It's the Little Miss Stoneybrook pageant, a pageant for girls in Stoneybrook ages 5 to 8. Since most of you have either seen Little Miss Sunshine or have a subscription to TLC, I'm going to trust you know how creepy the world of child pageantry is. It all starts when Mrs. Pike calls up the BSC asking for Dawn to help Claire and Margo in the competition (Mrs. Pike will be too busy to help and their older sister, Mallory, has the good sense to recognize pageantry for sexism run amok). All the other girls get jealous and find their own JonBenets (Kristy asks Karen if she wants to do it, Claudia twists Charlotte Johanssen's arm, and Mary Anne, lucky, lucky MA, gets Myriah). The girls get uber competitive because nothing is more important to teenage girl self-worth than being a good beauty pageant coach.
In the end, most of the girls do pretty badly except for Myriah who, in between tap dancing lessons and How to be Shirley Temple indoctrination courses, seems to have the contest in the bag. But a girl called Sabrina Bouvier who is described as wearing make up and acting and looking like a 25 year old in little girl form, wins it and Myriah gets first runner up. D'oh. At least she's a shoo-in for Miss Congeniality. Oh, and she wins a shopping spree at a toy store.
Side note. This is the official book where Jeff moves back to California. Dawn has conniptions because she feels rejected by her own brother. Ha. Even Jeff can't stand her. Go marry a carrot, Dawn!
- The theme of this book? That the thirteen year old BSC members are ALL insecure losers. Early on, Dr. Johanssen calls up for a sitter saying that Charlotte has especially requested Claudia (because Claudia is Stacey's best friend and Charlotte misses Stacey who recently moved back to NYC), they all get really pissy and start pointing out that they're all great babysitters, too. MA called 911 when Jenny Prezzioso had a fever, Dawn rescued two kids from a fire (which translates to "I checked a couple of smoke detectors"), Kristy thought of kid-kits which Charlotte loves. Yeah, you guys are awesome and you all win, okay? Honestly, I haven't seen this much desperate insecurity since the episode of Sex and the City where the girls are all, "Does being easy and wearing Manolos make up for not being twenty something models?" Oh, hell, that's every episode.
- But Dawn wins at being insecure. When Mallory and Jessi join the BSC, Kristy holds a makeshift induction ceremony for them at one of the meetings. They recite a little babysitting oath and put their hands on the club notebook. It's pretty cheesey but Mal and Jessi get a real kick out of it. Dawn, however, enviously looks on, thinking that the only reason she didn't get one was that Kristy was jealous of her when she first joined (because of Dawn and Mary Anne becoming such good friends). Uh, no, maybe this is Kristy's way of making up for being such a little shit in Hello Mallory! is what I think. Aw, Dawn, come on. I'll give you an oath. Here, put your hand on The Anarchist's Cookbook and...what? You SAID you were an individual.
- So, this sets the stage for why Dawn is uber happy to coach Claire and Margo in the contest. Mrs. Pike especially asks for Dawn because she lives so close to the Pikes that she won't need a ride. Dawn smiles righteously, knowing this proves she's a great sitter. No, this proves that you got lucky real estate wise.
- So of course, all the little girls need to do something for the talent portion. Claire's talent is singing the Popeye song while wearing a sailor suit. Margo's is peeling a banana with her feet and reciting The House that Jack Built. Dawn thinks it's hopeless and is about this close to slipping the judges a pair of George Washingtons. And then when she hears about how Mary Anne gets to coach Stoneybrook's resident Judy Garland wannabe, Myriah Perkins, she thinks, "Maybe I was just disappointed that the Pike girls were going to peel bananas and sing about wo-orms and ge-erms. At any rate, Myriah seemed like hot competition." You know how some kids wanted Cabbage Patch kids in the 80s? And then other kids wanted Furbies in the 90s? You know Ann M. wanted a Myriah Perkins to keep on her bed. (Myriah, incidentally, tap dances and sings Good Ship Lollipop.)
- Mallory and Jessi are the only two girls who don't have to forfeit possible admission to any feminist college worth its salt. They both think that this is an incredibly sexist event, which is pretty advanced talk for 11 year olds. Hopefully in a few years, after Mallory gets through The Beauty Myth, she'll also recognize that it fosters body image issues times a thousand. (Yeah, I know, quel irony. This blog entry from a girl who went to an all women's school but actually watches America's Next Top Model marathons while eating bonbons and yelling at the plus sized contestants to put down the brownies. Ahem!)
- Margo wears painter's pants to recite her poem. She considers getting a monkey suit but Dawn points out that the monkey suit has feet and Margo needs to be barefoot to peel her banana. Oh please, please, Dawn, let her get the monkey suit. The idea of a girl in a beauty pageant wearing a monkey suit is the most deliciously subversive thing I've read about since hearing that a bunch of feminists crowned a sheep Miss America.
- Charlotte Johanssen, a very shy eight year old who hates performing, is pretty reluctant to be in the pageant to begin with because she says you need to be pretty to enter. Claudia tells her it's more than a beauty contest (right, Claud, and you're going to cast the dumpy 5'2 girl with Gumby legs to wear your fashions when you're on Project Runway, yes?).
