Toddlers and Tiaras: The Amusement of Paradox

I’ve been watching the reality show Toddlers and Tiaras with what can only be described as a disturbing level of enthusiasm. There’s something about screaming 3 and 4 year olds coupled with psychotic parents that amuses me in a most-likely unhealthy way. My friends are going to intervene soon, demanding that I leave my apartment and stop the marathon watching. Things have gotten so bad they’ve already expressed concern that I will attempt to adopt a baby and move to the Deep South in order to enter her in pageants.

For those who don’t know, the tots are usually entered in “glitz” pageants rather than “natural” ones. Glitz involves the use of “flippers” (false teeth), hairpieces, spray-tanning, acrylic nail tips, fake eyelashes, and bedazzled dresses costing upwards of $900. Engulfed by artificial enhancements, these girls often look more like dolls than human beings.

Phrases like “total package” and “wow-factor” are tossed around by judges in a way that suggests the contenders are 21-year-old supermodels, rather than children who still use pacifiers. And all the while the frenzied parents chase their kids to try and get them on the stage: bribing them with sugar cubes, energy drinks, coffee, and chocolate. They justify their actions by saying the competition builds confidence and fosters a healthy perception about body image and self-esteem. This is said prior to the crowning ceremony where children who place runner-up have meltdowns and crying fits.

Too often, the parents will say “Oh, my daughter loves (insert activity)!” Only to have the camera cut to a child freaking out about that very activity, crying or running away. Epic tantrums are provoked by uncomfortable situations and the loss of nap-time. So if I want to truly analyze my love for this show, I would say the entertainment comes from the blatant paradoxes that exist. The paradox of children being dressed up like adults, the paradox of the reality versus what the parents say is reality.  Oppositions entertain me, and Toddlers and Tiaras are rife with them.

Now if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t a pageant tot. But you can still feel like a pampered princess or prince at Beauty and Youth Spa without sacrificing student savings. You can indulge in their chocolate facial just like little Mackenzie did. Though hopefully, unlike Miss Mackenzie, you’ll keep most of it on your face instead of licking it off.



-Alex Agahigian, NYU-

I have lots of other things to say

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