How To Boost Beauty Pageant Ratings
June 15, 2018
As we all ponder the social and geopolitical implications of the Miss America Organization's decision to eliminate the swimsuit competition from its pageant, it would do well to recall the prescient words of the late, great Bert Parks, who once observed: "The arc of the Miss Universe pageant is long, but it bends toward more revealing bikinis."
In other words, hold on a minute.
We don't know if this no-swimsuit thing is an aberration, a stop-gap measure to appease young women in the age of #MeToo and large-screen, high-definition television, OR if bikinis have just gotten so itty bitty that the only way Miss America could make them any itty bittier is to eliminate them altogether.
What we do know is this: The swimsuit ban only applies to the Miss America pageant. Miss USA contestants still get to wear their Catalina swimwear.
Of course, after strutting across the stage dressed as a bedazzled russet potato in Miss USA's Parade of States, wearing a two-piece with high heels may not be as humiliating for Miss Idaho as you might think. I am guessing here.
Even before eliminating the swimsuit competition, the Miss America pageant was more dignified. It is one of the few remaining places on television where you can still watch both a singing ventriloquist AND a freestyle roller skater perform moving renditions of Amazing Grace in a single half-hour segment.
Even so, people don't watch beauty pageants like they used to. The average competition today gets approximately the same number of viewers as a rerun of Celebrity Family Feud.
So I think pageant organizers' biggest concern isn't really bathing suits. It's television ratings. Which brings me to the idea I've been dying to tell you since the very first paragraph.
What if the Miss America people and Miss USA people came together and staged an inter-pageant competition, pitting the top 10 contestants from each pageant against each other?
Surely they can find common ground.
For example, both pageants claim the purpose of the swimsuit competition is to judge the candidates' physical fitness. So let's bag the swimsuits and have them compete in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test instead. Who wouldn't enjoy watching Miss California and Miss Texas (they ALWAYS make the finals) (I am guessing) perform the flexed-arm hand and standing long jump?
If that's not glitzy enough, they could resurrect the format of the old Battle of the Network Stars. Contestants could go head-to-head in a tug o' war. Plus, there's the obstacle course and the dunk tank!
Well, maybe not the dunk tank. That would ruin their hair.
It would also require them to get back into their swimsuits. And you know what Bert Parks said about how the arc of the Miss Universe pageant bends.
Maybe he was right.