"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 September 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Miss Judged


[shit, what a monday!]

One of the first notable moments

in the supposedly

new-and-improved Miss America

Pageant came about 10 minutes

into the show, when, during a

montage of the contestants'

so-called "grueling 12-minute

interviews," Miss Hawaii was

asked what she thought of her

state's law allowing same-sex

marriages: "I think it's sick."

Five minutes later, we return

from the commercial break to

Footloose-inspired choreography

performed by a male dancing

troupe that had to be at least

some percent "sick."


Such giddy contradictions create

the kind of deliciously insipid

entertainment we've come to

expect from the Miss America

Pageant. Later, when Miss Hawaii

performed her talent (yet

another overwrought vocal

performance that would be

treacly even by Star Search

standards), she had a poorly

concealed patch of acne right in

the middle of her cheek. Was

this, perhaps, the work of some

makeup artist sufficiently

pissed off by her "sick" comment

to sabotage her chance at

capturing the crown? These are

the burning questions that keep

bad-TV conspiracy theorists and

pop-cultural rubberneckers awake

at night.


[this morning i got into a car accident ... totally my fault]

Despite traditional attempts to

spin the pageant in the

direction of charity and

scholarship, the only really new

features were a glimpse at some

bellybuttons writ steely by

hours with the Abdominizer and a

fumbling play-by-play by Eva

LaRue and John Callahan, the

first married couple to co-host

the pageant (ever!). Competing

with the likes of former hosts

Bert Parks and Regis and Kathie

Lee isn't exactly a

formidable challenge, but even a

mid-show costume and

coordinating eyeshadow change

couldn't freshen up Eva's

bumbling act. Nor did her

endless refrain of "Isn't that

fantastic? That's fantastic!"

convince us of how fantastic it

all was. Indeed, the most

fantastic (as in "jaw-droppingly

out of touch") aspect of the

pageant was that only four black

people appeared onstage - one

contestant (who didn't make the

semi-finals), two singers, and a

tap dancer. The more things

change, the more they stay the



With the commentary utterly

colorless, the Disneyworld-based

montages of "the girls chatting

about issues" duller than mud

and the talent competition

ranging from mildly amusing to

sleep-inducing, it was,

predictably enough, only the

swimsuit and evening-gown

competitions that inspired much

analysis and/or jeering. But

then, with the Academy Awards

worth little more than an

evening-gown competition for

starlets, what did we expect?

Just as most people alternately

gossip, buy trashy magazines,

and attack the paparazzi, Those

Who Look Down on Beauty Pageants

with Disgust inevitably find

themselves loudly observing that

finalist status appears to

require "big teeth and big

tits." The simple truth is that

many of us are so fascinated by

the strange pathology of the

pageant circuit, we can't wipe

the drool off mouths fast



[now i must find a transportation alternative]

Eventually, though, such events

only reawaken the radical

feminist within: There's an

inevitable post-pageant hangover

of hyper gender sensitivity, a

strange urge to neuter your

language and to boycott



This gelded guilt brings us back

to the obvious question: Why

watch at all? Aside from the

obvious laughs, maybe one good

reason to tune in is to remind

ourselves that we've come a long

way, baby - but not nearly long

enough. "Post-feminists" who

stubbornly insist that, in

today's society, women and men

are treated equally and

rewarded equally for a job well

done would do well to note that

while there are places where a

man gets a score for the way he

looks half-naked onstage in

stilettos, he's probably not

going to be rewarded for it with

a scholarship and a chance to

meet the President. And it seems

less like a coincidence than

fate that the very week Miss

America unveiled a widening gap

between bikini top and bottom,

the Bureau of Labor Statistics

announced that for the first

time since 1979, the gap between

pay for men and women is

widening as well.


[hmm, a scooter would be fun, but don't they look kind of dweeby?]

After peaking at about 77

percent of men's earnings,

women's wages have fallen two

points, to 75 percent of men's.

It doesn't sound like much, and,

well, that's because it isn't.

What's perhaps most disturbing

about this fall is that

economists can't seem to get a

handle on why it's happened.

"Mystifying," said one; another

vamped that while "No one seems

to know how to explain it or

uncover the causes ... it's

worth looking into."


Under these circumstances,

competing in spangles for a

scholarship doesn't seem so

backward. As one contestant said,

"You have a choice. You can be a

better woman or a bitter woman."


In the end, though, this

antiquated spectacle only made

us glad to have chosen the


courtesy of Just Another Bitter Woman

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