TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras" has been mired in controversy since it debuted in 2009, and much of the distaste for the series stemmed from concerns about whether we were feeding the stage mothers' desire for attention, or about the insensitivity in taping and televising children in the middle of a meltdown or temper tantrum. But whether you think child beauty pageants are just a chance for little girls to play dress-up, or a training ground for superficial, self-centered princesses in the making, everyone should agree that sexualizing a 3-year-old little girl is wrong. In what was likely a misguided effort to gin up publicity and ratings for the show, TLC released footage of a 3-year-old contestant dressed as the prostitute played by Julia Roberts in the 1990 film "Pretty Woman." This stupidity came just one week after TLC -- still known to many as The Learning Channel -- was forced to pull its Facebook page because of the deluge of negative comments over an episode that featured a little girl dressed up to look like Dolly Parton, complete with padded bust and buttocks. Instead of creating ratings-friendly buzz, TLC engendered outrage among millions of parents and grandparents, who are tired of seeing children exploited for ratings and robbed of their innocence by a greedy entertainment industry that will stop at nothing to make a buck. Like Roberts' film character just before she hits the streets, the toddler is shown strutting back and forth on stage wearing thigh-high PVC boots, a blond bobbed wig, and a white tank top connected to a tight blue skirt at the midriff by a large silver hoop.
Common sense is all too often a casualty of the media culture we live in. Parents assume the sexual content and innuendo in the programming they are watching will go over their child's head, or think it's cute to dress their child in sexy clothes or encourage her to imitate Beyonce's dance moves so they can post it on YouTube. In reality, they are teaching their children...
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