Everything you ever wanted to know about attending 12 hours of a child beauty pageant
November 16, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

"If you have never been stared down by eight expectant, spray-tanned children in liquid eyeliner and ornate hairpieces, you have not seen what I have seen."

Rich Juzwiak judges a beauty pageant.

The Daily has video and photos to accompany the shorter version that went to print.
posted by saturnine (52 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is the documentary he mentions, Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen
posted by Blasdelb at 11:34 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by DU at 11:34 AM on November 16, 2011


from article: “On one child with a particularly sly flair, I wrote objectively on her sheet, ‘A fantastic winker.’ In my notes I wrote, ‘Eye contact is nauseating.’”

I'm pretty sure there's a word for the apparent legions of writers who seem happy to endure the most abject suffering in order to write something that will get published.
posted by koeselitz at 11:35 AM on November 16, 2011


it's called "wanting to sell a story."
posted by The Whelk at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was gonna make a Blade Runner or Farscape riff on the last part of the quote, but just skimming through the article makes me want to puke. Ugh. Beyond gross.
posted by kmz at 11:36 AM on November 16, 2011


The other thing it's called is "enabling". How many of the people watching these shows are doing it just for the train wrecks? Creating the very behavior they despite. Ugh.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on November 16, 2011


I guess this proves you can tell a horror story without mentioning bloodshed.
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:45 AM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't know what it is about shows like these, but they hit me physically. Not exaggerating, more than a couple minutes, i start to feel physically ill. Sort of like a Clockwork Orange type thing. I can watch The Soup mock it, but the actual show, nope. Probably a thing left deep down from my childhood, lots of issues there, but it's weird. I can watch pretty much any horror movie, but not these things.
posted by usagizero at 11:47 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came to appreciate the oddball entertainment value of child pageantry via Shari Cookson's documentary Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen. It was captivating, heartbreaking and hilarious (often simultaneously). Living Dolls is breathing camp, over-the-top and real enough to inspire a subgenre of reality TV years later focused on pushy parents and the children who endure them. Along with Painted Babies, it paved the way for TLC's endlessly shocking and trending Toddlers & Tiaras.
It's interesting how a documentary that, it sounds like, was kind of meant to horrify the way children are treated for entertainment value resulted in an industry of entertaining people by doing child beauty pageants 'ironically'. I'm sure a lot of parents involved in this understand that it freaks people out or whatever.

Certainly that mother who brought her kid on that show with Sharon Osborn and everyone around her looked horrified while she smiled and lead her kid on knew how the observers were reacting.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2011


Lord knows my mom and dad made a lot of mistakes raising me, but I'm grateful that they weren't horrible, horrible douchebags like the parents that do this kind of shit to their kids.
posted by Ratio at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stayed at a hotel once that coincidentally hosted one of these pageants while I was there.

I did a full-on WTF Twilight Zone double-take when one of the girls walked by me in the lobby. It was like a tiny mannequin was walking around, only no one was reacting except me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it just me, or does Tiny Lady Gaga's dad look exactly like Ricky Gervais?
posted by rdc at 11:56 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Megan started her routine as Chaka Khan and then threw off her afro wig in the middle to dance to Bey's "Diva" – I read this as a Myra Breckinridge-esque critique on the ever-renewing pantheon of female soul singers

Dead from laughing. This was a fun (albeit totally disturbing) read.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:58 AM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


The article is hilarious, and I don't know why you would skim it or not read it...it really is worthwhile.

I agree with the writer; beauty pageants are at least honest about our looks- and sex- obsessed culture. They didn't create it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:59 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


"If you have never been stared down by eight expectant, spray-tanned children in liquid eyeliner and ornate hairpieces, you have not seen what I have seen."
I genuinely thought that this article was going to be about Jersey Shore.
posted by Flunkie at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


That was a really well-written article. Some of the magazine articles that get posted on the blue come off waaaaay too hip. This author struck just the right tone for a topic that would seduce almost any writer to overdo it. I especially like the way he doesn't feel a need to present any special insight, or read too much into it about "society."
posted by Edgewise at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's disconcerting to see little girls with unnaturally adult mannerisms, makeup and body language. I don't want to be the one whose head is in the gutter but I really don't see how objectifying little girls in skimpy outfits and makeup meant to simulate sexual arousal (eyeliner, lipstick) is just an 'innocent sport'.