- Claudia also thinks that even though Charlotte is very pretty, she doesn't think of herself that way. Is anyone who's read a single BSC book surprised when Charlotte breaks down in tears during the talent portion and has to be taken home? All three of the "mature" people who allowed this (Charlotte's parents and Claudia) need to be sentenced to a good long stay on Monster Island. Don't look so nervous, guys, it's just a name. (Monster Island is, in fact, a peninsula.)
- The BSC members get super competitive and refuse to tell each other what their contestants are doing. Okay, Kristy, no one's going to poach Karen's talent (singing about a thousand versions of The Wheels on the Bus). To be fair, Charlotte's talent is the only one I actually liked--reciting the Violet turning into a blueberry scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Except I think I need to stuff Claudia to death with Twinkies for probably doing more than even Tim Burton himself (damn you and your Willy Wonka as the son of an over zealous dentist subplot!) to turn Charlotte off that wonderful, wonderful book.
- Dawn asks her mom to come watch the pageant, knowing that Sharon's probably depressed about Jeff leaving. Plus, she can sit next to Richard, who's there supporting Mary Anne. Also, this will be a way to make Richard look a lot less skeevey (c'mon, 40 something year old single man at a children's pageant--can you get any more John Mark Karr?).
- Backstage at the pageant, Dawn tells Margo she's on after a girl named Sabrina Bouvier. Margo stares at the trollop wearing make up, and says she bets that's her because who else would be named Sabrina Bouvier? Oh, I don't know, what if Jackie O. had an unmarried sister who had a child out of wedlock that she wanted to name after her favorite Audrey Hepburn movie?
- Then the other sitters talk shit about how Sabrina Bouvier, like how she really isn't even all that pretty. The fuck? Claudia, weren't you just reassuring Char that this isn't a beauty contest? And at the end, none of them really care who wins just as long as it's one of "their kids" and not that pageant head, Sabrina.
- So, the judges ask each girl a question. Crap like, "What would you change about the world?" or "What do you most hope for in the year 2010?" or "Do you think that every state should allow gay marriage?" Myriah's response to the judge's question (what would you change about the world): "'It would be wars...I would say to the people who are making the wars, "Now you stop that. You settle this problem yourselves like grown-ups. Our children want peace."'" Well, hell's bells, take away Jimmy Carter's Nobel and give it here. For the record, if Sadako had been asked that question, she would have taken Myriah's little speech and applied it to girls who sport whale tails and tramp stamps.
- One of the contestants responds that her favorite part of Stoneybrook is the ice cream store. Dawn thinks that she blew it. Oh, cram it, Dawn, the ice cream store also sells tofutti. (What IS the "correct" answer? The time vortex near the library? The great support for people who have juvenile onset diabetes?) Claire gets aufed, too, because she responds that the thing she wants most is Santa Claus--she hopes he's real. Aww. Well, Sadako would fail out, too. The thing she wants most these days are real eyebrows and to know if Cecil Adams is real.
- Karen's question is what would she rescue from her burning house. (Gee, they didn't specify. Big house or little.) She says she'd rescue one of her stuffed animals, her blanket, her pen that writes in many colors and possibly Andrew if she had time. Since I live alone, I don't have to worry about saving humans. I'd like to think I could save my mp3s and cosmetic collection and my Sopranos DVDs without fear of looking like an asshole.
- Margo gets an easy question that she's supposed to answer with "Global peace" but since Sabrina Bouvier already used that answer ("What do you most want for the year 2010?), she has no idea how to answer. Once again, Sadako has an answer prepared. I want Freaks and Geeks or My So-Called Life to resume for another five or ten seasons. Hey, this is fun. I could do this pageant crap. Hand me a banana and it's go time.
- Sabrina's talent is singing Moon River which Dawn hasn't even heard of. (Oh, come on, Ann M., they're thirteen year olds who have seen every old movie ever made but they haven't seen Breakfast at Tiffany's?) And this is the second Audrey Hepburn reference in the book. Hmm. I think I have to give Ann M. points for having the girl who's all tarted up for the pageant singing a song that was made popular in a movie about a happy go lucky prostitute. Subversion? No, wait, it's Ann.
- Dawn thinks that she herself wouldn't mind winning the toy spree so she could stock up on her kid-kit. And I think, right, Dawn, is the Antonio Banderas life size blow up doll made popular by TV's South Park, really going to fit in any kid-kit?
I decided to find hideous pageant type photos for all the little girls.
- Mary Anne comes this close to breaking down and crying when Myriah only gets first runner up. I come this close to smacking her with a wet noodle.
Okay, if Mary Anne had her way, Myriah would be working the east coast pageant circuit with ten wins by the time she turns six, and Gabbie waiting in the wings just in case Myriah stops being cute. Here's Myriah's airbrushed photo.
Margo "this is the crack that Jack sold" Pike.
Claire "Sailor Trash" Pike
Karen Brewer. No rest for the weary.
Charlotte "I'm so not ready for my close-up" Johanssen.
Oh, and then there's the crown winner. Sabrina Bouvier, take a bow.
(Yes, there were creepier JonBenet Ramsey photos out there to choose from. And no, my skin hasn't stopped crawling.)
Dawn, you can leave your feminist card on my desk, honey. Yeah, next time you start up with your "Girls can do anything" speech, I'm going to bring this up. Oh, yeah, and Travis. Oh yeah, and Lewis. Oh, and the time you forgot that girls can be psychopathic armed clown robbers, too. How the fuck do you intend to lead the paraplegic little person division of Take Back the Night with these skeletons in your closet?