Why Yes I Do Have Thoughts on Miss America

I’m about to say something that might surprise you: Whenever I go camping, I do a special call to attract Bigfoot. Oh, that didn’t surprise you? Then how about this:

I know a lot about the Miss America pageant.

Let me explain. My wife’s family is filled with people who’ve been involved in Miss America pageants through the years. Her family still has connections with state organizations, and knows several winners each year.

Therefore, I am duty-bound to watch the pageant every year with this family of experts.

Each year, we make official lists of who we predict will go to the next round throughout the night. I don’t mean to brag, but I may be the best in the family. My sister-in-law will say it’s her, but she’s lying.

Miss America, of course, has caused a recent internet stir. The pageant announced it was abandoning its swimsuit competition, and probably the evening gown competition too.

As an accidental pageant expert, I have lots of thoughts.

  • I’m sooooo relieved they cut the swimsuit competition. Let me paint a picture of awkwardness. I’m on my living room couch with my wife, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law. On the television is a parade of women strutting down a runway in nothing but bikinis. I’m expected not only to watch each woman, but to pay close enough attention to declare which of them paraded in their bikini the best. And again, I’m sitting directly next to my wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law.

As you can imagine, I find this uncomfortable. And when I’m uncomfortable, I cope by making jokes. And the swimsuit competition jokes are simple, because the whole thing is ridiculous. Like how each contestant gives the camera those come hither eyes and does a pony kick before starting down the runway. Or how their “swimwear” is paired with high heels of all things. Or how the token straight guy on the judge’s panel gets a look like he’s a starving man at a steakhouse. Or how no matter what the pageant officials say about “fitness,” we all know the truth: the swimsuit competition is a transparent attempt to get viewers in the “dirty old man” and “pimply teenage boy” demographic.

So yeah, I’m happy they cut it.

  • The evening gown says everything. I’m not sure how I feel about cutting the evening gown. The swimsuit competition was obviously an excuse to ogle the contestants. The evening gown is more complicated. It’s not sexualized, but it does value appearance. Is that a bad thing? Ummm….

The evening gown decision, more than any other, gets to the core purpose of Miss America. Is it a contest to find a well-spoken woman with a decent singing voice? Or is it a pageant, which takes things like beauty and glamour into account? It feels like we should all say that beauty and glamour don’t matter, which means nixing the evening gown. But then, as my wife quipped, doesn’t Miss America just become a lame talent show?

  • Hollywood should follow Miss America’s lead. Regardless of the evening gown, I’m glad Miss America finally admitted what the rest of us have always known: that the swimsuit contest wasn’t about “fitness” so much as “sexual objectification by gross dudes.” I wish other industries would make the same admission. The most obvious example is (cue grumpy old man voice) nudity in films. The rationalization is that it’s “true to life,” and it’s “honest” and “gritty.” Suuuure. But that doesn’t explain why female nudity is so much more prevalent, and why it often seems so superfluous to the story.

As the rest of us know, the nudity in films isn’t about art or realism. Like the swimsuit contest, it’s about snagging teenage boys by treating women like pieces of meat. Miss America finally admitted what they were up to. Hollywood should too (resumes normal voice).

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: my early favorite for this year’s pageant is Miss Oklahoma.

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Photo by Tadson Bussey

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