Also, this is coming from someone who participated in pageants until I was about four, when things began to get really weird in that age group (just as I described above) and my mother pulled me out of them.
posted by Malice at 12:16 PM on November 16, 2011


Everything you ever wanted to know about...scoring children

Intentional?
posted by yoink at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2011


Malice, have you ever asked your mother why she put you in them in the first place? I'd be genuinely interested in hearing her reasoning.
posted by auto-correct at 12:41 PM on November 16, 2011


Sometimes these children were accompanied by their parents because they were timid, confused or not yet able to walk.

That is also a perfect description of my developmental stages at a party as the night wears on.
posted by perhapses at 12:41 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I really don't see how objectifying little girls in skimpy outfits and makeup meant to simulate sexual arousal (eyeliner, lipstick) is just an 'innocent sport'.

Pageants are certainly taking it to the extreme, but my observation is that little kids love to try on make-up like adults, and try to wear adult clothes, and pretend to be little adults, including preening the way they see adults preen.
That we find it disconcerting to see the sexual signals that we intend adult clothes to send, when kids are playing at being grown-ups... I don't know that it's really a problem with the play or makes it less innocent. It's just an uncomfortable juxtaposition for us adults, especially when having grown up in a society where paedophiles are the ultimate bogeyman.

I'd be more worried about whether the pageants encouraged families to lay on intense pressure to win at such an early age and with such fickle judging.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know...Every time I see one of these stories pop-up, with all of these glamorized, adult-ified and semi-sexualized children, I can't help but fear that, knowing human beings' remarkable ability for reaching to the lowest levels of behavior, there must be a very, very dark and so-secret-and-underground-you-can-feel-the-heat-of-the-earth's-core underbelly orbiting close to this business. Maybe it's the sheer creepiness of the imagery that sends me that way?

I know that's ugly concept in the extreme, and I apologize, but...
posted by Thorzdad at 12:54 PM on November 16, 2011


I liked picking my nose when I was a little kid but I wouldn't want to be put on stage in front of an audience doing that.
posted by kmz at 12:54 PM on November 16, 2011


Inappropriate sexual objectification aside (if that's even possible) I have a deep, gnawing fear that this teaches the already horrible idea of "you are how you look and who you are doesn't matter" to these kids at an age where it results in a sort of scorched earth, take-no-prisoners world view and lack of inner self worth/value.

I really, really hope I'm wrong about that.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:16 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sorry for this, but I'm reminded of some pedo guy in the news this week who said something like, "Hey, she was 4 going on 40!"

Ick.
posted by snsranch at 1:37 PM on November 16, 2011


My wife, who has worked in lifestyle television and has a far stronger appreciation for train wreck television than I do, will occasionally watch these shows. I can't stand them; like usagizero said, they make me almost physically ill.

I quite enjoyed the article, though.
posted by sfred at 1:38 PM on November 16, 2011


"Sparkle, baby! Sparkle!"

I didn't think they were real! (NSFW)
posted by Awakened at 1:42 PM on November 16, 2011


Rich is a great pop culture writer. I've been reading his blog (fourfour) for years. My understanding is that he initially got noticed for his hilarious America's Next Top Model recaps, and then got a job covering VH1's reality shows for its website, and his career has grown from there.

He also has one of the greatest cats on the internet, Winston.
posted by Mavri at 1:59 PM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Obligatory Tom Hanks T&T link.
posted by bquarters at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


And wow, Winston the cat! He's awesome.
posted by bquarters at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2011


I LOVE Rich Juzwiak and am glad to see his stuff on MeFi. His ANTM recaps were the only reason I watched the show.
posted by subbes at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


What do these people do if they have sons? Abort them?
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:27 PM on November 16, 2011


Oh, Roger, they have categories for boys, too. If anything I think the boys are even sadder to watch.
posted by SuzySmith at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2011


Sons can compete too.
posted by drezdn at 2:41 PM on November 16, 2011


What do these people do if they have sons?

