The end of an era?
September 25, 2002 6:27 AM   Subscribe

The end of an era? The Miss America crowning had just 12 million viewers tune in this past Saturday, the lowest viewership in the history of the pageant. Are people turned off by this type of competition? Or are there just better things to do on a Saturday night?
posted by MediaMan (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On the bright side, winner Erika Harold, a Phi Beta Kappa grad bound for Harvard Law, overcame high school racial harassment (she is part African American and part Native American) that escalated to death threats.

You America!
posted by gottabefunky at 6:38 AM on September 25, 2002

1. It is ENTIRELY too long.

2. The judges have a remarkably different opinion of what constitutes beauty than me, apparently. And spare me the arguments about "it's not a beauty contest". Even the official guidelines, which obviously are not followed, allow 60% to be judged upon appearance.

3. High heels and swimsuits? I don't even get it.

4. A little more stringent definition of what constitutes "talent".

5. A goal should be that the winner is more visible for the next year than the first person voted off "Survivor".

It's on Saturday night because it gets low ratings... it gets low ratings because it's on Saturday night. Death spiral.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:51 AM on September 25, 2002

I know I'm going to get flamed for this. But. I don't think she's pretty at all. Maybe that's the problem.
posted by einarorn at 6:53 AM on September 25, 2002

The Big E totally kicked ass.
posted by TurkishGolds at 6:54 AM on September 25, 2002

On a funnier note, Miss Universe was just "fired" by the Trump people and replaced by the runner-up because she, apparently, was not performing her duties. In other words, Miss Universe decided she would rather have a useful, purposeful life that head off to photo shoots where she has to sit around and smile and charity events where she sits around and smiles some more.

This was all, apparently, unbelievably important news to the New York Post, as seen here in this article which actually makes you dumber by reading it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:59 AM on September 25, 2002

I'm with you einarorn. I made the same observation Saturday night and, though those with me at the time disagreed, I'm still standing by it.
posted by originalname37 at 7:03 AM on September 25, 2002

Articles like this remind me how antiquated these pageants are. Miss America, Miss Universe, and the rest glorify some ideal of virginal virtue that belongs to another era. I can't think of one reason why it should matter if the pageant winner is single, other than the title.

So why don't people watch? Because it's insulting. Because it's a sham. Because they'd rather watch Victorian buggy racing.
posted by frykitty at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2002

actually makes you dumber by reading it.

That's unpossible! "NEW MISS UNIVERSE MUST WORK HARD TO KEEP ON TOES" - I can just picture her stomping away on all sides.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2002

Also: what excuzipher said.
posted by frykitty at 7:05 AM on September 25, 2002

Why watch that, when you can have porn year-round? And you don't have to use your imagination.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:05 AM on September 25, 2002

And of course there is always Mrs. America.

My god, three comments in a Miss America thread. Not a busy morning, apparently.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:06 AM on September 25, 2002

I watched the pagent both this year and last year. After reading this article in salon this morning, I am encouraged that the smartest woman won, not the prettiest. Like they keep telling us: The Miss America Pagent is no longer a beauty contest, it's a college scholarship program. And that beats the hell out of having to pay back college loans! Especially if you're going to Harvard Law School.
posted by ericableu at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2002

einahorn--I think she's cute, but I see what you're driving at. For years, the pageant was where you'd see the prettiest women in america once a year more or less. Nowadays we have an incredibly well funded modeling industry snapping up abnormally attractive people at a young age and using unbelievable technology to make them even more attractive*. So the pageant winds up kinda paling by comparison. Some scholarship money can't really compete with Vogue-cover riches and fame, ya know?

*to some. Real physical beauty is natural and is ehanced from within. People on TV and magazine covers these are mpore impressive as wonders of rhinoplasty, makeup and hair products than anything else. I'm impressed by the science but the result leaves me cold.
posted by jonmc at 7:11 AM on September 25, 2002

Other than a brief period of time in my adolescence I've never been interested in Miss America/Universe or whatever pageants. The show is boring, the girls are boring and the contests are boring. If I wanted to watch plastic people pretend to care about a cause I'd play barbies with a 7 year old. It'd still be better than watching a beauty pageant, at least the 7 year old will have honest views as opposed to views designed (probably by an image consultant) to manipulate judges.
posted by substrate at 7:12 AM on September 25, 2002

I think pageants are basically a form of reality TV, but with the current rise in popularity of other more risque reality TV shows, they just don't cut the mustard anymore.

