Sasha Bennington from Burnley, who features in a BBC3 documentary. Photograph: Danni Davis/North One TV/BBC
In Sasha: Beauty Queen at 11, we were treated to a look inside the strange world of the child beauty pageant. Again. That odd place of pre-pubescent girls slathered in make-up, dolled up in frilly frocks and acting coquettish/slutty - all the while cheered on/forced into it by deranged, ambitious, and occasionally sinister, parents - is one often frequented by television on account of its sheer weirdness. For its USPs, Sasha: Beauty Queen at 11 had Sasha's nationality (she's British), her northernness (she's from Burnley) and the declaration that she was the first British girl to compete in an American child beauty pageant. (Monstrous though her mother was - all curdled ambition, casual cruelty and demented determination - such parents are hardly unique in the world of the child beauty pageant.)
But did these USPs make Sasha: BQ@11 unique enough? I'm not sure it did. In fact, as a contribution to the swelling canon of documentaries focused on that world - for which I blame Louis Theroux for some reason - it often felt as if Sasha: Beauty Queen at 11 was little more than voyeurism, a gawp at what seemed to be a thoroughly damaged family spiralling into deeper misery. Beyond that, it's difficult to discern what value the documentary had - unless, of course, you are a paedophile in which case it must have provided an hour's worth of titillation - if not more, thanks to the iPlayer. (As I write, Sasha is the iPlayer's third most popular show.) Indeed, as much as the film implied a disapproval of the child beauty pageant world, there were times when it felt as if it was revelling a little too much in the unpleasant world which it depicted.
As I say, it's not as if that sordid world isn't familiar. Truly, the murder of JonBenét Ramsey got dozens of documentaries such as this commissioned. The world of sequins, rictus grins and pre-teen tears has a certain grim allure but doesn't there comes a point when documentaries about it becomes complicit in the sexualisation of the children they feature? With little new insight and scant addressing of the issue of sexualising pre-pubescent girls, was Sasha: Beauty Queen at 11 simply sleazy voyeurism, paedo TV?
Enough leering at pre-teen beauty pageants | TV & radio | guardian.co.uk