TLC’s ‘Toddlers in Tiaras,’ a twisted parallel universe
Toddlers in Tiaras may push a future generation of adolescents into therapy.
Published: Monday, November 23, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 23, 2009 18:11
There is social pressure everywhere, especially on women, to look and dress a certain way for a majority of our lives. So why would a parent take one of the few members of society lucky enough to still be blissfully ignorant of these pressures and throw them into the fire at such a young age?
Psychologists would have a field day with TLC's Toddlers in Tiaras. The show follows kids as young as four competing in beauty pageants across America. They wear elaborate bejeweled gowns, more makeup than mimes, sport spray tans and the especially eerie ‘flippers,' which are essentially baby dentures, giving them the appearance of a perfect set of pearly whites and hiding their sparse baby teeth underneath. They take playing dress up to a whole new level and essentially make their children into living dolls.
I am all for kids being involved in activities. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from summer camps, ballet, after-school activities and team sports. I also have nothing against pageants. I know some girls who currently do pageants are in it for the right reasons and have raised more money for charity through their philanthropies than I probably ever will in my lifetime.
That being said, I do not believe the two match up. Children are still in the process of forming an identity, and to me, changing your child that much sends the message that something is wrong with them naturally. You should send the message that you love your child unconditionally, not only when they are having a good hair day.
These pageants also put young children in a very vulnerable position of individual judgment. Losing a little league soccer game is completely different than losing an individually judged pageant. If tomorrow I competed and lost in a pageant, I would take it a little personally, and I'd like to think I have more emotional maturity than a kindergartner. Online, many moms say it the children enjoy the pageants, and it helps them gain confidence and interview skills to use in the future.
Watching the show, though, quotes from kids such as, "I love trophies," and, "I'm going to win because I have a pretty face," show the kids aren't quite wrapping their heads around the bigger picture of gaining social skills. There are often more tears than smiles, and most of the kids are shockingly bratty.
I, of course, am not the only one to be disturbed by this show. Many parenting groups are strongly against it and have even started Facebook groups such as, "Help Ban the TLC show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,'" which has over 5,000 members. The page's description reads: "These girls are scantily clad, painted up like dolls, making them look too mature for their age."
South Park even did a spoof on the show in which all the judges were pedophiles and touched themselves as the girls paraded around the stage. Though extreme, it brings up an interesting question of the morality of these pageants. How can you even judge a toddler's bikini competition? The kids are nowhere near puberty, and it's not like they're hitting the gym before pre-K. There is nothing there that can or should be looked at or judged. TLC defends the show saying they are simply depicting "from an objective and unfiltered perspective" something that 100,000 kids take part in each year.
I'm not totally sure how commercial placement works, but I'm assuming advertisers are aware of when and where their commercials air in order to target a specific audience. On a commercial break from Toddlers In Tiaras, after one advertising a new TLC show King of the Crown in which an overweight mother was telling her crying teen that "only skinny girls win," a commercial came on for Dove's Real Beauty Campaign. I'm a sucker for anything set to sad music, and this one featured a version of "True Colors" with a montage of little girls with text that flashed lines like "hates her freckles," "wishes she was blonde," and "afraid she might be fat."
Looking into it more, I found that Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is a partnership between Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club and Girls Inc. that "creates thought provoking ads and makes confidence building programs to help children overcome beauty stereotypes and raise self-esteem." This commercial kind of snapped me out of my ‘what is the world coming to?' feeling I get whenever I succumb to the urge to watch certain reality TV shows. It restored my faith in humanity.
Whether this is just an ingenious marketing ploy to sell more soap or a heartfelt reaching out to consumers, the commercial was a breath of fresh air. I wish there were less toddlers in tiaras and more toddlers on playgrounds.