At first I smiled when Hanks, with heavy sarcasm, proclaimed: "You know, all of this is for Sophie. It's for Sophie. This is about her." But there is not much cause for smiling - what seems like an exaggeration on his part is actually a mild version of some of the things real pageant parents say and do. Below is perhaps the most abominable of them all, June Shannon, talking about her daughter Alana Thompson's "diva beauty queen" routines.
Needless to say, this video is frightening on many levels. Right after the chubby 6-year-old loudly proclaims "a doller makes me holler, honey boo boo", she is seen spinning around on the floor after downing the contents of an unlabeled bottle of what she calls "Go-Go Juice". So, basically, after making herself sound like a worn-out gold digger, she goes on to showcase her love for a substance, which allegedly makes her "laugh-y and play-ey". Alana's Daisy Duke dance routine with steps straight out of a Britney Spears music video is no less alarming. It seems it's all sex, drugs and rock'n'roll for this little girl.
And there are many other examples of similar tendencies, pretty much just as disturbing as "Toddlers & Tiaras". One of them is the modelling portfolio of Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau, a gorgeous 10-year-old girl. There are countless photos of her posing in what I would deem a clearly suggestive manner to be found on the internet - the capture of her lying on a bed in a golden low-cut dress and high heels below is just an example. The second item with a high creep factor is Garry Gross's '75 photograph of 10-year-old Brooke Shields, posing in a bath tub with intense make-up on her face and oil covering her juvenile prepubescent body. You can view the photo here, I refuse to put it up for fear of looking like a pervy middle-aged uncle John.
In my opinion, such photos are much more than bad taste. They are dangerous, because they portray little girls as sexual objects - not only making it more permissible for older men (like the aforementioned creepy uncle John) to view them as such, but also showing impressionable parents that dressing their children in provocative outfits is endearing rather than seriously twisted. Now, I am no psychologist, but it seems obvious why little Thylane is posing in front of the camera and why Alana is sent to all these beauty pageants - their mothers (or fathers?) seem to be projecting their unfulfilled desires onto the little girls. That this is true is clear from June's sheer rhetoric: "the last pageant we did, we got runner-up". No, June... Sorry, but you are not a beauty queen - you're a dinosaur.
Little girls who grew up listening to fairy tales about princesses are, no doubt, delighted to be at the centre of attention in beauty pageants or photoshoots for a day. Or two days. Or a year. And before they know it, they will have spent their precious childhoods trying to live up to the expectations of nameless, faceless judges, striving to appeal to others and gain their approval. Having learnt this, it would not be surprising if they carried on in much the same way - this time, however, it will be society as a whole whom they will perceive as the jury panel. And just think how difficult it is to please six billion people and try to tick all the boxes, which society readily prepared for us. So before an ambitious parent decides to use their children to fulfill their past desires, they should always remember, that their children are not merchandise - unless they teach them to be.