7.9/10
259
19 user

Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen (2001)

Documentary about the subculture of child beauty pageants (usually restricted to girls no older than 5), showing the lengths to which some parents will go to ensure that their children win these pageants...

Director:

Shari Cookson

Writer:

Shari Cookson
Reviews
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Swan Brooner Swan Brooner ... Herself
Robin Browne Robin Browne ... Herself (swan's mother)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Leslie Butler Leslie Butler ... Herself
Michael Butler Michael Butler ... Himself
Shane King Shane King ... Himself
Craig Scime Craig Scime ... Himself - Host
Tim Whitmer Tim Whitmer ... Himself
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Storyline

Documentary about the subculture of child beauty pageants (usually restricted to girls no older than 5), showing the lengths to which some parents will go to ensure that their children win these pageants...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 May 2001 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Swan Brooner: singing: Someday, I'll be Miss America. And that will be the happiest day of my life. Someday, when they sing there she is, they'll put the crown on me. And then I'll make a long speech on TV. Oh, someday, when I am Miss America, I'll tell the world to make things start when your young. And what fun, it's gonna be, when Regis sings his song to me. Oh, someday. I bet you someday. I'll be singing, I'll be Miss America!
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Connections

Referenced in Little Miss Sunshine (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Lipstick on Your Collar
Written by Edna Lewis (uncredited) and George Goehring (uncredited)
[a contestant sings during the talent competition]
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User Reviews

An outstanding documentary. See it as a double feature with "Best in Show"

I watched this film this afternoon and agree with most of the other comments on it. The topic (child beauty pageants) is very disturbing. The pageant circuit obviously exists for the benefit of the adults involved, not the children. The pageants are a club, a place to belong, like any club, but clearly fill emotional needs in the parent/members. These needs vary - the need to "win" something, the need to have a purpose in life, the urge to create, a frustrated desire to perform, a need to escape their lives and homes and travel, etc. etc.

As many have commented, it is frightening to see children, even infants, wearing layers of make-up and wearing "extensions" and wigs and dental applicances to hide the gaps when a baby tooth makes an untimely exit from that all-important smile. But what is truely chilling is realizing that the parents involved seem to have absolutely no self-awarenes, no sense at all that this is an activity they do for their own benefit and not their child's. The children are used as show-horses. The difference between these pageants and the Westchester Dog Show lies only in the fact that the dogs's owners don't try to make the dogs wear make-up.

I am sure that the kids involved do have fun with pageant life often. But, without a diatribe about the multitude of ways in which children can be twisted by having their parents' needs put first or by having their self-worth dependent upon their looks and "charm" and by age-inappropriate competition, I will simply say that the documentary makes it clear that a life on the pageant circuit should be accompanied by coupons for adult therapy.

(As an aside, I have to say that as a gay man, I was uncomfortable with the gay couple who work as very successful coaches for some of these children, including the daughter of one of the men. In many ways they seemed devoted to proving up every stereotype of gay men. On the other hand, I think they make a good case for gay parenting. They certainly aren't do any WORSE than the other parents in the film. I also respect the filmmaker greatly for the fact that the gay aspect was presented simply as a reality and was not played up. I do wonder, however, how many of the Mom's who drive hundreds of miles and get second mortgages on their homes to hire the couple turn around and vote for homophobic politicians.)

Anyway, the horror of all this aside, the documentary is terrific because it is invisible -- it simply allows the pageant world to speak for itself. There are no comments by the filmmakers who seem to limit their overt involvement to a series of intersticial titles every so often (the work is episodic) that just establish the setting or provide a fact. They do a pretty amazing job of piecing together what feels like a neutral "just the facts, ma'am" film allowing the viewer to draw his or her own conclusion. Also, the film does not condescend to these people. In fact, I think that a fan of the pageants might walk away thinking that the film was a positive one, supportive of pageant life. That's a hard line to walk for any documentarian.


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