So, there’s much hype as always about the new Miss America being crowned at what CNN labels a “jazzed-up pageant.” Another beautiful young woman will now have the opportunity to travel and speak about her platform, in exchange for objectifying herself in front of a nationwide television audience.
Was that critical? Oops.
Perhaps part of my issue that I can’t stand fake things, and there’s something about beauty pageants that screams fake to me (could it be the plastic smiles or the tragically uneducated answers? Perhaps…). Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for the winners in the sense that they have a chance to advocate some (typically) worthwhile causes and that they win scholarship money and all, but I think my real issue is with the objectification.
I love beauty. I appreciate looking at beautiful women. I’m heartbroken, however, at how the path to success and fortune for beautiful women in America’s entertainment industry is marked by putting their bodies on display for whomever may want to lust after them along the way, and forever and ever at that, as pictures never come off the Internet once they’re on. I’ve talked about my opinion of the entertainment industry here before; about how there shouldn’t be an industry, and how it has succeeded in destroying many a young celebrity along the way, most notably, of late, being Britney Spears. There’s a line where any good thing becomes gratuitous. The long-term effects of women (or men) placing their bodies on display in order to move up the ladder of success is damaging beneath its flashy veneer, and the concept is, at its core, a very voyeuristic and twisted idea. It moves us all, both those who look and those are looked upon, into a realm of captivity of sorts. Ironic in my mind that it is considered a freedom.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some hyper-conservative religious fundamentalist who thinks that women must cover themselves from head to toe. I’m just recognizing that something changes when we take a beautiful woman wearing a bikini on the beach or an evening gown at dinner, and place her under the stage lights for everyone to gaze upon. Outside of the context of story, I can’t help but think that this moves into the realm of the gratuitous, just like when artistic nudity is replaced with pornography.
Why is that we cannot hold pageants based upon intellect, and public speaking ability, and social activism along with beauty? Why can we not have more discussion and less modeling? Might that not do something to advance us culturally, instead of leaving us in the realm of vacuous prime time entertainment?
The problem is, I think, that our standards are low enough that we legitimately desire that vacuous entertainment. And that’s indicative of a much, much deeper issue.