Two weeks ago, there was a life altering, big-uh-oh typo at the Miss Universe pageant, meaning the organization mistakenly crowned Miss Denise Garrido as the winner instead of Riza Santos. One crown, countless accolades, and 24 hours later, the honor was rescinded and bestowed upon its rightful owner, much to the surprise/agony/joy/suffering of all parties involved. Phew! I mean, what would we have done if that flub weren’t corrected? Oh, right. I remember. Kept living.
Which begs two questions:
1) Why is CNN reporting on this stuff?
2) Why does Miss Universe still exist?
Though CNN’s decade-long pandering to the lowest common denominator is fodder for another time, I’ll attempt to defame the latter now.
The contest in its most nascent stage began in 1926, when the title “Miss Universe” was first used as part of the International Pageant of Pulchritude (yes, back in the olden times companies used big, challenging words for public events). Unfortunately, the Great Depression and other events of legitimate import – say, for instance, the lead-up to World War II – wiped the contest out. Miss Rosie USA from Duluth, Iowa traded in her sash for a wrench and got to work as Rosie the Riveter. One small step of woman, one giant leap for womankind.
The slippery slope back into the useless trappings of femininity was too difficult to resist, however, and the pageant resumed in 1952, much to the delight of women everywhere who dreamed of dancing in swimsuits, parading around a stage like a real-time It’s a Small World, and answering questions like “If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?”* or “If Miss Universe would become pregnant during her reign, could she be allowed to continue as Miss Universe? “**
Surely there was a time when Miss Universe and pageants like it were relevant, shining beacons of hope to young women with little opportunity to ever make something of themselves that would ever be comparable to that of a man. Miss Universe offered a way out, and if you had to do it with your decolletage up to your chin and waving your hand around like you’ve got crippling arthritis, so be it.
My problem with Miss Universe as it stands today is that this formula is no longer necessary, and utilizing the format harkens back to darker days, when a woman’s main asset was how quickly she could make dinner and how she looked in a dress. Recognizing this change, perhaps, the organization argues that it is not merely a beauty pageant, but a platform for cultured, intelligent, ambitious young women. There is emphasis on confidence, elegance, and sophistication. They want women with “wow factor.” But I can think of nothing less elegant than taking to the stage in a cheap ball gown, nothing less sophisticated than gyrating behind Lady Gaga wearing pool heels and a string bikini, and nothing less confidence-boosting than bungling the Q & A segment, a too-white smiled stretched painfully around the words. Wow, indeed.