Why the hell am I watching Toddlers and Tiaras

Well, I do know why I’m watching the abhorrent…abhorrentness that is Toddlers and Tiaras. It’s the same reason many people are strangely fascinated by cold cases and Unsolved Mysteries re-enactments.

The horror.

Toddlers and Tiaras is refreshingly unbiased in its portrayal of pageants and the people who participate. Much like the infamous “You don’t have to take an IQ test to become a United States senator” moment in Bill Maher’s Religulous, all the show’s producers have to do is turn a camera on and allow the people involved to speak. Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor uttered the fateful phrase above, and then sent a horrified glance to the camera as realization sank in.

Many of the children and parents interviewed on Toddlers and Tiaras speak with a shocking amount of candidness, much more than you think they would if they wanted to show that their obsession has any legitimacy. One particularly heinous mother pit her fraternal twin daughters against each other in competition — clearly favoring one over the other —  and used the pageant as a way to prove that her favorite was indeed superior. Nothing the other daughter did was ever right, even the fact that she garnered much higher awards in the filmed pageant simply by being herself and not a spoiled brat.

I continue to watch Toddlers and Tiaras, somewhat obsessively, because I am fascinated by humanity’s bottomless depths. Some pageant contestants are genuinely sweet and simply love getting up on stage and performing. Others are living a tortured existence wrought by unsatisfied and miserable parents looking to live vicariously through their children.

But I’ve also learned that there are actually two types of child pageants: Natural and Glitz. Natural pageants highlight the child’s true appearance and skills. You’re more likely to find kids dancing around playfully and showcasing their true interests here. the prizes are not that great, but the competition ultimately boosts confidence and helps the child’s socialization. I have nothing against them. if you want to buy your daughter a cute dress and let her run around in it on stage, more power to you.

Glitz pageants are where the trouble starts. They are artificial to the core, and require spray-tans, fake teeth, and dresses that cost thousands of dollars. The cost of just participating in a Glitz pageant is astronomical, and far higher than any money that contestants may win. Here children (of both sexes, many boys compete in these as well) are paraded around shellacked from head to toe, miserable under the pressure from their parents. the idea is to make them perfect dolls, not let their natural beauty and personalities shine.

[check this video out…. the uploader disabled embedding, but it perfectly captures the insanity in pageant parenting.]

Still, some children love Glitz pageants, which makes the trend that much more confusing and depressing. Others recognize the potential successes in learning dance routines and pretty walks, and will almost certainly use this skills as they pursue modeling or even acting.

I am not a pageant person. I’ve never had patience for makeup or hairdos, or anything of the sort. I have, however, always had a grim fascination with the people involved. Toddlers and Tiaras depicts the myriad types of people who attend pageants, and shows that they are not always vapid wastes, though many of them are. Occasionally, you also  get to see the bitter rivalry between parents, something their children may be blissfully unaware of.

Well, I hope my obsession with this terrible bit of reality fluff makes more sense now. I am ensnared by the overwhelming despair this show promotes, however subtly.


About Jasmine Maleficent Rea

Jasmine is a writer, journalist, amateur chef, and general nerd. She loves Iron Man, Star Trek, and Dragon Quest to scary degrees and has been known to drink a bit of wine. She's also a semi-recovering game journalist.
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