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CMI COMMENTARY: Pageants and "Prosti-Tots"

People who love reality television often have a special attraction to 'train wreck' shows. For two years now, the tasteless titans of the cable channel TLC have been exploiting the spectacle of hyper-ambitious stage mothers parading around 'beauty queens' just barely out of diapers in thousand-dollar gowns. The program is titled 'Toddlers & Tiaras.' But now it's even worse: they're dressing up little girls as what radio hosts are calling 'prosti-tots.'


TLC aired an episode with a three-year-old pageant contestant named Paisley ridiculously dressed as the Julia Roberts prostitute character in the 1990 film 'Pretty Woman' - complete with skimpy tank top, tight skirt, thigh-high boots, and a blond wig. Did I mention this little girl is three years old? It makes you wonder if TLC's new slogan shouldn't be 'TV for Pedophiles.'


On ABC's daytime talk show 'The View,' co-host Sherri Shepherd was outraged. 'If you think pedophiles are not watching this show, I`ve got a bridge I want to sell you.' Even other reality TV stars like the Kardashians were proclaiming TLC has gone too far.


This scandal came just one week after TLC was forced to pull its Facebook page because of the deluge of negative comments over an episode that featured a little girl named Maddy dressed up to look like Dolly Parton, complete with wig and fake breasts and buttocks. The little girl stuck out her altered rear end and bounced around like a street walker. Maddy's personal stylist did not like the 'adult enhancements,' but he was overruled by the little girl's mother, making you wonder why some social service worker somewhere wasn't contacted.


One Facebook commenter complained, "People will do anything to be on reality TV. Perhaps it's time for these producers to think about the impact of what they are encouraging." The only impact these cable programmers care about is the ka-ching.


It's quite possible if these kinds of videos and photographs were found on the computer of a 40-year-old man, he might well be arrested or investigated for child pornography. But TLC is spreading these images far and wide, with no consequences - and no apparent shame.


Some might think the whole country would be sick of the whole notion of beauty pageants for little children after the relentless news coverage in the late 1990s of the never-resolved murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. But that kind of notoriety only makes the TLCs of the world more confident they have something questionable enough to spotlight.


This notorious show may have pushed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to suspend the day-care license of Jeanie Alcalar, with sudden accusations she was feeding tots spoons of hot sauce as punishment. It came shortly after she was shown on 'Tiaras' yanking her five-year-old daughter off the floor as the girl cried that she did not want her hair done. The department claimed the suspension had nothing to do with the show, but Alcalar faced death threats after the show aired.


What did TLC have to say for itself after the latest 'prosti-tot' incident? Did the network try to say 'all in good fun' or bleat about 'artistic license'? It simply said 'No comment.' This has a strong odor of 'The public be damned.'


Paisley's mother, Wendy Dickey, claimed it was part of a hilarious 'skit,'and later, Paisley was dressed as the 'reformed' Julia Roberts character. 'I was very surprised and I'm just blown away that it has gotten this far. But there were no problems at the pageant. Everyone who seen the full skit got it. What I was trying to do - and it was not about sexualizing my little girl.'


In fact, Paisley won the pageant and was applauded by the crowd for the hooker getup. At the pageant, there was only affirmation and awards for tarting up the toddlers. The same result came for little 'Dolly Parton' - she won a pile of awards from judges: 'Best Fashion', 'Best Hair', 'Photogenic' and 'Sweetest Face'.


There apparently wasn't a 'Hottest T&A' ribbon.


Mrs. Dickey also strangely claimed that the three-year-old hooker idea wasn't as offensive as a ten-year-old hooker. 'She's three. If she was 10, I never would have considered this. But as young as she is, I thought it was very comical." She felt compelled to add 'It was the cutest thing ever. It was very innocent.'


The toddler is innocent, but the getup was not. It's because of that child's innocence that this is so offensive. For the mother to deny that makes her delusional.