One of the biggest stories of the last week was what happened during the interview segment of the Miss USA Pageant. Miss California's question came from Perez Hilton who asked “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?” Miss California's answer:
Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.In response, people on all sides of the gay marriage issue have been commenting on whether the question and/or answer was appropriate. Personally, I don't think either person said anything unusually improper. However, I do believe that this incident shows that those demonizing either the contestant or the judge are just making a mountain out of a molehill and are, quite frankly, making themselves look like assholes.
One school of thought is that Perez Hilton's question, despite being approved in advance by pageant officials, was inappropriate. Personally, I think such an assertion cannot be made without abandoning all traces of logic. The interview portion of the pageant, as I understand it, is intended to get the contestants to express their opinions. If a very open-ended political questions is too extreme, what else could the judges ask? Either they would have to ask a question with an obvious answer (e.g. Do you think recycling is a good or bad thing?) or a question that provides minimal insight into the contestants' minds (e.g. What's your favorite color?). Considering that something along the lines of "What's your opinion on same-sex marriage?" is open-ended and can result in more than one response, there's really no reason why it should be condemned as inflammatory.
Despite what I think, there are always people there to cry wolf. According to the Family Research Council, the whole Hilton question was a set-up. The group alleges that the competition was rigged so that Miss California, who had previously quoted bible verses in her Miss USA competition biography, was intentionally asked this question for the sole purpose of insulting her. This argument wouldn't be all that unreasonable had it not been for the fact that contestants' questions were determined randomly by drawing names out of a bowl by the contestants themselves. In other words, there was no way to guarantee that she would be the one to receive the gay marriage question. The Family Research Council went on to complain about the contestant's rights being violated because she was insulted by Hilton following the competition. You know, for a group that complains so often about being persecuted and unable to express its views, the Family Research Council sure does a lot to try and stop its opponents from talking.
In addition to complaining about Perez Hilton, some people have also complained about the answer provided by Miss California, Carrie Prejean. But when you think about it, did she really do anything wrong? After all, she was asked what her view was on gay marriage. The correct thing to do was to answer the question. It's just that simple. I may not have agreed with her answer, but there isn't anything that outrageous about someone opposing gay marriage. Furthermore, she did provide a reason for her perspective. (Granted, opposing gay marriage because that's what she was told to believe as a child isn't a strong argument, but it's at least an attempt at justification.) Compare her performance to that of her competitors, like Miss Arizona. (I'm starting to get the impression that Miss South Carolina from the 2007 Miss Teen USA Pageant wasn't all that unusual.) To put it simply, her answer wasn't great - it certainly wasn't profound enough to warrant any honors - but compared to the typical answer one would see in a beauty pageant, it wasn't all that bad.
But regardless of this particular incident at the most recent pageant, there is still one issue left to be addressed: Why does an interview portion of the competition even exist in the first place? Maybe it's to reveal the contestants' personalities and intellect, but such an effort is clearly misguided. After all, nobody comes out of the interview segment without making themselves look like a fool. The way the segment is currently set up seems merely designed to showcase the aspects of the contestants that are least impressive. As one saying goes, "It is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."
But perhaps the biggest flaw is simply that not many people actually watch beauty pageants for intellectual reasons. Watching 51 women strut around in bikinis is interesting because of sex appeal, not because it presents an opportunity to better understand the intellectual issues they can handle. I can assure you that if anyone says something like "Wow! That Miss New York is incredible. Check out the size of her... um, brains," that person isn't thinking about any contestant's politcal stances. Simply put, having the contestants give pathetic answers to stupid questions just makes it easier to believe the stereotype that beauty pageant contestants are bimbos who can only get through life because of their bodies. So, as counterintuitive as it sounds, I think the best thing that the Miss USA Pageant could do to avoid contributing to this problem would be to eliminate the Q & A and go back to showcasing the T & A. Beauty pageants are just competitions of who's the most physically attractive, so why pretend that it's something more progressive than that?
Giant Gay-Repellant Umbrellas
From the makers of Prop 8 - The Musical comes a new video, this time in response to the National Organization for Marriage's "Gathering Storm" ad:
The anti-gay marriage campaign being targeted was called 2M4M, an acronym for Two Million for Marriage. However, the website 2m4m.org has been bought by a group calling themselves Two Men for Marriage. Additionally, the term "M4M" is generally used as a term meaning "man looking for a man". Now that is irony.