If instead they dropped the top 10 on on a deserted Island, had cameras follow them for 24 hours we would be in for some riveting viewing! Can you just imagine the level of backstabbing and scheming? Pageant queens are masters at talking through both sides of their mouths. "Miss Oklahoma is such a special person" roughly translates to "Whore".
posted by PenDevil at 7:13 AM on September 25, 2002

The Miss America Pagent is no longer a beauty contest, it's a college scholarship program.

Then what the hell are they doing parading around in swimsuits and high heels?
posted by mdn at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2002

High heels and swimsuits? I don't even get it.

Uh... what's not to get?
posted by McBain at 7:21 AM on September 25, 2002

The Miss America Pagent is no longer a beauty contest, it's a college scholarship program.

Then what the hell are they doing parading around in swimsuits and high heels?

The scholarship is to Mustang Ranch University, I guess.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:21 AM on September 25, 2002


The high heels and swimsuits are for you, of course.
posted by ericableu at 7:27 AM on September 25, 2002


What I mean is that the 2 seem not to go together. If they are in swimsuits, they should be barefoot. (Doesn't Miss USA do that?)

If they like the high heels they should wear little slinky black dresses. The swimsuits and high heels just seem so tacky.

Like Hooter's girls wearing pantyhose: I just don't get it.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:46 AM on September 25, 2002

Three words: Full frontal nudity.
posted by alumshubby at 8:26 AM on September 25, 2002

Oh, wait...forget it. I forgot they all have basically exactly the same body.
posted by alumshubby at 8:29 AM on September 25, 2002

"She needed to spend a lot of time in Russia," Shugart said on NBC television. "I believe her mother was ill at one point." ... and they fired her for that? Didn't some other winner get fired for being married earlier?
What happened with Miss Williams, oh yeah, she resigned.
posted by dabitch at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2002

About Miss Universe . . . didn't one get demoted a few years ago because she put on weight?

Anyway, I flipped by the Miss America pageant and noticed that a few of the contestants seemed fairly muscular. That's something tougher to "scientifically enhance" than chest size. I'd be delighted if mainstream views of beauty started including real athleticism as opposed to just low body weight.
posted by synapse at 9:35 AM on September 25, 2002

Oh, wait...forget it. I forgot they all have basically exactly the same body.

No, they don't, which is what the swimsuit competition shows pretty well. Miss New York, who does a yoga-like workout routine (they showed each contestant talking about how she kept fit) must also lift weights because she was really quite buff. At least two of the contestants were so thin and/or holding things in so tightly that their ribcages were easily visible. Some had dancer's legs, some had singer's legs. They weren't cookie cutouts by a long shot.

The new thing is the Miss America quiz, a series of questions that anyone with a college education ought to be able to answer correctly. That's what put Miss Illinois over the top, even though she was maybe third out of the top five talentwise. She had a lot of poise, answered the stupid question during the newly truncated "interview" portion very well, and only missed one question on the quiz. (The one that every contestant got wrong, about a recent recommendation about how long adults should exercise each day.) She outperformed everywhere but in the talent.

The show is antiquated, and the new aspects that they've thrown in (the "voted off" contestants now vote on who they think should win, the contestants do their own makeup and hair, the interview now consists of really lame questions also from the contestants who didn't make the cut, and the quiz which features music eerily reminiscent of Millionaire) only point out the antiquated aspects of it in more sharp relief.

The idea of showing physical fitness is fine - but that can be done without parading around in a bathing suit and five inch heels. The idea of demonstrating facility with current events and a grasp on basic history and political issues is great, but not when done in cheesy game show format. Nothing at all wrong with talent demonstrations, so long as there's really talent there to back it up. (Miss Oklahoma, a jazz singer who attends Oral Roberts University wiped the floor with Harvard-bound Miss Illinois/America and her not-very-operatic aria. That speaks volumes!) Obviously, though, the changes that would bring Miss America kicking and screaming into this century aren't going to happen with the current administration in power. They prefer quick fixes and gimmicks to real change, which is a shame.

