I love watching lowbrow reality television shows that I can claim are educational in nature. TLC (the cable television channel, not the awesome 90’s band—R.I.P. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) is the king of such television programming. I mean, TLC is after all, an acronym for “The Learning Channel.”
And just look at some of the educational programs TLC brings us:
- Sister Wives, an insider’s view of a polygamist family, without all the pesky glamor of Big Love.
- Kate Plus 8, one woman’s desperate cry for fame after losing her husband to hair plugs and Ed Hardy.
- I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant (or as I like to call it: Scary Bedtime Stories for Your Promiscuous Teen) that, of course, educates viewers on what sex, denial, and bowel movements can trigger together.
But the crown jewel of TLC’s programming is undoubtedly Toddlers and Tiaras.
Toddlers and Tiaras is a reality-based TLC show about the lives of young beauty pageant contestants across the country. Each episode follows little girls (and a couple of little boys who have not yet discovered YouTube’s cruelty) throughout their journey as they prepare for and participate in a life-changing, but typically small town, beauty pageant.
And I love it.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I originally hail from the great State of Texas. I guess my Southern roots can’t help but embrace Toddlers and Tiaras. It’s engrained in me the same way country music always makes me crave a State Fair Corny Dog, or miss going on a sweaty-palmed Ferris Wheel ride with a middle school crush. I understand why a sparkly dress and big hair can be so important. I even had some friends that did pageants as a kid. Sure, I think the fake teeth and spray tans are a bit strange on a 3-year-old, but hey, I created a living worm farm when I was that age. What’s actually weirder, fake teeth or real worms? I’m gonna have to go with the worms here—and I never even got a plastic crown for my troubles.
So I obviously was not at all prepared for the negative reaction my boyfriend Matt had when viewing Toddlers and Tiaras with me for the first time. While I was laughing at some crazy pageant mom’s very existence, Matt kept shifting uncomfortably on the couch next to me. When I finally caught sight of his face, Matt was looking at the TV in disgust, as if he was watching someone make a hat out of a live baboon’s scrotum.
After much deep thought pondering Matt’s initial reaction, I’ve decided his discomfort (and the discomfort felt by all other, non-creepy, adult males) can best be categorized as the “Chris Hansen Effect.”
The show’s pageant contestants aka little girls are primped and painted until they more closely resemble an 18-year-old, rather than any ordinary 8-year-old. They are also taught to be disturbingly sexy and flirtatious when onstage. The result of this phenomenon on the male audience’s psyche is intriguing to behold.
When a man watches Toddlers and Tiaras he seems to secretly fear that at any second cameras are going to pop out and he will suddenly find himself starring in an episode of To Catch a Predator hosted by Chris Hansen. Seriously, if you watch closely while any man is viewing Toddlers and Tiaras you can almost see them mouthing the words over and over, “I swear, Officer, I thought she was 18.”
So ladies, what to do if your boyfriend looks like he’s running from a one-armed man every time you mention Toddlers and Tiaras?
Just turn on I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant. Ten minutes of watching that show and he’ll long for the days when his biggest fear was over an entirely different sort of crowning.