I watched the Miss American Pageant last night on DVR. Now, just to be clear, I have no gripe with pageants. I've always thought they were kind of kitchy and fun. How else would we know that if you need to maintain a shiny, happy smile under bright lights and stressful conditions, the answer is to slick your front teeth with Vaseline? THAT's beauty news we can use.
Last night, though, the story was quite different. You see, they've modernized Miss America, trying to position the pageant as a search for the quintessential "It Girl" we'll all look to for inspiration. I'm not sure whose idea of modern they applied, though. Here were some of the scripted comments the contestants were forced to say while introducing themselves and their states (and no, I'm not making these up. Or even exaggerating):
Miss Delaware: "I'm from the birthplace of Henry Heimlich, the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver!"
Miss Wyoming: "We moved up our primaries, but nobody cared!"
Miss Nevada: "When you come here, your money stays here, and we thank you!"
Miss Utah: "We have the nation's highest birthrate...as long as the Osmonds don't move!"
Miss Indiana: "I'm here to prove that we have more than just corn!"
And my personal favorite:
Miss Texas: "We have a population of 21 million, not including the 60 million cattle!"
I guess that's one way to look at modern.
After that, the field was narrowed to 16, and we learned in little film clips that Miss Michigan can't ride a bicycle, and Miss Virginia's special talent is to put her foot behind her head (which she was then unable to do because of the tightness of her jeans.)
Up until this point, I was still captivated by the pageant, for one reason and one reason only: Miss Iowa was still in the running, and her talent is --wait for it!--BATON TWIRLING!!! You can imagine my excitement to see her sitting with the other top ten contestants, holding not one, not two, but THREE batons. People, let me pause here for a moment and explain that while there is much to make fun of in the world of twirling, you can't fake three batons. That's actual talent, and it's just incredible to watch.
So I fast forwarded through Miss Michigan belting out Somewhere Over the Rainbow because I couldn't stop giggling, imagining her true lyrics: "Somewhere over the rainbow, kids ride a bike! If kids ride over the rainbow, why then oh why can't I???" The next two contestants must have heard my laughter, because they sang in foreign languages I couldn't revise: Miss California performed an Italian opera piece, and Miss Indiana gyrated while singing in Spanish (You know, because there's more than corn in Indiana. There's Spanish!).
And that's when it happened, the worse decision in the history of my pageant watching life: They ELIMINATED Miss Iowa, right there in the middle of the talent segment!!! She never even got to twirl!!! I almost threw up. I mean, this was the ONLY one of the talent segments that had any sort of fun, any performance value, any spunky "It-girl" possibility. I hit the fast-forward button over and over and over again, hoping against hope they'd have some outtake from her planned routine, some farewell tribute to show us what we'd be missing. But NOTHING. Just Clinton from What Not to Wear (whose sole job was to placate the non-winners with a giant tray of donuts) ushering Miss Iowa offstage while commenting that earlier in the competition, her routine had brought the house down. Mmm Hmm. They allowed her to a tiny bit of twirling as they went to commercial, during which she threw in a triple toss turn around. That's the hardest trick I could ever do in my brief twirling career, and she threw it in as an afterthought in front of millions of people after being booted from the competition. I'm telling you, America, we were robbed.
I was too depressed to watch the rest, so I forwarded to the end. Miss Michigan won. If she hasn't chosen a platform yet, I'd suggest bicycle safety.