Stay tuned!

Thanks to March Madness and a hectic couple of weeks, I have been seriously remiss on my updating duties. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing! A couple of pieces are in their final editing phase right now and will be posted this week, including a recap of the season premiere of Mad Men (Zou Bisou Bisou!), The B— in Apartment 23 (James Van Der Beek!), and the most recent round of episodes of New Girl. Huzzah!

Toddlers & Tiaras: Season 1, Episode 3: “Universal Royalty State Pageant”

I’ll admit it: I abuse my Netflix Instant subscription. Oh, sure, I watch Downton Abbey, thought-provoking documentaries and cinema classics. But sometimes, I also partake in some embarrassing Reality TV.

Toddlers & Tiaras is one of those shows. I’ll pause to allow you to judge me, but I find it to be a fascinating study on young girls in our society. Also, pageant moms are HILARIOUS. I was recently watching an old episode, and I actually found it particularly interesting because it was an earlier one, so there was lots of discussion from parents and pageant masters alike about society and the value of pageants.

The first thing that strikes me in these pageants is that there are HUGE cash prizes and scholarships at stake. This isn’t like my 4th grade basketball team, where everyone got a participation trophy even if they got a concussion from walking into the basketball pole while dancing during a break (ahem). These girls – and their mothers – mean BUSINESS. They practice for hours, spend anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars on lessons, spray tans, custom-made dresses, flippers for their daughters’ teeth, hotel rooms, and travel.

What interested me most about this episode is the actual diversity in the pageant moms – one seemed to be a stereotypical pageant mom (and is the one who introduces us to “flippers”, a retainer for kids to put over their teeth to hide the fact that have missing teeth since they’re, oh, I don’t know, kids), the other is one half of a lesbian couple, and one was very hesitant about letting her daughter do pageants but has now officially become a fan of pageantry.

The daughter of our “stereotypical” mom, Karlee, says that she wants to be a cheerleader, since “they show their belly, and that’s what I do.” She goes with her four year old friend (!) to get a spray-tan, and when she puts on all her makeup, her sister (who is more into softball than tiaras) says that Karlee doesn’t even look like herself, but that she “looks like a doll.” Her dad knows he can’t tell her “no makeup”, because when you go to these pageants, you need to wear makeup to be competitive. Karlee doesn’t win the crown, but she does place with enough of a prize to get a cow. Yeah, she really wanted a cow. She started going “cow! cow! cow!” once her mom said she could get one. Love it.

The two daughters, both in the pageant, of the lesbian couple, are constantly practicing their talent and walks in their front yard. The mothers openly admit that they are “not your typical pageant family”; but it feels pretty typical to me – they go to spend $500+ on custom-made dresses for the girls, and spend loads of time getting them ready. The “competitive” mom says that she thinks young girls should be as girly and prissy as possible during childhood, and puts a decent amount of pressure on her daughters to compete well. The other mother says that she wants to help one come out of their shell, and help the other learn to not be so hard on herself and take losing gracefully. For the most part, this happens – although the shy one has a bit where she just kind of wanders onto the stage, dead-eyed, and everyone in the audience is trying to stifle their laughter, and the mom is freaking out that she’s acting like a dead fish. It’s hysterical.

Lastly, the mother of Bella, an extremely energetic and slightly chubby little girl, is the one who was hesitant to enter her into pageants. Her mom grew fonder of them since they taught her to be a strong competitor and to have grace and poise, and feels that her weight hasn’t played an issue thus far – but the pageant coordinator says weight definitely plays an issue and that a skinnier girl has been known to win if the race is extremely tight. Nonetheless, Bella takes the second highest prize in the whole competition and adorably starts crying with happiness and says she wants to call her grandma to tell her she won, and the mom’s voiceover comes on saying that she’s so glad Bella had that reaction, because she wants Bella to know that “when you go after something and you get it, it feels good.” Even the pageant director added, “you may be beautiful, but if you’re not up there with confidence, forget about it.” And Bella had confidence – something I’m sure will suit her well later in life.

Now, these girls all actually had fairly level-headed mothers, and appeared as though they wanted to do these pageants. I’ve got my issues with beauty pageants in general – society does a good enough job telling us that all that matters is our looks. Do we really need not only beauty competitions, but one geared towards young girls ?! – but if the girls really and truly want to do it, then who am I to stop them? They’re not my children. And the pageant director said, “beauty is an advantage – you need to be beautiful to get a job, extra thin to be in Hollywood. It shouldn’t be that way, but society has made it that way.” She has a point – and is right – but as a feminist activist, I choose to try to change the world instead of accept it. But if you are someone who has chosen to accept that and try to give your girl an “edge”, then that is your prerogative.

