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Miss You Can Do It
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Miss You Can Do It is a gentle and heartwarming documentary about a pageant for girls with physical disabilities. There's no cursing, sex, dating, drinking, or drugs. However, watching young women struggle terribly to walk or talk may be upsetting to young or sensitive viewers; listening to parents talk frankly about their daughters' chances for long-term survival and future independence may prove equally upsetting. Some girls are not expected to survive to adulthood, and their parents say as much. Parents may also consider whether they think pageants, which spotlight the physical appearance of its contestants, to be something they want children to watch or revere.
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What's the story?
Abbey Curran made headlines in 2008 when she competed in the Miss USA pageant as Miss Iowa, the first contestant ever to have a visible physical disability (cerebral palsy). The experience of competing so thrilled Curran that she wanted to share pageantry with other girls with disabilities. The result is MISS YOU CAN DO IT, a pageant she began in 2004, and the documentary of the same name celebrating Curran and one year's contestants. These contestants range from Teyanna, a preteen with cerebral palsy and a love of art, to 5-year-old Tierney, a firecracker in a wheelchair facing slow progression of her muscular disorder, and likely an early death. We meet them at home, talk to their parents, watch the therapy sessions and isolation each endures. Then these girls and others come together in Curran's Iowa hometown to meet each other, impress pageant judges and walk (or roll) across a spangly stage dressed in their best, with hopes of taking home a crown.
Is it any good?
Meeting these girls and their parents is the best part of Miss You Can Do It. But for viewers weaned on pageant shows like Toddlers & Tiaras, it's hard to forget that this entire documentary is celebrating a beauty pageant. Sure, these beautiful girls use wheelchairs and walkers, or struggle to speak. But the focus is still on their physical appearance, which some viewers may not appreciate. The point Curran is trying to make is that even disabled girls are beautiful. Laudable, but aren't we hoping to impart to girls that what's inside is more important than what they look like? It'd be easier to celebrate a documentary that focuses on something other than a beauty contest. Miss You Can Do It is heartwarming and sweet, but viewers may feel conflicted watching, even as they fall in love with each and every determined, sweet and beautiful girl they see onscreen.
You'd have to be made of stone not to dissolve into tears when Teyanna's mom talks about how nurses advised her to put her infant daughter in an institution, because she was never going to be able to walk or to talk. Raised at home by a loving family instead, Teyanna does both. Ali fights her spina bifida with therapeutic horseback riding; Tierney wants to take home the big trophy at the pageant, but what she'd like most is a friend.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about physical disabilities and how they occur. Disabilities are usually caused either by a birth injury or a genetic anomaly. How common are disabilities? Do you know anyone with a disability?
Watch another pageant-oriented show, such as Toddlers & Tiaras. How is Miss You Can Do It alike? How is it different?
Pageants celebrate the physical appearance of its contestants. Is this something admirable? Does your answer change if you consider that the Miss You Can Do It pageant displays people whose appearance is not often commended?
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