There She Is
There’s been a lot of brouhaha lately over a contestant in the Miss America Contest saying something controversial. It was mentioned in a response to my blog the other day so I decided to look it up. It seems that Miss California, the odds on favorite to win the contest was asked whether she supported same sex marriages, or at least some question, the answer to which would gauge her views on the subject. Her answer was that it was great to live in a country where both same sex and traditional marriage could take place but that she felt that a marriage was a union of a man and a woman. Based on this answer all hell broke loose, someone with the pageant saying that it was the worst answer to a question in the history of Miss America.
I was a little surprised to see that that is what the controversy was about. The last person I heard say that exact thing on television now happens to be the President of the United Sates and I don’t recall anyone saying that that was the worst answer a Presidential candidate had ever given. Obama is for civil unions only and my bet is, based on her answer, that Miss California is too. Obama won his election, Miss California lost hers. My guess is that the total American electorate is somewhat more representative of how people really feel than are the Judges of a Miss America contest. My guess is that most people believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman. I don’t, but I can’t get bent out of shape over a difference in label of the status is the same. I’d rather we call gay marriages because that’s what gay people want to call them and I don’t understand how that dilutes my marriage. But the fact is that it is simply not that important. We can call it civil union, we can call it social contract or we can call it red suspenders as long as people are guaranteed the same rights. In fact, anyone can call it anything they want. From now on, I’m going to call my marriage a ” binding union of spirits” and I dare anyone to tell me I can’t. I am banishing the word “marriage” from my vocabulary and nothing pertaining to the laws of the state regarding my status are going to change. It will complicate opinion surveys where they always ask you if you are married or single, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry and a blog to write.
I did not know that the Miss America pageant was coming up. I had not seen it in years. I wonder if younger folks realize what that show used to be. Every year in the 1960s it would be the top rated or one of the top rated shows of the year. In 1961 it pulled a 75 share. That means that 75% of all televisions watched that night were watching that show. Only two shows in history did better. The final episode of MASH and the “Dallas “Who Shot J.R. ?” episode. The 1961 Miss America telecast (for share) beat every Super Bowl ever played. It beat the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, every Olympics, every Presidential election or inauguration. And two other pageants in that decade did almost as well. Even by sheer numbers of families watching, despite the huge disparity in television ownership and population between the 1960s and now, those three Miss Americas are in the top 99 of all time shows ever viewed.
It was inconceivable to miss the Miss America contest in those years. Families watched it together and picked their favorites after their state was eliminated (Texas almost always made the last 5 and always made the last 10).The next day at school it was the only topic of conversation before the first bell. Even into the 70s it was hugely popular. My buddy Marfin and I used to fantasies about cutting into the show right before the winner was crowned by the host Bert Parks. “Scuse me, Bert Parks”.It would have had the country in an uproar. But as Keats said,
“no those day are gone away
And their hours are old and gray
And their minutes buried all
Under the downtrodden pall”
But an uproar can still be caused, even one caused by an event to which no one was paying attention , save bloggers and cable news reporters. The day has changed. In 1961 if someone had asked that question to a Miss America contestant they would have cancelled the show, probably forever. That’s how different the times were. Maybe that’s what we should be focusing on, the fact that even in a silly beauty pagent,all questions of public interest can be asked without fear of retribution from the authorities. Too bad that all answers are not allowed.