For the twentieth consecutive year, I made a point of not watching the television coverage of the Miss America pageant. On one level, this was an easy decision: Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a rerun, but it was one I hadn't seen before. More to the point, I am basically sick of these synthetic spectacles, and I want nothing more to do with them.

The concept, to be charitable, is old hat. The age of one's fedora aside, though, the pageant simply doesn't have any relevance these days, if indeed it ever did. Much fuss is made by the promoters about how it's not a beauty pageant, per se, but a scholarship competition, and I suppose there's some truth to that, but the notion of a scholarship being based even slightly upon how nice one looks in a swimsuit strikes me as just a tad perverse.

A celebration of American womanhood? Well, maybe. On the other hand, most American women are not twenty years old, relentlessly cheerful, and possessed of bodies that defy gravity. And should I desire to see such, there are far better T&A fests available elsewhere on the dial.

And then there is, for lack of a better term, the JonBenét factor. The young ladies got to this point by rigorous training in the minor leagues of pageantry, and irrespective of whether they did this of their own accord, or were pushed into it by ambitious parental units, I have to wonder how much of their childhood was sacrificed for a shot at a tiara.

Finally, Mother Teresa was laid to rest this past week, and Princess Diana the week before. These were women whose lives were worth celebrating. If we must have exemplars and role models, this is where we should start not with a row of waxed and buffed simulacra.

The Vent

15 September 1997

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 Copyright © 1997 by Charles G. Hill