Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pageant Overload

A couple of weekends ago I was feeling very accomplished for completing the pinning of my latest quilt (rendering it available for actual quilting the three layers together), and so I did what I normally do when I feel I've accomplished something. I plopped down in front of the television. There was nothing on that I particularly wanted to watch, so the remote control somehow stopped on the most visually attraction thing it could find: the 2006 Miss America Pageant. On the Country Music Television (CMT) channel. I still can't believe it myself. It’s like the remote had a mind of its own. OK, so I didn't sit there, not moving, throughout the entire broadcast. I was moving clothes from the washer to the dryer. I folded a load of towels. I picked a lot of my quilting tools that were scattered around the room. But, it was on the whole time and I definitely stopped to watch at all the key moments. I even gave my own critiques of the contestants out loud to the TV. It was OK, because DC was in his shop welding, and there was no one else in the house, and therefore there were no witnesses to my talking to an inanimate object.

After a couple of hours, a new Miss America was crowned. After getting hugs from her fellow contestants, she did her walk along the runway while smiling and crying and waving and getting sung to. Clearly, there was nothing else to see, so I started roaming through the channels again, and what did I run smack into?? The Miss Universe Pageant! All the planets must have aligned or something. What are the odds of there being 4 straight hours of pageant programming available from our local cable network?

( I should point out here that Miss America is not a milestone on the road to the Miss Universe Pageant, so I didn’t get to see the winner of first pageant go on to compete in the second pageant or anything that exciting. Miss USA is the national contest that feeds into Miss Universe. Miss America is produced by a totally different organization. As far as I can tell, the main difference between Miss USA and Miss America is that the Miss America pageant requires a talent, and Miss USA doesn't. To be Miss USA, all you have to do is look good and speak semi-coherently about all the meaningful activities you're involved in, and how you want to dedicate your life to helping other people. To be Miss America, you have to do all that AND be able to tap dance a little or sing or play the piano. )

Now, where were we? Oh right, so, I was already in a pageanty sort of mood when I ran into the Miss Universe extravaganza, but my interest was piqued mostly because of another mysterious coincidence. Earlier in the day I had watched my first episode of "Project Runway" on a completely different network while pinning together the three layers of the aforementioned quilt. Project Runway is yet another reality show where fashion designers compete against each other to win something, sort of like the American Idol of textiles. OK, it was mostly listening, because I sitting on the floor pinning the quilt layers together for the entire episode, only occasionally lying back on the floor to give my back a rest and actually watching. But, I got the gist of it. I definitely did not need to get drawn into another reality show, but there you have it. Anyway, the competition on this episode was designing an evening gown for Miss USA to wear at the Miss Universe Pageant. What are the odds? I mean, you'd think somebody planned it that way! So of course I had to watch the pageant, if only just long enough to see if she wore the dress without major design changes (she did).

Somewhere around the third hour of this four-hour pageant marathon DC came back into the house for a bathroom/food/water break, as he does on and off all day when he's working in the shop. It was mostly dark by then, and I hadn’t turned on any lights in the room. I sat in darkness except for the blue-green glow of Miss Universe, so I could only hear his voice emanating from a DC-shaped silhouette in the hallway. He cautiously asked me if I was OK. He sounded concerned. In hindsight, he must have been coming into the house for surreptitious bathroom breaks throughout the “afternoon of pageants,” noticed my unusual program selections, and thought something was amiss. I think also got an “Aren’t you offended?” query.

And now that I think about it, why wasn't there something wrong? I wasn't offended. Not once. And they were all six feet tall and skeletal. Miss Sweden's ribs were literally showing during the swimsuit competition. Ten years ago, if I had happened to run into a pageant while channel surfing, I would have announced to anyone within earshot that the whole thing was ridiculous and offensive and those women shouldn’t allow themselves to be exploited and paraded around like livestock in such a dehumanizing manner. Today, I spend a Sunday afternoon watching all the pretty dresses and assessing who has the most poise and waiting to see who is going to win.

I’m not so sure who is exploiting who anymore. I do remember thinking how really weird it is that we have this whole big production centered around tall skinny girls walking around in bathing suits and then walking around in evening gowns and then we give one of them a prize. But then, if those girls can get all those prizes and cash and attention for just walking around and looking good, more power to them. It's no stupider than a football game, and nobody’s getting a concussion.

But I worry. Am I losing my principles? Or maybe I’m just becoming a little less judgmental.

P.S. The winner of the Miss Universe title, Miss Puerto Rico, fainted about 45 minutes after being crowned. A statement was issued that she had, in fact, eaten that day. Hrpmh. I doubt it. I saw her protruding hip bones myself.


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