Sunday, September 4, 2011

Toddlers and Tiaras

On the surface, I would appear to lack the qualifications to write about TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras." I've seen very few episodes of the show. I'm almost never alone at home -- either my own home or the Pseudos' home -- and if I turn the program on, someone bigger than I changes the channel or turns the TV off and tells me I cannot afford to fill my mind with such garbage. Once we tried to watch a marathon of "Toddlers and Tiaras" episodes when I was still being treated as an inpatient for PTSD. We had sort of a standoff with the staff, which ended in Chairman Mao announcing to us all over the speaker phone that if he had to leave his home at 10:00 p.m. to take care of the problem, he would cut the cable to every TV in the wing for an entire month. Nevertheless, there seems to be so little variation between one episode and the next of "Toddlers and Tiaras" that after watching one or two episodes, a person knows as much as he or she will ever know about the show.

In general, I dislike reality TV because it isn't real and it messes up the lives of those who agree to be filmed. One could argue that those appearing entered into a contract to be filmed with what should have been full disclosure if they had even half of a functioning brain. The uncontrolled variable is probably the assumption that the person who entered into the contract was in possession of half of a functioning brain. I've never seen one parent on "Toddlers and Tiaras" who appeared in possession of sufficient mental capacity to open an Otter Pop without injuring herself or someone else.

One of the things I detest most about the editing is when the program shows Kid A strutting his or (more frequently)her stuff, usually during a talent routine. Then the camera pans to the parent of Kid B. If Kid A is tearing up the stage, doing a first-rate version of his or her talent portion, parent of Kid B invariably has a death scowl on his or her (usually her) face. If Kid A is standing motionless on the stage, sucking her thumb while her mother is facing the stage, going through a highly animated version of all the motions of the asinine routine as Kid A should be doing it, the camera pans to mother of Kid b with a hueg shit-eating grin. These mothers are blood-thirsty.

In not all cases, but in most cases I've seen, the mothers are decidedly in the sub-average department in terms of appearance. People age differently, but in most cases, it's hard to imagine that the mothers were ever beauty pagenat material at any stage of their development. Then the mothers went on to produce children, usually daughters, who ranged somewhere from bona fide cute to not-too-far-below-average, at which point a lightbulb must have illuminated the mothers' minds: here was a second chance at beauty pageant stardom!

Between the costs of dresses and other costumes, entry fees, costs of tutoring in talent and the "pageant wave," hairstylists' fees, traveling costs, and other incidental expenses, the families of the children featured in "Toddlers and Tiaras" typically spend tens of thousands of dollars annually on their hobby/obsession. An occasional middle class family is featured, but more often, the family appears to be roughly one spray tan fee away from their electricity being cut off. My parents both had jobs, but if I had suggested entering just one of those pageants as a child, the answer most likely would have been a non-negotiable no. If, however, I'd found my parents in a particularly weak moment and managed to negotiate, I would've had to give up Christmas and birthday gifts, allowance for a year, a substantial portion of my share of the inheritance, and would've had to collect cans by the highway every weekend for at least six months. These families take the costs in their strides, as though every parent goes without deodorant, toothpaste, or health insurance so that her daughter can appear as a painted-up hussy on a twelve-inch stage at the age of four or five.

I suspect that if I watched more than three episodes of "Toddlers and Tiaras," I would quickly become practically comatose with the whole concept. To make it more interesting to the viewing public, I propose a few changes. First and foremost, the judges need to be people who are just as disgusted by the whole scene as we all are and who would therefore be thoroughly snarky. I would propose as judges Judith Scheindlin (the strident and apparently clairvoyant Judge Judy of TV syndication fame), Dr. Drew Pinsky (who would analyze things to death), the professionally angry talking head Nancy Grace (I cannot recall where I first read the "professionally angry" description of her, but if fits well), Hugh Hefner (who obviously likes women young),Hugh Laurie of TV's "House," with the assumption that he would bring with him some of his TV character's trademark snark, and Chelsea Handler to add class and refinement to the festivities (if you understand that the festivities are so unrefined and lacking in class that Chelsea Handler's inclusion would actually add class and refinement rather than subtract them, you're getting a true picture of what goes on at these pageants). Additionally, Kate Gosselin should be required to bring at least one of her children to compete each week. Ms. Gosselin is enough of a fame whore that only the tawdry glitz of the setting should bother her; she otherwise glams onto any opportunity to shove her face in front of a camera.

One addition to the cast of my proposed "New and Improved Toddlers and Tiaras" is Alex Ferrer. He should be the Master of Ceremonies. The under-three crowd would take one look at his hulking frame, even minus the black robe, and go screaming off the stage, therefore allowing each episode to finish in its allotted time. He wasn't chosen to be on the upcoming season's "Dancing with the Stars," so he presumably needs a replacement gig.

If my proposed changes are made, we can laugh with the producers of this debacle, rather than at them, as we presently do.


  1. I watch the show in the hospital and occasionally at home when there are no Doctor Who's on the DVR left. I don't know how any parent would feel comfortable letting their daughter (or, son!) participate in something that can be so degrading. If I have a daughter, I don't want to raise her with the idea that dressing a certain way, wearing lots of make-up and skimpy clothes is what beauty is. I don't want my “future fictitious” child to feel that beauty is everything because it's not.

    I saw on the news the other day that there was a child that did a routine on the show as Dolly Parton, complete with fake boobs. On a 4 year old. Way to sexualize your daughter. And then of course, I think of Jon Benet, and all the creepy perverts watching these little girls on TV.

    Obviously I come across as judgmental... but I digress. I'll go to confession later.

  2. PS: Have you ever watched "Extreme Kid's Parties"? I think the kids there are just as bratty as the "Toddlers in Tiaras" and maybe even a little worse. There was a woman who spent $30,000 on a Pre-School graduation party. Gah! And that kid was such a brat. It was "medieval" themed. There was a magician and a giant maze and a dragon cake that blew fire. But the kid had a fit because it didn't blow smoke too.

  3. Becca,
    I'll have to look up "Extreme Kids' Parties." That one will be about as foreign to my own
    experience as "Toddlers and Tiaras."

  4. I feel very bad for those children. Even if they are doing it by choice as opposed to being pushed into it by their parents, I just don't see how any of that is helping develop mentally stable kids. Have you ever seen Little Miss Sunshine? I enjoyed that movie, and it has an interesting view on the subject.

    In my own defense, otter pops are really hard to open if you don't have scissors handy. :))

  5. Amelia, SCISSORS are the point. From Homo habilis until the present, we've known about the marvelous inventions known as tools.

    i found "Little miss Sunshine" one of the most hysterical movies I've ever seen. I think i loved her talent potion the best. it did have its underlying social commentary.

    i can't see how a sane person would enter his or her child in a kiddy beauty pageant. There are so many reasons not to go near such nonsense, from the idea that it does absolutely nothing to help a child to the idea that it probably warps their priorities to the possibility that it ould potentially expose a child to actual danger in the form of child predators. It's really not a laughing matter, but the parents are funny in a sad sort of way.

  6. I misread that as "Otter pup" and then I realised it was "Otter Pop" something I had not previously heard of.

    I had also not heard of Toddlers and Tiaras. Thank God.

    There should be a reality show in which reality show producers and commissioners are dumped on an uninhabitable, frozen island off the coast of Norway and left to fight it out amongst themselves.

  7. Matt, that is a helluva great reality show idea.

  8. My favorite part was when the whole family got up there to dance. Such support and love. Beautiful.