Sure, your baby’s cute…but is he a thousand dollars’ worth of cute?


by Jay Gabler

front row seat is the blog of jay gabler, the daily planet’s arts editor. to keep up on the local arts scene, follow artsorbit on twitter and subscribe to arts orbit weekly.

The Star Tribune has just announced a Cutest Baby Contest. Readers are encouraged to submit a photo of their li’l charmer (rules: no one older than 12 months, only one photo per baby, and “baby must be fully clothed”); the public will be invited to judge the photos (“vote for the one you think rocks”), and the baby elected cutest of all will win a thousand bucks.

There is a long tradition of baby contests in America and Europe; they surged in popularity during the Victorian era, when children were removed from the labor force (often against their own wills) and came to be venerated as cherubic innocents. There’s something both wonderful and horrible about the fact that a mainstream publication in the 21st century still feels comfortable sponsoring a Cutest Baby Contest.

On the one hand, you’d like to think that we could give our kids a couple of years before we start officially judging them on their looks (though most parents who enroll their young children in beauty pageants are genuinely convinced that they’re doing their kids a service by teaching them poise and communication skills).

On the other hand, there’s something satisfyingly un-PC about the forthrightness with which the Strib’s contest admits that sure, all babies are cute…but frankly, some are cuter than others. And since their good fortune in being born attractive is going to net them a lifetime of unearned favors, why not get the party started right away and toss them some free cash to grow on?

Published on 2/18/09. Photo courtesy Jim Loter.