This was covered in a highly acclaimed television series.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:42 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was wondering why fourfour wasn't updated much anymore, glad I clicked through to find the collection of links to his current stuff on the Daily. I miss Pot Psychology!
posted by Lorin at 3:12 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just found out that an old acquaintance of mine was just arrested after a tech found child porn on his computer featuring himself. The child involved was described as a prepubescent girl. I am really sick about it. This is someone for whom I had a lot of respect. Having just gotten this news, this post is disturbing to me. I am quite sure there are all kinds of other psych related things involved, but I can't help but feeling the sexualization of little girls has something to do with it.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 3:53 PM on November 16, 2011


Belle, I'm sure a lot of smarter people will come in here to tell you the obvious: even if pageant culture is sick, pedophiles were here before that.
I have a feeling that we are actually a lot less tolerant of pedophiles now than 20 years ago, and that is a very good thing
posted by mumimor at 3:58 PM on November 16, 2011


I have a feeling that we are actually a lot less tolerant of pedophiles now than 20 years ago, and that is a very good thing

Is that a good thing? What is pedophilia? If it is not a sexual orientation, then it must be a mental illness. A mental illness that is often a side-effect of childhood abuse. Pedophile is not a synonym for child molester.

I don't see the good side of hysterically demonizing significant mental illness. This forces people into hiding instead of treatment. Of course, nobody wants to question that because nobody gets brownie points for defending pedophiles.

The US (along with the UK) seems oddly fixated on child sex. Pedophile hysteria has consistently dominated the headlines since the 80's. Complete shit like Toddlers and Tiaras is on prime time TV. Speaking of mental illness, the whole nation has this really weird, disturbing psychosis regarding this subject.
posted by WhitenoisE at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Oh, Roger, they have categories for boys, too. If anything I think the boys are even sadder to watch."

Why? If nothing else, I imagine that parents are less likely to project princess related things onto boys. Is it that feminine boys make you sad for some reason? If that is the case, I'll have you know I am a very pretty fucking princess who looks so damn good in heels that you'd weep at the sight of me. If it isn't I'm sorry that I've misunderstood you

If these events are actually a venue where children identified as male can be who they want to be in a safe environment that would almost justify it all for me.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2011


We know what's next, don't we?
posted by droplet at 7:22 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, the boys compete in tuxedos and stuff.

But I am totally happy with you being a pretty princess. I bet you are the prettiest princess. I am sure you look amazing in heels.

SOMEONE GET THAT MAN A TIARA!
posted by louche mustachio at 7:47 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


God forgive me for defending T&T in the slightest, but there was an episode not long ago that featured a boy who was totally obsessed with pageants. The editors did all but slap a giant flashing "THIS KID IS GAY GAY GAY" chiron at the top of the screen every time he was on camera, but the wonderful and most surprising part of that segment was his mom.

She didn't once apologize for his effeminate traits, his love for dolls and makeup and whatever, she just thought he was perfect exactly the way he was. It was abundantly clear that she would love and support her son no matter if he ended up being gay or trans or straighter than straight, and there was no doubt the kid was clearly flourishing in that environment of unconditional acceptance. Seeing that really made my day.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:08 PM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Huh... I guess that is less exciting, but hey, there is still something more subtly gender subversive there that is kind of cool if its what the kids are down for.

I also think I feel safe in agreeing that I am indeed likely the prettiest princess

*BLUSH* FOR ME?!?! YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE!!
posted by Blasdelb at 8:20 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb: princess of metafilter.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 8:21 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'M HONORED *Queen wave*
posted by Blasdelb at 8:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


*Queen wave*

Did you not RTFA? You're supposed to trace the outside of your face with your index fingers, meet at the mouth, kiss your fingertips, then push those sassy kisses right out to the audience. DUH, blasdelb.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:55 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm almost more bothered by a scoring range of 9.4 TO 10 than any other part of this.

That kind of vanity scoring makes video game review scores seem downright sane!
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:41 PM on November 16, 2011


... (\\*//) ...
~o\^*^*^o/~



\*P*\*******
*\*R*\******
**\*I *\*****
***\*N*\****
****\*C*\***
*****\*E*\**
******\*S*\*
*******\*S*\
posted by louche mustachio at 10:38 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


What do these people do if they have sons?

This was covered in a highly acclaimed television series.


Was I the only one expecting that to be a link to this?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2011


"I'm almost more bothered by a scoring range of 9.4 TO 10 than any other part of this."

This is something else I don't get, and hope someone whose watched the T&T can answer. What is in it for the teenagers much less the 18+ participants? That is old enough to at least suspect that purchasing praise from people making an awful lot of money is not a solid foundation to build an adult sense of self esteem off of, trying to make money would be a suckers game, and could you really put these transparently purchased titles on college much less job applications?
posted by Blasdelb at 2:58 PM on November 17, 2011


Mr. Juzwiak, I'm beginning to doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.
posted by jonp72 at 7:11 PM on November 17, 2011


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