But what really drove me totally insane nutballs was when they put babies in these pageants. BABIES. I’m betting you that they don’t consult with the babies about whether or not they want to do it. Are the parents in it for the money? Putting their babies on show? I just don’t get it. Also, there was a very creepy looking older man judging the competition. In his interview, he says he works in an office supply store and was picked to judge because he “looked professional”. Explain to me again why this older man is judging little girls in dresses on their beauty? To me, it just cemented the fact that these pageants are creepy. There are some seriously mixed messages happening here in terms of what you gain from pageants – a knowledge that beauty (unfortunately) matters? poise and confidence? – and what is considered beautiful – weight, confidence, and presentation all play such a huge, intertwined issue here.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen this episode? Share it below!

Edit 4/4/12: Slate has an interesting piece on whether or not hating the moms in Toddlers & Tiaras is classist. What are your thoughts?

Couch Potatoes is undergoing a change…

As I’m sure you can tell, lately posting and activity on the site has been pretty lackluster – both because I’ve been obscenely swamped and because there has been a lack of interest/conversation in posts! I’ve been racking my brain and visiting other sites to see what posts are successful for them, and the following is the new plan I have come up with:

  1. CPWAC will now focus primarily on writing posts on new episodes of female-centric/feminist-thought-provoking TV shows, including:
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Mad Men
  • 2 Broke Girls
  • 30 Rock
  • Smash
  • Pan Am
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • and select episodes of shows like How I Met Your Mother and a smattering of reality TV offerings

2. Over the summer and during hiatuses from new episodes, we will focus on re-watching a season of an old TV show, or watch an earlier season of a show we’ve recently gotten into (i.e.; Mad Men).

To start off the new format this week, look out for a piece on an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras, an episode from late in the last season of Mad Men, and posts on the shows listed above!

Interested in writing for Couch Potatoes with a Cause? Give us a shout!

Mad Men, Season 1 Episode 1: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

Summary:

It’s March 1960. Don Draper, a high-level advertising executive at the Sterling Cooper agency in New York City, struggles to find ideas to keep an account for Lucky Strike cigarettes while at the same time managing his tangled personal life; unknown to his stay-at-home wife, Betty, he is having several extramarital affairs. Peggy Olson finds employment as Don’s new secretary but immediately finds it difficult to fit in with the other secretaries, especially Joan Holloway. Junior accounts manager Pete Campbell, who is about to get married, takes a liking to Peggy and pursues her sexually.

Analysis & Discussion under the cut!

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Parks & Recreation: Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2

EPISODE 1:
“It’s a great time to be a woman in politics! I like to tell people get on board, buckle up, and if you get motion sickness… put your head between your knees, because Leslie Knope is stopping for no one.”Leslie’s excitement for local politics is almost infectious, and I found myself rooting for her to pick up steam with her parks project as the episode(s) go on.

I love how enthusiastic she is about government. And I love that at a certain point, she got fed up with trying to be helpful and decided it was time to get the drunk out of the slide.Women in government often struggle with that line of being nice and helpful and being strong and powerful, and it feels like Leslie has a pretty solid grasp on when to kick into which mode.

The character of Ann is fantastic. I love that the whole series starts off with a partnership between two women acting out of concern for their town. And I love that she calls Tom out on hitting on her.I do wish she was a little less wishy-washy in terms of her relationship with Andy at this point in the series.

Leslie’s excitement about a new project and ability to be optimistic is awesome. Mark’s quote of “I lost my enthusiasm for govenment work after 6 weeks. Leslie’s held hers for 6 years.” really tells you everything you need to know about Leslie and her love for Pawnee and politics.

A few choice quotes:

“What’s up Brandanawitz! You crazy old…. POLISH PERSON!”

“Dream with me for a second, Ann.”

—-

I love Leslie’s mom. She’s powerful and in charge, and, as Leslie puts it, “she’s my hero. How do I explain her? She’s as respected as Mother Theresa, as powerful as Stalin, and as beautiful as Margaret Thatcher.”

Leslie’s enthusiasm for the park is great, and her misguided attempts to convince people of how awesome her park will be are hilarious and endearing. Something I really love this show is that there is heart behind every joke and misstep, something that was seriously lacking in Whitney. You root for Leslie to move on in government and politics, and you feel the (albeit hilarious) pain behind when she blurts out something like “if you don’t care about this park you don’t care about your kids” and how much that’ll set her back in her goals.

Basically, this show is awesome. What were your thoughts?

Whitney, Whitney, Whitney.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the surge in awesome ladies on TV. I’m a huge fan of Leslie Knope on Parks & Rec (check in tomorrow for my review of the first two episodes!), Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, and most days I really dig Kat Dennings’ Max on 2 Broke Girls. But there is one lady on fall TV who I definitively do not dig: Whitney.

I was thinking again today about my pure distaste for this show, and after a couple of glasses of wine (and, full disclosure, episodes of the West Wing which may or may not have included me doing the Jackal along with the magnificent Alison Janney/C.J. Cregg) I thought maybe I should give Whitney another chance.

The bad news? I watched the Whitney pilot again. The good? I drank two glasses of wine and then wrote about it. Below are my thoughts. Enjoy.

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