Sunday, January 15, 2012

There she is, Miss ...

I took a channel surfing break from football last night and stumbled on the Miss America competition. Wow, I haven't seen that in years. I used to watch it as a kid, before I could fully appreciate the result of watching fifty scantily clad females parading before my eyes. Mom, Dad, my sister and I would try to predict the winner.

On one hand, how could I not watch two hours of beautiful women today? On the other, why would I watch this obviously phony throwback to an era when women were objects?

Some contestants do actually go on to have careers that show off more skill and intelligence than what we see during the pageant. Some examples:
Leanza Cornett 1993

Vanessa Williams 1984 - singer/actress

Gretchen Carlson 1989 - Fox News anchor

Debbye Turner 1990 - CBS reporter

Leanza Cornett 1993 - actress/TV show host (Entertainment Tonight, Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire and dog shows on Animal Planet)

Delta Burke 1974 - Actress (Designing Women)

Phyllis George 1971 - TV host and anchor (CBS Morning News, NFL Today, Rose Bowl Parades)
Leanza Cornett now

Mary Ann Mobley 1959 - actress

Lee Meriwether 1955 - actress (Barnaby Jones, Mission Impossible, Dr. Kildare)

By the way, I met a former contestant once. Shannon Bream, a Fox News reporter/anchor who interviewed me for a story when she was a reporter for the local NBC station, was Miss Virginia in 1990 and finished in the top 10.

Two past winners were from the Washington DC area, where I now live, and one from nearby Fredericksburg VA. None were from my hometown New Orleans or any other city where I’ve lived, although two were from Denton TX near Dallas (I lived there for a few years). Some are from places (or near places) where I have friends: three from Denver, two from Honolulu and one from Asheville NC.

The whole thing started in 1921, ironically just two years after women got the vote. The original event was staged to draw visitors to Atlantic City after the summer season. I think the swimsuit part was the most important judging criteria for decades but two-piece suits weren’t even allowed till the late 1990s.

Everything on TV except sports is now slick and precisely timed, so the show ended right at 11 (or more precisely as 10:57). The winner announcement came just moments before the end so the traditional long walk was much shorter and I barely heard that familiar song. The host used to sing it … “there she is, Miss America, blah blah etc etc.” Now it is pre-recorded and short.

Do pageants like this still matter? Did they ever matter? In some ways they can be career launchers but in other ways they are mostly an excuse to show some skin. It seems that would draw a male audience but I think I might actually lose points on my man card just for watching ten minutes of that show instead of the Broncos-Patriots game. Although shouldn’t I get some points for favoring 20-year-old women in swimwear over 20-year-old men in helmets?

By the way, last night’s Miss America Pageant had higher ratings than the game. Maybe Tebow should have worn a Speedo. (I would have immediately switched to the Weather Channel).

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