So much for a "reality check"
After a month of watching TLC's "Miss America: Reality Check", a show that is meant to update this almost 90-year old pageant so it actually reflects real American women, I watched this girl win the title:
If you're thinking "But she looks exactly like a Miss America - what's new about this?" then you probably understand why I'm so annoyed.
Don't get me wrong - Miss Michigan gave a great answer during the question period ("Of course you should tell your fiance if you have an STD! It's all about respect!" LOL) and had a nice dress (if you like sequins and see-through patches that is). She sang "Over the Rainbow" (which has got to be the most over-used song in pageant history. AND she sang it badly) in a ridiculous blue dress, and had the bad 80's hair that the reality show had just spent 4 weeks trying to get rid of. Oh - and she looked EXACTLY like last year's winner: pretty blonde girl with big hair and in a sequined dress with tears in her eyes and roses in her arms.
What a great role model for young girls! I'm sure they'll all be out looking for the hot rollers and sparkly gowns once again. And having a personality? Forget about that! All you need is a pretty smile and a quick answer to a "difficult" question!
The really disappointing thing was going through 4 weeks of the reality show and getting to really like some of the contestants - several of whom were showcased constantly but didn't even make the final 16. My two favourites: Miss Alaska and Miss D.C. were far and above more like real women than any of the others, on top of being beautiful, and they were completely overlooked by the Miss America judges.
Kim and I were really hoping to see Miss Alaska make it: short brown hair, brown eyes, not the tanned beach girl that you would normally see wearing the crown - and with a quirky personality that came out more and more as she became more confident. It was like watching the oddball kid in your class come out of her shell and turn out to be this really cool person. She was in every episode of the show, and the Advisory Panel (who were supposed to help them accept the new, hipper image of Miss America) were always talking about her.
The judges only picked a few of the girls we had gotten to know from the TV show, so it started off on a disappointing note. And things went downhill from there...
1. The announcer was TERRIBLE. This dude fumbled every other sentence, made bad jokes about everything, then repeated the joke Clinton Kelly (from What Not to Wear) told that did get laughs so many times that he killed it. He called Miss Washington "Miss Wisconsin" (who wasn't up there anymore) and was as smarmy as you would expect a Miss America announcer to be.
2. All of the girls either sang a song or did a dance (the dances being ballet or jazz). No other talents were showcased.
3. The Question Period was supposed to be random questions from people on the street - which was totally ruined when you would see one lady's eyes moving across a card as she READ THE QUESTION TO THE CAMERA. Yup, that's nice and spontaneous. Wonder who wrote that for her...
4. Miss Utah. Everything about her pissed me off. A military woman who was so much like Sandra Bullock's character in "Miss Congeniality" that it almost seemed fake. She had this attitude that was so pro-military it made us wonder why she was even competing. The point of the show was to change, and she said on more than one occasion that she wasn't planning change at all - probably because she already was totally different from the barbie dolls who usually compete. While this was mildly admirable (and made us like her at first) her refusal to try and improve anything about herself, as she made fun of the advisory panel and the pageant itself was annoying to watch. But the American public voted her in as the 16th contestant. I guess the people watching this year are very pro-military and didn't watch her ridiculous behaviour during the 4 part series. Yes, she's a strong woman, but she didn't had any touch with her femininity and seemed resentful of even having her pictures taken. I've got no problem with the military, but to vote a woman into a beauty pageant on that novelty is really dumb. 'nuff said.
5. There were commercials for the Miss America pageant DURING the Miss America pageant. Very sad.
6. Other than the DJ spinning music and the "controversial questions", there was absolutely nothing different about the pageant this time around. The reality show didn't have any impact on the result whatsoever (I doubt the judges even saw it), and the girls all looked just like they always did - overly made-up, stiff, nervously holding hands when waiting for results, and tearfully hugging when they were eliminated. Total barbie-doll, cookie-cutter pageant girls with the same sparkly (and fugly) dresses - where were the outfits they had chosen from the reality show portion? Those outfits actually looked modern and looked good.
7. Michael Urie, who I LOVE as Mark, from "Ugly Betty", had hosted the reality portion of the show, and was completely missing from the live finale. Stacey, from "What Not to Wear" was also missing from the finale.
8. They decided it would be more fun to sit the final 10 girls together before the talent competition, then randomly announced that two of them wouldn't even get to perform. That was just MEAN. It's already scary to perform in front of a crowd, but they added even more pressure by saying "two of you won't get the chance." Just awful.
9. All of the competitions were exactly the same: swimsuits, evening gowns, talents, and questions. They could do so much more to make these competitions relevant, but stuck with the same format used in the early 1900s. I would have loved to see them each talk for a couple of minutes about their platforms and themselves instead of answering questions about Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lynn Spears.
10. Overall the show looked completely disorganized and amateurish - which is sad considering they didn't change ANYTHING.
The highlight of the night for me was when Clinton asked one of the girls (I think it was Miss Connecticut)"What does it feel like to march across a stage wearing just a bikini and high heels?"
Her response: "How should I know? I didn't get to do that!"
For four weeks, the reality show on TLC preached to the girls about being strong, modern women using less makeup and being more "real". They did segments on some of the girls during the 4 week program (it would have been better to showcase them all actually - we didn't see anything of Miss Michigan at all) where some of their personal stories allowed us to relate to them in a way that I personally have never related to any beauty pageant contestant. For the first time, some these girls seemed like smart, fun people with their own personalities and opinions, and I was excited to see what they would be like during the finale.
Only the girls who stuck with the cookie-cutter Miss America mold got to advance. The edgiest and most modern by FAR was Miss Washington, with her brown hair, exotic looks, support of gay marriage, and singing "Angels" by Robbie Williams (beautifully I might add). She made it to the final 8, and stood amidst a group of big-haired blondes. I knew she wouldn't win.
The 1st runner up, Miss Indiana, was one of the girls most resistant to change. She looks just like a soap opera star, with excessively bright eye makeup and blush - and wore a dress that was fit for a ice dancing competition. Yet she wins the second prize. I just don't get it.
I used to watch this competition as a kid - it was fun to see the dresses and the talent parts, and I remember picking a state and cheering for her throughout the show. This time around, I had 3 favourites (the top being Miss Alaska), and they were overlooked for the same kinds of girls I saw on TV when I was 10 years old. It was worse this time though - we got invested in certain people, believed things would actually be relevant and different this time. And as soon as they called the final 16, it was clear things haven't changed at all.
They spent four weeks trying to change the contestants, but obviously no time at all in changing the judges. I wonder what would have happened if the people had gotten to vote for this using the American Idol style? Imagine how much fun it would be - have the series teaching the girls to be the "new" Miss America each week, then have the talent competition one week, the swimsuit (including a fitness or health challenge rather than parading them in freaking bathing suits) competition the following week, then a final episode with evening gowns and questions. Each week people could vote for their favourites, ending with the "LIVE! FINALE!" that these shows love so much. Yes, it's a reality show, but would actually be a relevant one. No panel of fashionista judges looking for an 80-year old ideal - just real people voting for somebody to represent them.
Unfortunately, they've delivered exactly the opposite of what was promised this year, and it doesn't look like the organization is willing to change. I'm so glad they wasted our time.
I guess the "reality check" is that this pageant still has no touch with reality...