Humorous or Disturbing?

Humorous or Disturbing? An example of pageants and parents promoting hyper sexualization amongst young children.

The 2013 hidden camera comedy film “Bad Grandpa” features a scene that makes light of an an industry that capitalizes on the sexualization of children. This extreme example serves to ridicule parents who allow their children to participate in pageants that often include scant clothing, heavy makeup, and inappropriate gesturing. Adults are not only viewing these images, but constructing them. Parents are responsible for preparing, primping, and preening their children for exposure on the pageant stage. What is behind these images? What are the implications on the adults and children who create and consume them?

From the movie, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, this short video clip (seen below) features a strip scene illustrating the producers’ intent to provide humor through the sexualization of a young child. I am disgusted by this child’s portrayal in the film.


This shot illustrates the varied reactions from members of the audience when the child’s performance segways from singing to stripping.

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Humorous or Disturbing?

The establishing shot above displays the various reactions from the largely adult, female audience when the child begins her strip show. Three of the women appear to be in shock and disbelief, while a smiling woman in the bottom right corner appears, in contrast, to be having a pleasant reaction to the sexualized display.

Do parents who submit their young, innocent children to beauty pageants fail to realize their children are competing and being rewarded for their charm and beauty? Do parents consider that they might be satisfying the sexual desires of some audience members when they allow their to child dance and move provocatively on a stage?

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The above screenshots illuminate the sexualized looks, dances, behaviors, and positions the child in this movie was taught to perform. 

We have to consider that it is not only the pageants, but the parents who promote the sexualization of young children. Afterall, none of these sexualized displays would exist without parental consent.

It’s troublesome to think that parents, of all people, are teaching children to perform these sexualized dances and displays. Parents have an obligation to protect their children from harm. I question the motives of parents who displace their parental duties in exchange for a chance to win a pageant crown.


This medium shot reveals the judges’ various reactions. The judge in the center is visibly surprised, while the judges on the left and right appear to be smirking at the performance. Judges critique the child’s sexualized display, while a child in these pageants compromises her psychological growth in hopes of winning the pageant.

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In hopes of winning the pageant by the judges decision, the cost includes children participating in pageants made to look as an adult accessorized with hair extensions, spray tans, fake eye lashes, makeup, and adult like clothing.

Following this, they perform not only for the judges, but in front of an audience as if they are “eye candy”.  Children are taught how to shake their bodies, expose their bodies in “breath taking ways” and charm the audience and judges with their flirtatious charming looks and actions.

Pageants primarily promote physical beauty as it’s focal point. As demonstrated in this movie clip, children engage in behaviors associated with sexuality: provocative body postures, facial expressions, and attire representing them as adult like- all in which she subsequently is being judged on.


The angled shot provokes viewers with an uneasy feeling as a woman in the audience covers her eyes and a male watches with a smile on his face.

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In this angled shot, an adult showers the child with dollar bills, diminishing the child’s power in her own performance.

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The child showcases her practiced routine in a costume that sexualizes her body, illustrating the adult themes of many child pageant performances. Why are these contests called “child pageants” if the young participants wear costumes and perform routines that mimic adults?


The child’s attire, actions, and facial expressions depict “sexy” in this shot.

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Contributing to the sexualization of children, are the clothing and accessories parents purchase in retail stores. Girls’ clothing in department stores is becoming increasingly similar to the most intimate of women’s clothing. Jours Après Lunes, a French clothing company, has a line of children’s “lingerie” clothing consisting of provocative undergarments marketed for girls as young as three months old.

The sexualization in beauty pageants and clothing retailers, however, represent a small part of the problem. What really happens when adults view children that present as older due to their provocative, adult-like clothing? Do we view these children as older and more mature than they truly are? Are children who mimic adults in appearance more likely to act and speak like adults? Are children who mimic adult activities and actions more likely to engage in adult sexual relationships?

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