Earlier tonight, I wrote a post about the show Toddlers and Tiaras. Only it wasn’t really about the show. It was about my opinion of the show. An opinion that was formed without having seen even so much as a single minute of the show. So tonight I thought I’d watch this season’s premiere episode , you know, to see if my harsh opinions were justified.
Before I go on, let me just say that I came off very opinionated in my earlier effort. Maybe even a little disrespectful, given how harsh my tone was. But I’m a big enough person to tell you that I got it all wrong.
I should have been way more harsh.
In my not-harsh-enough, sight unseen assessment of Toddlers and Tiaras, I listed 5 reasons why I thought I’d dislike the show. Let’s review them.
1. JonBenet Ramsey: I thought the show would conjure up images of JonBenet. And it truly did. What I saw was a bunch of little girls who were made up to look older, prettier and dare I even say more sexual than such aged children are supposed to look. It was terribly disheartening.
2. Reality Shows: Overall, I dislike the entire genre. Given that this show is in that genre, and given that the premise is so distasteful, I thought I would really, really dislike it. I was surprised to find that I disliked it even more than I had anticipated.
3. Overbearing, Overprotective and Over-involved Parents: The three parents shown on this episode proved to be just that. You almost couldn’t help but feel sorry for them, especially Juana and Tedi, whose daughters McKenzie and Danielle couldn’t have been any more disrespectful to their moms if they had tried.
4. Emotional Bankruptcy: That’s the state that I anticipated I would find these parents to be in. I thought they would come off as “pathetic entities craving vicarious validation and acceptance like a fiend craves crack. So great is their subconscious demand, they are willing to leverage their four year old to satisfy it. They are unknowingly mis-wiring their kids at a very young age for that very same brand of emotional bankruptcy. I’m not sure which need is greater: therapy for the parents now, or therapy for the kids in about 20 years.”
So is that what I found to be the case? Um, yeah. And then some. Sadly, I’m still not sure about the therapy thing.
5. I Don’t Do Beauty: By and large I’ve always disliked beauty pageants. And this show did nothing but further that feeling.
In essence, the show stands for all that doesn’t matter and highlights sad people setting sad examples for poorly behaved children who mistakenly think that the way they look is all that matters.
Toward the end of the show, a teary-eyed Tedi, whose daughter, Danielle, won her division but lost the overall crown to a 1 year old, looked directly in the camera and said “What did they (the judges) not see that I see?”
I can’t answer her. But I can certainly tell her something that I see that she’s not seeing. She experienced her daughter’s contest on a deeply personal level, one that was entirely unhealthy. It was almost as if she had lost.
But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Because that’s what drives each of these pageant parents to enter their kids in these contests. Not so that their child might know what it feels like to win such an event, not so their child might know what it feels like to be deemed beautiful, but so that they would know those feelings.
I was left wondering how such a show could be so popular. I think one of Babble’s regulars said it best in a comment she left on my previous post: “I think one reason for its popularity is the feeling of smugness that most viewers probably feel,” she wrote. “It’s easy to compare yourself favorably to many of those parents, and tell yourself that whatever your failings, you would never tan a five-year-old or force a scared or overtired toddler to dance on stage.”
I think she’s on to something. But for me, seeing these materially mis-wired people push their children to win trophies that the parents, themselves, covet didn’t leave me with a feeling of superiority.
It left me with a feeling of profound sadness. I’ll never watch the show again.