Miss America: Does anyone care?


And the winner of the 2009 Miss America Pageant is…

Do you really care?

Actually, there was a time — not so long ago, really — when Americans did, tuning in in record numbers. It was like the Super Bowl with evening wear. But in 2009, the thought of seeing 52 young women (the extra two are for Miss District of Columbia and Miss U.S. Virgin Islands) awkwardly prance around in bikinis and high heels (there’s a look you see in real life a lot) and showing off their hokey "talents" like tap dancing and belting out their rendition of "Home" from The Wiz, seems not just like bad programming, but embarrassingly out-of-step with the times. And the fact that the mirrored stage made the whole thing look like it was being broadcast live from the Champagne Room at Cheetah’s, didn’t help matters either. Watching it, you couldn’t help thinking that every 10 minutes of air time set the women’s movement back another decade — a sad situation that even host Mario Lopez, jockeying to become the poor-man’s Seacrest, couldn’t right. What, was Joey Fatone busy?

Let’s be honest, if these young women (most of whom looked well beyond the 17 to 24 age limit thanks to their knack for applying make-up with a trowel) really had any discernible talent beyond spouting rehearsed platitudes about how they plan to improve the state of the world with a tiara on top of their Texas-sized hairdos, they would have already signed up for Top Chef, Project Runway, or American Idol instead of slumming it on this low-rent cavalcade. Not that TLC didn’t try to get with the times. This year’s "updated" Miss America format included a lame, lead-up reality TV series that had the gals fighting for wildcard spots in the big event. Not a bad idea, in theory. But a pageant that requires that much commitment from viewers is doomed when there are so many better things on like, oh, I don’t know, Howie Do It. And the addition of a loser’s lounge, where the freshly eliminated had to sit, stew, and shoot dagger-eyes at the contestants who were still standing, was an uncalled-for extra helping of humiliation. Actually, that part was kind of fun.

Still, you can’t blame the producers of Miss America for wanting to hip things up a bit. After all, there’s nothing in American popular culture that’s as hopelessly square as this wheezy old soap opera. But adding Lopez (whose smarmy ad-libbing was excruciating) and some weak reality challenges was hardly a step in the right direction. Then again, what do you expect from TLC — the network that’s currently running the creepy JonBenet Ramsey-style show, Toddlers & Tiaras?

Maybe the only honest moment in the show came when Miss District of Columbia admitted to the camera that she was only in it for the scholarship money and to get out of debt. Wow, was she really just allowed to say that? Naturally, she didn’t make it to the Final Five. So, who did walk away with an armful of long-stem roses and the rhinestone crown? Well, if you read this far, I suppose you’ve earned the right to know: that would be Miss Indiana.

Go Hoosiers!

Congratulations, Miss America 2009. We’ll all be paying rapt attention to your first 100 days in office. For now, be gracious and leave the whole world peace thing to our new president. Instead, how about making your first official act as the reigning queen to put this dated contest out of its misery once and for all?

What did you think of Miss America…that is, if you’re brave enough to admit you watched it?

addCredit(“Denise Truscello/WireImage”)

Comments (367 total) Add your comment
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  • JayleneRL

    I don’t care about miss america honestly. Some people make a huge deal about it i don’t understand why????

  • Shaena

    Maybe the contest is outdated to you… but do you know actually know any of these girls?? anyone can look older than what they are by the way the carry themselves and the things that they wear. who care if part of the reason they do it is for the scholarship money? this yr has changed my view on the pagent. i too use to think that it was kinda useless. but i know katie, i went to school with her and i just want to say that she is an amazing person. shes as down to earth and caring as anyone ive ever met. shes not all about looking pretty. and the talents.. what talent do u have?? billions of ppl go to concerts and basketball games to watch ppl perform their talents.. so whats the big deal about these girls showing off theirs?? they may not be perfect at them, but they are pretty damn good at them. i just dont like that youre trying to put these girls down for trying to better themselves and the things around them. you need to have some faith that some ppl are caring.

    • Baylee

      Agreed. It’s a very hard thing to do I’d love to watch the writer try it.

  • Shaena

    and to the comment under mine.. ppl make a big deal about this pagent because it is a HUGE accomplishment. theres A LOT of time and practice that goes into making it this far. do you know the criteria for being chosen?? i dont think you do or youd know why its such a big deal. why is the superbowl a big deal?? its really not about being pretty. theyre not judge on simply ‘how well they appl their makeup.’ you dont just wake up and think ‘o, i think ill compete for miss america.’ i now realize that these girls are very smart girls. and i do realize the time and work theyve put into their volunteer work and so on.. its just the same as any athlete… scholarships and all

  • Stephanie

    I didn’t watch it, I have to admit but I hate when people call it “putting back the women’s movement.” At least these girls are competing for scholarship money (for higher education!), have to have a talent and usually have a “cause.” What is setting back the progress of women are shows like The Bachelor, Grey’s, Miss USA, and any MTV reality show. All are shows that depict women as needy, desperate and slutty. That’s what’s been Miss America’s problem, really: all of the recent scandals that put them on par with the other losers.

