I’ve really decided to bite the bullet this time. After a long vacation from smashing my own brain in with the inanity that has become our popular culture, I’ve decided once again to dive deep into the pit of hedonistic slime that is modern American entertainment. My first review for AiPT was of what could quite possibly be the worst television show that our particular breed of man has ever decided to put on film. Now I’ve chosen, with all the intellectual maturity of a stunted four-year-old, to examine the show that I almost decided to crown as the worst popular television show of the last decade, Toddlers & Tiaras.
When a syndicated network decides to green-light a new show, a complicated process begins. A group of only the finest sociopathic misanthropes decide to sit around a table and ask themselves what they think their audience (which of course would be the fine people of the western world) would like to see. In this case, the holy covenant of marketing executives decided that people really want to watch terrible parents expose their infant children to an environment that only values abusive opportunism and vanity.
So after forcing myself to literally sit through ten agonizing minutes of this steaming pile of mental abortion, I have finally come to terms with it—well, not enough to keep watching it, but enough to not want to embark on a massacre of the likes that would make the mighty blood god Khorn blush. So now that I have reached a blissful Zen-like state of mind on this trash, let’s look at the journey that I had to undertake to get there.
“Wait, is that little girl wearing a “sexy” swimsuit? What the fuck am I watching? This can’t be real.”
“No, this is a sensible thing my child is wearing. Stop being so old-fashioned! Gawd!”
Before the title appears we’re all graced with a little intro that lets you know what this show is all about. Within the space of two minutes I saw enough to know what sort of morally bankrupt effluence I was about to inject into my brain. I was barraged with images of half-naked little kids and their “proud” mothers, who seemed ecstatic that they were abusing their own children in the pursuits of stroking their already enormous egos. This part of the show was sort of handy in a way—it was almost like the show’s creators wanted you to know how deep you were going before you actually would have to sit through the show to find out. It’s like they want you to know that you haven’t reached the bottom of the barrel; you’ve tunneled so fucking far down that the Chinese police are starting to wonder how the hell you just popped out of the ground.
Seriously, some of the quotes from these mothers may always haunt me. Let me just regale you with a couple of my favorites:
“You’re going to say “Oh, I would never spray-tan my child. I would never allow her to wear false eyelashes.” I have said all of those things and we have done all of those things!”
*Little girl wearing skimpy swimsuit and making faux-sexy faces that she doesn’t comprehend*
“Look at the judges.”
–Pedophile Enabling Bitch
*Little girl spins around and makes another faux-sexy face at the pretend judges*
–Pedophile Enabling Bitch
The first section of this show is so surreal I actually felt like it was a joke of some kind. It’s surprising how long it takes before you realize that you’re watching a weird form of ritualistic child abuse. The calming elevator music that plays while the moms are discussing the “pageant” and how competitive they have to be to win is almost enough to lull you into a feeling of “this is all fiction. These aren’t real people.” It was so effective that it took me a few minutes just to enter a mental state that revealed to me that, yes, I was in fact watching child abuse occur directly on my television. That’s when I got to the second stage.
“I want to ram my fist so far up these people’s asses that their eyeballs will get stuck on my ceiling!”
Her priorities were clearly in order.
Yes, the reality of this show was slowly starting to seep into my skull. My denial was replaced with rage. I started seeing all of these people as the pompous ignorant scum that they are. The pattern that kept emerging through all of the mothers and their speech displayed the shallow insecurity that made them abuse their child in front of an audience. They would keep saying the same thing over and over: their child is “outgoing” and wants to be the center of attention. They would go on and on about how their kids were competitive and full of personality. Keep in mind that most of these children are under the age of six.
A rational mind would want to know how all of these impressionable little kids achieved such well-defined attributes when eighteen-year-olds are still grappling with who they are and what their personalities say about them. The answer, of course, is that these parents don’t fucking know who their children are. They’ve forced their own children into a mold that serves their interests best.
“I see myself as an organized, adventurous person with a strong tendency to suck on nipples.”
When the realization of these parents and their insatiable need for attention smacks you in the face, you should get pissed off. Trotting your kid around a stage in scantily-clad outfits is nothing more than a desperate attempt to garner attention for yourself, and watching all of these fuckwits yammer on about how their child is a “natural performer” and how they were “dragged” into the pageants by some fucking miracle from Zeus is enough to make you want to roundhouse a disabled old man into a pit of snarling wolverines.
That’s when your shattered psyche moves to the next stage.
“Y’know, maybe these parents are just caught in a cycle of abuse that we help perpetuate. If we could only stop watching this shit, maybe it’d go away.”
The bargaining starts when you begin thinking about the bigger picture. Sure, these people are full of shit and deserve a slow and bodily fluid filled death, but you are beginning to think about what happened to lead them to a place in their lives where they are literally willing to sell the only thing that gives their life meaning to a mob that pays to see little girls dressed as sexed-up divas.
You begin to turn your eyes to society: “Maybe we had something to do with this?” you might think. Maybe if we could raise awareness that this and all the things like it have no place in our culture, we’ll be able to turn the tide. Without an audience, the limelight that these people so desperately need will snuff out and, with it, their stage will go dark. This responsibility-taking phase gives us a convenient outlet that puts the power back into our hands.
