I really, really, really hate the child beauty pageants. I mean, I really hate them. A lot. They're an almost-perfect nexus of so many things I loathe about contemporary American culture: stage mothers, the continued defining down of female sexuality, the cynical exploitation of people's dreams for financial gain, blowing huge amounts of money on debased nonsense, the enforcement from one generation to the next of harmful gender roles, and the sheer creepiness of watching a toddler in full face makeup krumping in front of a bunch of grown-ass adults.
In fact, I hate them so much that they lead me to make some intemperate statements that almost certainly aren't true. I should probably apologize for them in advance: I'm sure that all these mothers aren't horribly awful human beings who are warping their daughters' psyche in pursuit of their own faded dreams; I'm sure that some of the girls in the pageant won't grow up to by just as reprehensible; and I'm sure a lot of these families are wonderful people and not at all a gaggle of cretinous vermin who shouldn't be allowed to have charge of a pet lizard, let alone a human child.
And yet, thanks to a rainy afternoon in Seattle when there was a marathon of this suicidal-ideation-inducing show on TLC, here I am, telling you what it's all about. I wish I could tell you it has a sort of campy, goofball appeal, but I can't: for me, its only appeal is a sick sociological one, the same why-isn't-anyone-stopping-this? fascination that comes from watching something like a Purity Ball. I could go on indefinitely -- seriously, I could write a fucking book -- about why I find this sort of thing so traumatically horrid, but that's not what they paid me to do. Instead, I'm here to review an episode so you bastards can't go around saying we ignored the depressingly popular show.
"Le Maison De Paris", tonight's season premiere, is the first episode of the fourth season (!), and, like pretty much every episode of the show, follows a pretty set pattern. Toddlers And Tiaras just shows the families and the kids -- mostly the moms and the daughters, since the fathers rarely play into the whole fiasco other than to put on a beleaguered expression and shrug helplessly -- and eschews any narration, allegedly so as to not sway anyone's opinion but really because, honestly, what can you say? We meet three contestants -- usually an "old" one (9-11 years old), one who's around six or eight, and then an actual toddler, to make the whole thing extra-depressing. They go to a pageant that costs a pile of money and then they either win or do not win a piddly savings bond. Here are some other common factors:
- They are usually from a small town in the South where the local industry has collapsed. 90% of the time, they are white.
- Despite this, they have unconventional names like Makynli, Makayla, Elexis, or Kragen.
- Their mothers are split 50/50 between being incredibly poor, and having to borrow money to pay for this absurd hobby, or being incredibly rich and doing it more or less out of boredom. They are also split 50/50 between being way too thin or way too fat.
- Usually, there is one girl who is way too into the pageant circuit and behaves like a tiny Stepford Wife, and one girl who is utterly miserable and just wants to go home.
- At least once every segment, someone will say something that makes you want to destroy all human life. Also, one of the girls will compare herself to Hannah Montana.
This time out, it's the "Le Maison De Paris" pageant in Louisiana. A French woman is brought in to helpfully pronounce the title when none of the mothers prove capable of doing so. Our contestants are:
- Alex, age 9, who paints on her jeans. Her mother, Tammy, is a morbidly obese woman with bad teeth who complains that her daughter's face looks fat and blames her makeup artist for her eventual loss. She complains a lot about how much money she has to spend on Alex's pageants. We first see her at something called the "Southern Glitz" Pageant, which sounds like strippers should be involved. Thing that happens that makes you want to destroy all human life: Alex says "I'm a trend-setter sometimes."
- Daisy, age 6, who wants to grow up to be Miss America. Her mother and aunt are indistinguishable except for their hair color, and both are former beauty pageant contestants themselves. Her mother, April, owns her own in-home tanning booth, for her daughter, because once "she used to be too white". Thing that happens that makes you want to destroy all human life: Daisy is constantly eating donuts and scarfing down Red Bull "because it gives me energy". She is six years old.
- McKenzie, age 4, who is the brattiest child in the history of creation. Her obese mother, Juana, looks like a cruel genetic combination of Kim Kardashian and Delta Burke. McKenzie is constantly throwing a tantrum, on the verge of throwing a tantrum, or threatening to throw a tantrum unless she gets her pacifier, Ni-Ni. Her mole-man father responds to her tantrums by saying "I just let her do whatever she wants to do." Thing that happens that makes you want to destroy all human life: McKenzie goes to a "Diva Day" at a salon, where she has chocolate smeared on her face and throws a fit when given a sugary virgin margarita.
Later, we meet some of the judges, who take points away if the children aren't making eye contact or coordinating their makeup with their facial features. Many of these children, it may or may not be necessary to point out, are four years old or under, and some of them clearly have no idea where they are or what they are doing. The mothers stand in the audience and make sexy poses they hope their out-of-it children will emulate on stage. Alex wins "best hair", inspiring bitchy comments from her mother; Daisy wins nothing, but doesn't seem to mind since she has disintegrated into a sugar haze; McKenzie wins some random title or another, which thrills her so much that she stops screaming at everyone around her for almost five minutes.
So, there you have it: Toddlers And Tiaras. I gave this a D instead of an F because it lacked a child under 8 who was suicidally depressed or a mother physically abusing her daughter, but you can't have everything. I hope you enjoyed this recap, because you're gonna have to kill me to get me to watch this show again.