Saw Little Miss Sunshine recently, about a girl (Olive) who makes it to the regional finals of the Little Miss Sunshine competition (by default; the winner broke her ankle). Olive is your average seven- or eight-year-old, and the family realises the moment they get there that she is way out of her league when they see the other finalists; young girls dolled up to the nines in imitations of adult beauty queens. Anyone who’s followed the Jon-Benet Ramsey case over the last ten years would have some idea what I’m talking about.
Round by round, Olive is thoroughly outclassed – and within two minutes, you’re glad she’s being outclassed. While the other girls gaze coyly at a forty-something MC who reminded me of a paedophile, she darts her eyes nervously. While the other girls strut around in bikinis skimpy and glittery enough to make a grown supermodel think twice, Olive has a modest swimsuit – you know, the kind ordinary young girls the length and width of the US wear. Olive is outclassed in wit, sophistication, coyness and sex appeal – and aren’t you glad for it.
Then comes the talent segment. Again, the Jon-Benet Ramsey thing; those song-and-dance routines which reek of acting coy and seducing the audience, all with a veneer of childhood innocence. Provocative swaying of the hips, suggestive lyrics, an inch of make-up – all are OK so long as they can claim that veneer of innocence. The routines were injected with huge amounts of sophistication and sex appeal that was creepy to watch.
Then along comes Olive, whose grandfather has taught her a strip routine – complete with tear-off school uniform – to “˜Superfreak’. Except she has no idea what she’s doing; the lack of sex she’s injected into the routine, she may as well be doing the Macarena – there’s nothing there. The routine itself was designed to be sexy, but her genuine childhood innocence means there’s nothing sexy about it.
A couple of people – her family and one of the judges – recognise this, and think the routine is amusing. (So did I and my friend.) But the majority – including other judges and mothers who thought there was nothing provocative about their daughters wearing flashy clothes and being deliberately seductive – are outraged.
I didn’t have a problem with the movie’s portrayal, per se. I thought it was a very realistic portrayal of common attitudes towards these pageants – that it’s OK for girls to wear flashy clothes and act seductively, so long as there’s a thin veneer of (very deliberate, very practiced) childhood innocence – but have genuine childhood innocence permeating a strip routine that’s nullifying anything sexual, and she’s a harlot with terrible parents. Seductive, provocative minxes who are properly and deliberately coy are OK; genuinely innocent children who have no sex appeal to inject into their routines are not. Isn’t that just a touch hypocritical?
We live in a world where it’s OK for Paris Hilton to launch a career off a home porn movie, but not for Britney Spears to renege on her commitment to remain a virgin until she marries. Where Jodie Foster playing a prostitute causes uproar, but non Jon-Benet strutting her stuff. While Jessica Simpson playing the Southern Baptist Virgin is met with approval, Hilary Clinton pursuing her own career is not.
Kudos to LMS for addressing this hypocrisy, at least on a small level.