Sunday, January 22, 2012

Toddlers and Tiaras: Why That (Bleep) Is (Bleeped) Up

I'll admit it - I sometimes enjoy watching Toddlers and Tiaras. Other times when I watch it, I find myself becoming completely appalled by the tragedy of bad makeup and bad parenting. Whether I enjoy an episode of the TLC show or not, I find myself feeling the same thing when the episode ends: This (bleep) is (bleeped) up.

So, why do I think Toddlers and Tiaras is so messed up? Here are my main reasons:

1. Many of the parents on the show aren't involved with pageants for the sake of their kids. Yes, we've seen some cases where moms participate for the sake of their kids' self esteem or because the kid genuinely wants to participate (like with Queen, who was awesome), but more often than not, we hear things like:

- I was in pageants as a kid so I want my daughter to be in pageants.
- I knew I wanted my daughter to be in pageants even before she was born.
- I wanted a daughter so she could be in pageants, but I had a son, so now he's the one in pageants.
- My daughter's so beautiful that she just has to be in pageants.

Okay, fair enough. If I had a great experience taking piano lessons, I might want the same for my theoretical child. But I wouldn't want my kid to be taking piano lessons before she can even walk or say 'mama', and I think the same should be said for pageants. Just because you loved pageants when you were old enough to remember them doesn't mean your kid will feel the same way. And, just for the record, just because a child is beautiful doesn't mean that she has to be in pageants. Just saying.

2. Babies! There are babies in these pageants! Shouldn't babies be busy learning their ABC's, not dressing up like the dolls in their playpens?

I don't think I really even need to explain this one. Although to be fair, if babies aren't spray tanning or anything crazy, and they have fun onstage, I actually think this can be a good mommy-and-baby experience.

3. Being in a pageant requires a lot of time and work. What about school or a social life? At one point, a mom said that pageant practice is no different than having a kid in gymnastics practice for several hours a day, and we don't criticize that, do we?

Well, yeah, we do. I think life is all about balance and unless your kid is Olympic-bound and loves a sport, he or she shouldn't be forced to participate in it full time.

4. Some kids just aren't pageant material.

This is particularly a problem for me when moms say that they knew they wanted their kids in pageants even before they were born. That's great and all, but not all kids are made to be in pageants. What do I mean by that? Well, most kids are cute, but not all kids are beautiful. Most kids are good at something or another, but not all kids are especially talented at things that can be done at pageants. Little Sally may be great at drawing, but walking across stage with a picture of a cat isn't going to cut it. Neither is having Sally try to sing when she's completely tone deaf.

5. Some kids don't like being in pageants.

I know some parents really want their kids to be in pageants, but if the kid doesn't want to be, why force the issue? Your child may have the potential to be a future sports star, but she may not be given the chance because she's being forced to be spray tanned and wear false eyelashes at the age of five instead.

6. Pageants are expensive. On one episode, a mom told us that her mother said she'd help her pay for the rent for her home or for pageants, and the mom chose pageants.

There should never be a choice between basic necessities and pageant costs. If you've got the funds, sure, pay for pageant dresses and whatever else will make your kid a winner. But if the choice ever comes down to food, shelter, or your kid's future, please, choose the necessity over pageant wear. I think I'd be pretty angry when I turned 18 and found out that there was no money for me to go to college, but don't worry, I can decorate my dorm with the crowns I won when I was seven.

7. The favoritism displayed by parents is appalling. Remember AshLynn and BreAnne Sterling? Or Braxton and Alaska? Scary stuff.

There have been some scary sibling scenarios on Toddlers and Tiaras. My first encounter with this was when mom Jamie Sterling clearly favored the daughter that she claimed looked like her, BreAnne, over BreAnne's twin AshLynn. As we saw on the episode, mom let AshLynn go on stage with a flawed dress while she fawned over BreAnne. However, BreAnne acted like a spoiled brat while AshLynn was sweet and grateful. When AshLynn pulled a higher title in the pageant than BreAnne, Jamie actually told BreAnne that she'd won anyway. Sad. Very sad.

8. Some of the parents that we've seen on Toddlers and Tiaras are delusional. I realize that you think putting your kid on Toddlers and Tiaras is her key to stardom, but for most of you, it's not.

