lives to worry about whether or not they need makeup to go out, whether or not they measure up physically to other girls. Do we really need to start this kind of competition at six months of age? By the time girls are twelve, they're already highly aware of the importance of how they look, if they have the right clothes, the right hair, the right bodies, etc. To see such small children, well aware of the money invested, the time invested in this process, not to mention how much Mama wants us to win, having mini-breakdowns during pageants makes me a little sick to my stomach. Not to mention babies in bikinis dancing like Go Go girls in cages.
Pageants are an American institution, especially in the South. And, yes, some kids are born performers, and they can win scholarships and such. However, there has to be a better way to encourage those stars to be. To take these adorable little people and mutate them cosmetically into something entirely different and fairly tawdry just seems so wrong to me. Will they even remember how to be what they really are inside?
This is coming from a person who does put on mascara and perfume just to go get gas. I don't object to making up and dressing up, or even going over the top for fun. But it's one thing for these children to play Dress Up Pretty Princess in their playroom. It's another thing entirely for their mothers' self-esteem to hang on whether or not they win the biggest crown, and for these children to know that.

Direct quote: "As a mother, you know your child is beautiful. But when someone else says that, it makes you feel REAL good."


  1. Oh I know. Very disturbing. I'm fine with people doing their own thing in their own lives, but when it can possibly damage someone that's where I draw the line. These girls, wow! Talk about emotional damage, if their parents aren't "proud" enough when losing or not getting first place. If it was simply dressing pretty with some gloss and doing talent shows, that'd be fine.

    But the fake tans, fake hair, fake teeth... what kind of example are they setting? Disgusting.

    You took the words out of my mouth.

  2. This is appalling! Those poor girls have no regular childhood and are just basically play dolls for Mom. What happens to their self-esteem when they are no longer as cute and pretty? Are they encouraged in any way to develop an intellect? It's very sad.

  3. I loathe pageants for females of any age. We don't need to parade ourselves around to prove anything. I especially think it's detrimental for young girls because the parents get obsessed with winning and they give their daughters mixed messages about what is important in life. I still watch shows like this because I can't turn away, but I find them very sad and strange.

  4. Wow Laura, that is intense but even the promos for that show are intense. It is absolutely deplorable that these parents do this to these children but there is also a strange curiosity about the whole venture hence not being able to let go of watching it transpire. I say, let kids be kids they have a life time ahead of them to worry about being "Beautiful"

    Great blog post :)

    I think one of the reasons I liked the movie "little Ms. Sunshine" was because it takes a kinda tongue in cheek poke at all this.

    Have a great day, regards, T. :)

  5. If you put aside the emotional damage done to these girls, the self-esteem issues of the mothers and the overall deplorability of judging women on appearances (can you say archaic?) we would still have to deal with the fact that this sort of thing sexualizes CHILDREN!
    How sick is that?!

  6. Gosh, I'm glad I wrote about this. I don't think the moms even realize that they're sexualizing the kids. But some of the dads are very uncomfortable with some of the costumes, and rightly so.
    I can almost see a girl wanting to do this, if her friends were in pageants. It's huge business in the south. My mother never would have gone for it though. The money and time spent are amazing. It seems like so much pressure on these kids.

  7. Ick! You all said everything that I was thinking while reading the post. I don't have cable or satelite, so I'm insulated from seeing such things. I couldn't watch it anyway - poor babies. I just can't imagine doing that to a child.

  8. Okay, with that top picture - photoshop much? This show pisses me off like no other. I yell at the tv if it's on. I want to bitch slap these mothers and shake some sense into them. Freaking idiots! And I'll keep my comments to that, because the rest would use very un-lady-like language. And we all know that I'm a proper lady ;P

  9. the whole culture of pageantry galls me...parading garishly-dressed young woman before an audience meant to visually consume them like mere chattel. The whole thing becomes 20x more disgusting when these women are children. blech.

  10. This should be illegal.