Here in the offices of the Curmudgeon, we are hopeful but not necessarily emboldened by President Obama’s announcement today that he was withdrawing the troops from Iraq by the end of August, 2010. Commenting on the speech, the BBC said the announcement came sans the usual “chest thumping” we became accustomed to with the Bush crowd. Wow. A President actually fulfilling a campaign promise. I…I…I’m all discombobulated.
My pleasant smile was quickly turned upside down into a frown. Across the news wire came a story about TLC’s new series,
Toddlers and Tiaras, a show about child beauty pageants. These pageants always make an interesting if uncomfortable story, I guess, for who can read or watch such a story without thinking about JonBenet Ramsey and the horror of her murder, not to mention the horror that was, is, these strange, macabre contests featuring children primped and powdered, preening across the stage like some pint-sized hookers.
I personally can’t look at their pictures – with them wearing more make-up than Tammy Faye Baker – without thinking about child molesters. This must look like their wet dream come to life and that makes me…shall we say, uncomfortable with the whole thing. Their schedules are grueling. Their competitive natures ruthless. Their looks are…hot, damn it! What business does a five-year old have trying to look sexy?
The families profiled in Toddlers and Tiaras “insist it is a family-oriented, harmless hobby that instills important qualities like excellence, poise and confidence during such impressionable years.” We’re fascinated, of course. The parents insist they are “all proud of their beauty queens, all unapologetic about their decisions to involve their kids in this subculture” of Prostitutes on Parade.
UK documentary film maker, Jane Treays, made the documentary “Painted Babies” back in 1995. It made her famous and made us sick. It was not a flattering look at this strange world. Recently, she found the two girls, now 19 years old, to see how they have grown up. We expect a couple of horror stories. And, to show the Curmudgeon is nothing if not fair, Treays found quite the opposite. Quoted in London’s Sunday Times, Treays said:
“Back in 1995, I had chosen to film two five-year-old beauties – Asia, from Louisiana, and her arch rival Brooke Breedwell, from Tennessee – and then followed them to the Southern Charm pageant in Atlanta, Georgia, where they battled it out for the $5,000 top prize and the glittering crown of the Supreme Queen. The result was Painted Babies, which not only launched my career but provoked thousands of letters of complaint, most of which expressed the concern that these contests bordered on child abuse.
To my relief, the two shocking little Dolly Partons whom I had filmed all those years ago had both become poised, decent and disciplined young women. Who knows? Perhaps some of that is down to the beauty pageants. They certainly think so.”
So one group of kids marches home and another marches on. Maybe we should decide what’s really important. Hey…wait…it’s time for the swimsuit competition!
For those interested, here’s a clip from the show, Toddlers and Tiara’s:
(To read the article in the London Sunday Times, go here. “ I say, old bean, you’re rather British today, eh chap?“)