The Miss America system, from bottom to top, provides more scholarship money to women in this country than any other organization. If we rant to rail about anything, that's the place to start. Why isn't the largest scholarship program for women one that emphasizes academic performance and community service without regard to physical performance and appearance? Why isn't the "largest" scholarship program for women giving awards that are actually useful? $5,000 to the top 11-15, $6,000 for 6-10 -- it's estimated that each contestant at the national level of competition has spent $5k easily on transportation, clothing, etc. etc. Thanks for nothing, then, literally. This is 2002?
posted by Dreama at 10:05 AM on September 25, 2002

Bring back the old goofiness! Dress Miss Minnesota as a snowflake; Miss Arizona as a cactus. Let untalented people compete, so we're treated to clog dancing and dramatic readings of the "as God is my witness scene" from "Gone With the Wind." If it's perennially outdated anyway, celebrate the outdatedness. The kitschier the better.
posted by GaelFC at 10:13 AM on September 25, 2002

As we get more and more channels, I would guess viewership of big events would go down, all else being equal. I mean, if I like fly-fishing, I'd probably rather watch the 'Fly Rod Marathon' on the fly-fishing channel than Miss America. But I didn't have that choice 10 years ago.

I heard a media consultant recently say that this presents an opportunity for newspapers. People can't discuss last night's 'Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson' by the watercooler, as everyone watches different channels. But they can discuss what they read in the paper this morning, as they are likely to have read the same paper.
posted by Triplanetary at 11:57 AM on September 25, 2002

There actually was a time, though, when Miss America had demanding rules for contestants' key measurements. In fact, I remember a flap or two from my salad days when a contestant was found to be enhancing butt cheeks with shoulder pads and double-stick tape or some such.

In any event, let's not forget the pageant's original purpose: boosting Atlantic City tourism.
posted by dhartung at 12:15 PM on September 25, 2002

tits. ass. television. yawn.
posted by quonsar at 3:44 PM on September 25, 2002

wayne brady hosted? i might have tuned in if i'd known he was going to be on ...

... or like MediaMan and TurkishGolds mentioned, stuck with my original plan of kettle corn, roller coasters, and country kitsch.
posted by ursamajor at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2002

Thanks for that great link, dhartung. And this little gay boy thinks the new Miss America is totally cute. It's the realness of her features that I like - very non-Hollywood.
posted by mediareport at 4:10 PM on September 25, 2002

BURN CONDOMS, NOT BRAS!! What's interesting about all this is that Ms. Harold's win was predicted by a number of news organizations (cf. Google) and that her platform of sexual abstinence has made her a darling of the conservatives. Don't take my word for it, check out Project Reality.
posted by Sixtieslibber at 6:29 PM on September 25, 2002

Somehow, I don't think Mefi is a place to gauge the tastes of America. In any case, the pageant brings me back to being 10 yrs old or so and watching with my sister and perhaps seeing who could pick the finalists.

It was a hoot. It is a hoot. The contestants are freaks, but so what?
posted by ParisParamus at 6:49 PM on September 25, 2002

Well, multiracial, female, Phi Beta Kappa graduates who can sing opera (sorta) with a fairly strong grasp on both current events and history, a dedication to physical fitness, a love of reading, a commitment to public service and a pass to Harvard Law are rare, but are they freaks, really?
posted by Dreama at 7:25 PM on September 25, 2002

I like to watch.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:43 PM on September 25, 2002

While in the rest of the world beauty pageants are reduced to an inconsequential (and offensive to some) anachronism, in my little corner of the globe the Miss Hong Kong pageant remains the Superbowl of the local TV calendar, as it has been for the last 20 years or so. The show consistently draws the highest ratings of the year, is fuel for watercooler gossip for days on end among young and old alike, and serves as the primary feeding system for scouting up-and-coming new female showbiz talent (the winner gets a guaranteed contract with TVB, the leading local TV studio which also produces the pageant). A substantial number of today's leading local celebrities got their start this way.
posted by plenty at 12:28 AM on September 26, 2002

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