    • Baylee


  • Joe in Philly

    The Miss America pageant has been dead for years but no one’s told it yet.
    If it were about the tradition, they never would’ve changed format (adding the “reality” crap) or left Atlantic City. If it were about the scholarship money they wouldn’t have swimsuits or evening wear. If it were about talent, well, those people are trying out for Idol and such, aren’t they?

  • Tom

    Women are second class citizens, as this pageant proves.

  • Max

    You’ve clearly never actually spoken to a young woman in the Miss America organization. At any level–local, state, or national–these contestants are to be commended for their participation in a program that exists to provide scholarship help for young women across the country AND funds for the Children’s Miracle Network. The author of this easy-target two-bit comedy routine masquerading as a review is confusing trashy reality shows and Miss USA pageants (which is only a beauty pageant–no interview or talent is assessed) with a competition that highlights and rewards young women trying to pursue their academic goals and display talents that they have practiced and worked on for years. Talk to any contestant (instead of just assuming you’ve figured them out) and you’ll come away impressed and with a true appreciation of the time and effort these young women put into these competitions. Taking cheap shots at an outdated (and incorrect) stereotype of “pageant girls” is low and ignorant.

    • Baylee

      If anyone wants to talk to one- here I am. I find it hugely insulting and honestly an embarrassment to the writer that they could be so blatantly mislead and uneducated about miss America. It’s really unfortunate.

  • Tim Harris

    Have you ever met any of the young women who compete in this program? Are you aware of their accomplishments beyond the Miss America stage? I understand that pageants might not be something that you enjoy or find relevant, but to say that the contestants are “slumming it in this low-rent cavalcade” is an unnecessarily extreme way to express your disinterest.
    And your comparison to TOP CHEF and AMERICAN IDOL certainly doesn’t stand up (if the goal is to point out more legitimate alternatives for cultivating talent). Just this week TOP CHEF featured a subplot about chefs making out with each other and feeling guilty (and a chef who served raw fish was allowed to keep competing — to me that’s sort of the same as a “hokey” tap dance). And AMERICAN IDOL? A show that routinely exploits and mocks its contestants is hardly a better alternative.
    You are grossly misinformed and my opinion of you and your magazine have just taken a hit.

  • meg

    I love Miss America. We had a family friend that used to through a party for it every year so I’ve seen every one for the last 15 years. I’m torn about the talent portion, because most of the time the contestants are good at something, but not so good that they would get anywhere in their chosen area (tap, ballet, etc..). I do think these women are motivated. If you go to the Miss America website and read about what former Miss America’s are doing now it’s usually pretty admirable.

  • look-a-like

    the winner looks like a less pretty Rachel McAdams: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1046097/

  • Irishlass

    Was that a review I read or someone’s hate-filled vitriol? I hope you didn’t waste too much money on a college education…oh wait a minute, I know you are jealous because you didn’t get any scholarship money for your “journalism” degree! These are intelligent young women looking to be independent with a career and college education. If you are searching for a scapegoat for the reversal of Womens Rights, check out The Bachelor, or silly MTV whores. The 4 big networks have already set that clock spinning backwards.

  • Coco

    WOW…Someone’s a little too bitter, a little too Left, and a little bit of a miserable human being. They have done a great job making Miss America watchable again, and I even enjoyed Mario’s funny little quips.

  • Diana

    I didn’t realize the pageant was on last night until I saw it on CNN at the gym this morning. People stopped caring about this a long time when it lost the essence of what it was originally about (plus removing it from Atlantic City? Come on.).

  • Anonymous

    Yes, people do care about Miss America! Normally I wouldn’t add a comment to any story like this, but it is because of Katie Stam that I feel I should speak up and say YES we do care! I do not know Katie personally, but I do know her parents! It is because Katie was in the pageant that I actually watched the entire show this year! The pageant this year renewed my feeling that good things happen to good people! There is not a more deserving family than this one. As I saw Katie’s reaction each time, I knew it was because of her parents, and the way they raised their children, that she was very humbled each time that she moved on to the next level and finally on to win! So the answer is yes we do care about the pageant, because if Katie is involved you are going to see gratefulness,charisma,humbleness, and true beauty inside and out! Congratulations Katie! By the time the year is over you will have proved to everyone that being Miss America does matter!

  • Julie in San Diego

    A little bitter, are we? I am an educated, liberated, and well-adjusted, ‘Yes We Did’ boomer who happens to appreciate TLC’s effort in keeping with the times and spirit. What Miss America is today is a well-rounded, community involved, intelligent and athletic woman with talent. Repeat after me: swimsuit=athelticism, ball gown=grace and poise, platform=community involvement& public speaking, and the talent portion?! Were you watching the same show? They were all amazingly talents but Miss Tenessee, Miss California, and Miss Hawaii blew me away. Would love to know the reviewers’s talent, one that has taken years (as these women’s obviously had)to develop. Hmmm, snarkiness perhaps?

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