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Pint-Sized Spectacles: American Youth Beauty Queens and the Power(ful) Dynamic of the Institutionalized Pageant Open Access

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The purpose of this project was to utilize a variety of theoretical frameworks to examine this popular and pervasive cultural phenomenon for young American girls, focusing particularly on the pageant contestants aged 13 and under. Grounding the project in Foucault's theory of disciplinary power and the production of the docile body, and Althusser's concept of the systematic processes of the state and the institution allowed us to examine the spectacularized nature of the youth pageant event within the American arena. Understanding how Debord's notion of the spectacle involves a performative process that continually circulates and continually entertains a receiving audience and receiving table of judges, is again, all a part of the normalizing mode of the system. Temporally and spatially, the pageant event works to transcend boundaries given its pervasive abilities, but still, operates within a particular system with particular actors. Having established a comprehensive foundation of these key theories, it was easy to align popular culture ideas about beauty and sexuality with the female body/contestant, as well as link ideas about race, class, and age in performing to the `norms' of the pageant system.

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