It’s easy to think you can make a difference. It was easy for me to think like that, at least. Well, that was until I investigated who it was that watched this show. In my mind I thought that the shit like this was designed for us to hate it. In the same way that we pick at a scab or sniff spoiled milk, I thought that the audience for this show watched it out of a morbid interest to see what the depths of humanity really were. After all, no one watches Jersey Shore because they really like the characters. They watch the show because they hate the characters and that love-to-hate mentality draws people in. The darker side of the human condition loves negativity. If we got along with everyone, this world would be a boring place. We need problems. We need antagonists.
And then I took a look at this show’s audience and discovered that I was absolutely correct.
The comment that I highlighted in red fascinates me because it shows the mentality that allows things like this show to exist. The commenter says that he’s “shocked, abhorred and disgusted”, but he continues watching because, in his mind, it’s like watching a train wreck or an accident on the side of the road. What this person doesn’t understand is that watching a train wreck is passive—you didn’t cause the accident by watching its aftermath. Entertainment is different. The very action of watching Toddlers & Tiaras is what causes it to exist. Without an audience, there can be no “pageant”.
But that person’s comment made me realize something else entirely: no one is aware of the mechanism that creates these shows. All of our entertainment is passive these days. Long gone are times when if an entertainer got on stage and really sucked he could be covered in a soup of spoiled tomatoes and soul-crushing shame. That was a time when we had a direct voice in our entertainment. The hecklers in our day and age are all passively typing their disgust out on a screen, or telling jokes about it to their friends. The only immediate tomato we could toss is the one of refusing to entertain ourselves with the show in the first place. And that “tomato” is so counter-intuitive to us that almost no one will have the presence of mind to throw it. I sure as hell didn’t.
The futility of my mental bargaining brought me to my next stage.
“This shit will continue to exist forever. Why even bother to talk about it?”
Her mouth says “smile”, her eyes say “please, God, get me the fuck out of here.”
The spiral into depression is when you give up the hope that you can change something that you think is shitty. In this case, Toddlers & Tiaras is one of the shittiest pieces of rat excrement that even the lowliest dung beetle would pass up for fear of getting ass-worms. So if you can’t make a difference and help stop the inevitable march of our decadent and absent-minded culture into an abyss of lopsided priorities, what can you do?
You could preoccupy yourself with things that aren’t terrible. You could better yourself; y’know, maybe learn a language or learn how to play the Kazoo; anything, really. This stage in my process of accepting Toddlers & Tiaras was one of the saddest, but it definitely was the most useful. After staring into the dead eyes of many, many little girls and watching the superficial and robotic actions of their abusive parents, I had my final realization: if you’re going down on the Titanic, you might as well play a song or two.
“It is what it is.”
We’ve all got bigger problems these days. Our economy is in the shitter, our politicians are finding new and exciting ways to make us mistrust them, and our culture in the US is about as polarized as it has been since people decided to wear blue and grey uniforms and shoot each other in their dicks. In this climate we’re all looking for distractions (oh, and if you were reading this to distract yourself from your problems, ahem, well, sorry about that) to take our minds off of whatever concerns are bubbling up in our subconscious.
We all live in an interesting time. Virtually everyone in the western world has the opportunity to distract themselves from reality. Next time you’re in a crowded place with chairs, look around and keep a mental note of how many people are glued to their cell phones. Don’t get me wrong now, I love technology. I think that it gives us almost unlimited possibilities. On the other hand, when shit gets hard or things become “boring,” technology has become a thumb to suck. We’re all getting so caught up in our distractions that our own physical world is becoming redundant.
This man clearly has too many cellular devices.
We’re all beginning to separate reality into a dichotomy that never existed in the way it does today; that’s where Toddlers & Tiaras, Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, Honey Boo Boo, etc. fit in. To us, our distractions aren’t real anymore. Have you heard anyone talk about how they wish that we would finally go to war with North Korea? The same mechanism that makes us watch shows like Toddlers & Tiaras also separates us from the reality of whatever else we see on our little screens. None of us are there to see the palpable sadness in the dressed up little girls that are paraded around a stage, in the same way that none of us can even contemplate what going to war with North Korea would mean. Our entertainment has consumed too much of us. As much as I never wanted to become that person that says “hey kids, get off those damn video games and get the hell outside!”, I am finally beginning to see the reasons why, sometimes, that is a good idea.
We all know the Roman populace loved their gladiatorial games. Do you think that they were more innately violent and corrupt than us? Do you think that they would have shown up and cheered for the violence in the arena if it was real to them? I don’t think so. You see, I don’t think that Toddlers & Tiaras is the problem anymore; hell, I don’t even think it is part of the problem. We are the problem. Fortunately, we can also be the solution. If we want to fix the problems in this world, we all need to see and accept them for what they are. We need to reconnect with reality and opposing world views. Living in a circle-jerk of negativity and like-mindedness is partially what has created monstrosities like Toddlers & Tiaras in the first place.
So, in the end, Toddlers & Tiaras is nothing more than a drop of saltwater in the ocean of misunderstanding and destructive distraction that our culture has been and is becoming. If you want to make a change, why not, instead of vicariously watching people you hate, go out and meet one of them and try to find out why you don’t hate them after all? It’s worth a shot, right?