I'm not going to say it never works, because being on the show did pretty well for Eden Wood and MaKenzie Myers, and maybe even for Paisley the Prostitot (the girl who dressed up like the prostitute from Pretty Woman). However, it's not going to work for everyone, and in some cases, it may even count against the kid. Some moms insist that their kids will be stars, and telling us that will make us believe it. Hint: it won't. Plus, ramming it down our throats that your kid is awesome does not make us automatically believe it. (It's like the Teresa Giudice / Gia Giudice syndrome, for those of us who watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey.)

9. Some of the parents on the show are mentally poisoning their kids. Let's take Mia's mom Marina, for example.

Mia, who we saw in the Universal Royalty Pageant, seemed like a happy, fun kid. Her family seemed to be great as well, until her mom flipped the (bleep) out when the judges reportedly kicked Mia offstage early in her beauty routine. (Note - they actually didn't.) She yelled and bugged out in front of her daughter, who ended up getting so upset that the four year old walked right out of the family's hotel room. Mia's mom wasn't even happy when her daughter took home a $500 prize.

Actually, as an add-on to this, some parents are poisoning their kids in a different way - with loads of Red Bull and candy. I understand that it may take a bottle of Mountain Dew or a can of Red Bull to get your kid to perform, but come on, do you genuinely believe that sugar-fueled energy drinks are healthy for kids?

Oh yeah, and while we're on this subject, parents are allowing and encouraging their kids to dress and dance in a manner way too mature for their ages. That can't be healthy.

10. Some of the names we see on Toddlers and Tiaras are appalling. I'm not convinced that some of the moms on Toddlers and Tiaras realized that their kids have to survive in the real world when they named them.

For example: Makynzi (good name, bad spelling), Torrann (a mix of mom and dad's names), Saliz, Zanna, Claiborne, Chesney, Cassadee (what's wrong with Cassidy?), Trenleigh (which sounds like a Star Trek character to me), Alexes (which is supposed to be Alexis but to me looks like the plural of Alex) and Brystol. Maybe I'm just drinking the haterade, but these kids will grow up one day and need to put these names on resumes and wedding invitations. Can you really imagine President Cassadee? I know I can't.

After reading this, you may think I'm simply anti-beauty pageant, but the truth is, I'm not.

I think beauty pageants can be very healthy for kids in moderation. You know, like when we eat carbs. It's not healthy to avoid them altogether if you like them, but we don't need to eat carbs with every meal. Pageants can help to build a child's self esteem if they participate to gain confidence, make friends and learn to take losing gracefully. Pageants become toxic when a child is forced to participate, when a parent mentally poisons a child through pageants or when a parent convinces a kid that she's going to become a star because she participates in pageants.

The reason that I think Toddlers and Tiaras is (bleeped) up is because the show features some of the extreme moms of the pageant world. After all, no one wants to see a show full of nice, normal moms and their well adjusted children. Yes, you can throw one in per episode for good measure, but no one would watch a show full of happy, non-controversial individuals. The show perpetuates bad behavior and seems to tell participants that if you don't act like a crazy person, you won't get any screen time. I understand that reality TV in general teaches us this lesson, but that doesn't mean that it's appropriate.


Sarah said...

I am glad you now have a better insight on SaLiz (Sarah-Elizabeth).

Anonymous said...

You said it yourself: no one wants to watch normal mothers and their happy, well-adjusted children. It makes for boring television. Reality tv is, I'm sure you know, Is usually anything BUT. Take, for example, the season fInale. The producers had already been to the homes of the 3 families, interviewed them and their children, BEFORE interviewing the director. They asked a lot of very leading questions (since deciding that "dieting" (1600 calories is actually a healthy, normal amount for a child ever rose's age) was going to be the theme of this episode), and then heavily edited her responses. All the discussion of "chubby kids won't win"? She was actually saying that those kids have to work that much harder, and that she would know, because her own daughter is on the heavy side, and loves pageants. Remember little alexes who seemed to throw tantrum after tantrum? Watch it again. It's the same "tantrum" , after nearly 15 hours of filming during which the producers didn't let her eat, played repeatedly. Her "sandy from grease" "American wear"? That was actually her outfit of choice (watch when they buy the stuffed puppy and you will see her in her real American wear!) and they only showed the tail end of her routine, to make it look like she didn't do her routine.

While they make it look like they follow the kids for a week, the filming is usually done in 2 days, during which the children are fed their lines, and very little else. In fact, little Samara, of chookey-moves fame, wasn't filmed until a good month AFTER the pageant!