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another superficial sham

By Ashley Weaver
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 20, 1999

For three hours on Saturday night, amidst cheesy techno and spewing golden ribbons, Donnie and Marie Osmond - yes, the same Marie Osmond who makes porcelain dolls, and her brother, infamous for telling Rosie O'Donnell that he wasn't sure a helicopter could handle all her weight - carried on what they called "one of America's greatest traditions," the 79th Annual Miss America shtick.

Looking like perky funeral directors at their own prom, the Osmonds said that this year, the emphasis was supposedly on "individuality." I suppose everyone uses a different brand of glue to attach their swimsuits to their fannies? We also found out that Miss Oregon's secret shame is that she likes heavy metal music, and that Miss Rhode Island pulled a Marilyn while standing on the Statue of Liberty on a windy day. This and other puzzling things about the smile-a-thon included the fact that they tried to pass Idaho off as the "Gem State" when everyone knows it's the Potato State.

Judges for the nice-capades included Ricky Martin's manager and Judge Judy.

Miss New Jersey glibly laughed, "I've learned everything the hard way!"

Somehow, I found this hard to believe. JonBenet Ramsey learned "the hard way." The contestants of the Miss America pageant, with all their right answers and their political way of dodging questions that could upset their tenuous hold on that tacky crown, are learning the slippery way.

Ironic platforms included "Eating Disorder Awareness." I pondered this and the continuing (they claimed) theme of "individuality" and remembered the dethroning of Miss Colorado.

"It probably would have been a lot easier for me if I just went quietly, and I'm sure that's what they wanted me to do. But I know what they did was wrong and I wasn't going to stand for it, especially when I go into classrooms and I tell kids all the time never to give up and to go for their dreams. I would be a hypocrite if I gave up," said former Miss Colorado Regina Flores, who was dethroned partly because she took a part-time job at a department store without approval.

In 1996, Helen Goldsby was dethroned from her title as Miss New York for taking a role in a Broadway play. Yup, wouldn't want independence to interfere with such pressing engagements as appearing on "Regis and Kathy Lee" or speaking out against the evils of abortions and divorce.

But apparently, even devoting one's freedom to the Miss America corporation isn't the most important thing to become. Sometimes it's plain old superficial beauty.

A blurb trying to sell skin products from the Miss America Web page itself claims "A crowning moment in Donna Axum's life was being named Miss America 1964, but Donna's crowning glory is her flawless complexion." This is what the corporation, in 1999, believes is the most important aspect of the woman they chose once to be "the ideal" for all women?

"The main reason these ladies are here tonight is education," said Marie Osmond on Saturday night. Suuure....

It's interesting to note that this glamorous peep show, this glorified County Fair, complete with horsehow stances and toothy white grins, continues into the supposedly enlightened next millennium, simply by passing itself off as a source for scholarships. The stances they take on the bad things are that they are bad and that things need to happen for them to be good.

They told how nice it was to live in small towns. They spoke fondly of their beloved grandparents, siblings, God and the importance of hard work. One giggled over the fact that she liked frozen custards, while another laughed and admitted she was a "chocoholic."

Contestants pranced around Epcot Center in a gratuitous advertisement for the Walt Disney Company, as the treacle-voiced boys known as 98 Degrees oozed sentimentality and drum-tracked pap, singing in front of giant puppets.

They all looked like puppets to me.

But perhaps Miss North Carolina put it best when she claimed, during the "intensive 12 minute interview" that "you can't fix stupid!" What I learned on Saturday night was that you can only dress "stupid" up in gaudy costumes and parade it around a runway while Donnie Osmond croons "You look good, let's get chillin'."

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