The best writing published these days appears in The New Yorker. In the current issue, there's a book review on the subject of beauty pageants that contains exceptionally smart, entertaining prose. Link here.
The subject is ripe for examination because pageants reflect a society's culture. You see this in how the Miss America competition emerged in 1921, later changed and then changed again. Contrasting the event with Miss U.S.A., its tawdry cousin, enlightens even further.
Tidbits from the review:
- "Pageants, commingling ideology and entertainment, offered something extra—the French-braided forces of patriarchy, capitalism, and racism."
- "At its peak, in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Miss America attracted more than two-thirds of the country’s television viewers. The annual telecast, culminating with Bert Parks, the m.c., crooning “There She Is,” amounted to a minor late-summer holiday, a reunion of the intact but dysfunctional American family. Boys learned how to watch girls, and girls learned how to watch boys watching girls."
- "Miss America still commands attention, rivalling perhaps only major-league baseball in outsized nostalgia-based influence."
What are your thoughts on beauty pageants? Did you ever participate in one?