I was sitting in my kitchen after dinner, desperately trying to find something to watch, now that 60 Minutes was over. I even made it through Andy Rooney, who was less demented than usual. I understood what he was talking about. And he wasn't drooling. But there was just nothing on. Then I tripped over Trump's Miss U.S.A pageant, which is the Miss America pageant without the class. Penthouse, as a response to Playboy. Still, I thought the cheese factor alone might be worth it, so I gave it a shot. But as these grinning show ponies, these future Stepford wives glided across the stage like they were trying to sneak into the White House, my ability to regard this as a perverse pleasure began to evaporate, replaced by a sudden queasiness about being American. It reminded me of a line from Lawrence of Arabia, about the Arabs being "a little people, a silly people. Greedy, barbarous, and cruel." Ok, maybe we're not little. Or barbarous and cruel; well, not all the time, but if this show was any indication of our collective taste, we are awfully silly.
Even the current trend in reality shows -- which has changed the definition of a Jersey girl from someone you might meet on the dance floor of The Stone Pony leading to a summer romance, to someone who could turn a hot tub into a Petri Dish by simply wading into it -- is a modern phenomenon. Sure, they're dumb. And sleazy. Mindless, talentless clowns jockeying for fame as an end in itself, irrespective of possessing any talent that might have traditionally lead to it. But, shit, at least it's modern sleaze. But this... beauty pageant ... was a grotesque throwback. Broadcast TV reeling from a complete loss of direction. Or any mission statement, other than increasing ad dollars. What once was broadcasting is now just throwing shit against the wall and seeing what sticks. Even if it's anorexic gazelles in gowns with Vaseline on their teeth prancing around in some bizarre, anachronistic ritual. And to what end? It's not a mating dance. They're not being auctioned off. Maybe if a door opened and hungry lions vaulted out and chased them around, at least that I would get. Or if they put these girls through their paces and then brought Snooki out from the wings and stuck the crown on her head just to screw with them -- I could see the entertainment value in that. Psyche! But this made no sense.
This was something out of another era. Something you would think modern network television would look at and say, "Nah, we're past this now." Also, since I'd been living under the assumption that the women's movement had made a few strides over the last half century, I couldn't help wondering what these girls were thinking. Was it about the cash? Was this the crowning achievement in a lifetime of Little Miss pageants? Were they hoping this would propel them to better things? A career in modeling or broadcasting? A spot on Celebrity Apprentice? Being governor of Alaska? It was a mystery. Yet, as inane as it was, I kept watching, while fantasizing about how much I'd like to see Donald Trump do the Ned Beatty role in a remake of Deliverance, only in real life. Besides, I was eager to hear how they'd handle the gay marriage question.
Then they cut to Joan and Melissa Rivers, offering commentary on the contestants. Joan and Melissa Rivers ... offering commentary... on a beauty contest. That's when I threw up in my mouth and turned it off.
Now I know why the terrorists hate us.
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