Kate Ward
November 20, 2008 AT 07:47 PM EST

Looks like TLC is getting super-freaky. The network recently announced plans to launch Toddlers and Tiaras, a new series that goes behind the scenes of the child beauty pageant circuit. Says Howard Lee, Vice President of Production for TLC, “The appeal and success of Little Miss Sunshine illustrates that this competitive world really exists. These children and their parents pour so much energy into wanting to win — and it’s fascinating to watch.”

It’s also disgusting to watch. A while back, I caught Vh1’s similarly themed doc Little Beauties, in which a group of moms jumpstarted their young daughters’ body-image issues by making them wear “flippers”—fake teeth to hide the gaps that normal girls have from losing their baby teeth—and encouraging them to go on stage and bat their eyelashes at adult male judges. Toddlers and Tiaras should offer similar horrors; according to a TLC press release, the show will be “jam-packed with stage moms and dads, hair extensions, spray tanning, makeup and glitter.”

But who deserves more scrutiny here? The parents of these tiny pageant contestants, or a network that agrees to give them the national spotlight? Perhaps the main reason I felt nauseous watching Little Beauties was because the doc never seemed acknowledge that these pageants are so…wrong. Plus, how can Lee point to Little Miss Sunshine as an inspiration for the new TLC program when the movie implies that such beauty pageants are, you know, essentially T&A shows starring unknowing, innocent five-year-olds?

Am I missing something here, PopWatchers? Will any of you be watching Toddlers and Tiaras when it premieres in late January? And if so, why?

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