You know, the kind that I’m sure is popular with all the pedophiles. Because, gee, where else can you see a four-year old tot in a bikini getting a spray tan?
I’m talking Toddlers & Tiaras, a show brought to us by The Learning Channel, that bastion of “serious” programming, that takes any latent Jon Benet fixation from which you may be suffering to the next level. In the privacy of your own home you can tsk-tsk as pushy and deeply disturbed mothers paste on false eyelashes, wax and pluck to the accompaniment of screams from the hapless toddlers, and just generally browbeat their children into endless rehearsals and grooming – all while deeply embedding within the little innocents the idea that beauty is everything.
And, yep, I find it fascinating. And, nope, I’m not proud of it.
Each show follows the progress of two or three contestants in the days before and during a weekend child beauty pageant – the kind that seem to be w-a-a-a-a-y more prevalent than I had any idea. We watch as the girls (and, in one case, little boys) prepare for the pageants and through the big day itself. TLC seems to do a good job of picking the right little girls to follow because, as often or not, one of them turns up as the winner.
In the meantime you’ve got $2,000 pageant dresses and posing that is so sexualized I don’t know for one moment how those moms wouldn’t see it. The show has also taught me the difference between a “glitz” pageant and a “natural” pageant. (Gee, I wonder how I got this far without this piece of basic knowledge?) In the former, kids are expected to pouf their hair, spray tan their skin, pile on the false eyelashes, and preen in their $2,000 dresses for the honor of becoming the Grand Supreme (this seems to be the Title of All Titles) winner of the pageants that all seem to be called something like Little Miss Adorable.
The way I see it, the kids are all about pleasing their mothers and winning crowns. A few of the older ones seem to have the pageant competition gene from pageant veteran moms, but, generally, I think these kids are just Victims. And definitely with a cap V.
My favorite squicky episode is the one in which moms competed (yes, actually competed) with their daughters for the title. I have no words. Seriously. No words.
Well, okay, not really – I do have a few. The naked competitiveness that some of the moms exhibited proved what we all know is the real truth behind this whole thing: Pageant Moms are living out their own fantasies through hapless innocents. The kids? Kids like crowns. Kids like pleasing their moms. Kids aren’t capable of making an informed choice.
So why did I call Toddlers & Tiaras a guilty pleasure? As you can see, I’m guilty. And, yep, it is fiercely addictive. Totally squicky, but there you go.