Bizarro World Ethics is a useful if mind-melting concept. Since Superman Comics’ Bizarro World contains a backwards—literally—civilization in which everything is the opposite of the way it is on Earth, the ethics are necessarily backwards too. What is right, in a culture where the populace not only says hello for good-bye, but also eats the plates while throwing away the food? Can wrong be right in such a weird place? Does right become wrong? Or is the whole idea of ethics impossible in Bizarro World?
Beauty contests today are like Bizarro World. They are inherently anachronistic, embodying the correctly discredited concept that beauty equals virtue. They also are based on the fiction that beauty can be objectively qualified and compared with sufficient precision that a decision holing that gorgeous Contestant D, who is Asian and brunette, is objectively more beautiful than gorgeous black Contestant C, gorgeous Hispanic Contestant B, or gorgeous white Contestant A isn’t arbitrary and completely subjective. Bodybuilding competitions and dog shows have the same problem, as do the Academy Awards. For pure, obvious stupidity and dishonesty, however beauty contests beat them all. This is why the topic has inspired some terrific film satires, like “Smile,” “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” and even “Little Miss Sunshine.”
We all know—don’t we?—that beauty contests are really just excuses to give guys a chance to gawk at scantily dressed pulchritudinous women. This is what makes Miss Teen America the most icky of the breed: the contestants are scantily dressed women who consent to being lust-objects for men the age of the their fathers and grandfathers. What is ethics in such a spectacle? The whole enterprise is constructed of unethical components.
The Miss Teen USA pageant was pronounced ethical, for example, after announcing they would discontinue the swimsuit segment of the competition, replacing it with a parade of the contestants in athletic gear, because the swimsuits made the young women look like sex objects and eye candy. You know…not like this:
Muuuuch better. No dirty old man is going to be salivating at that.
But over the weekend all that good publicity for pretending to be about something other than rewarding lovely teens for being walking pin-ups on national television collapsed when this diverse. multi-color, multi-ethnic group of beauties..
…was narrowed down to these five finalists, the best of the best, the fairest of them all, after all the numerical scores were tallied and checked and double-checked:
“Wow how can we choose from such a diverse bunch”
Though one wonders if she would have had the same reaction if the Final Five looked like this…
Wait…is Chrissy saying the five blondes were not the fairest of them all? If there is a genuine, quantifiable standard for beauty—and how can one judge a beauty contest without one?—wouldn’t we expect all of the finalists to look alike? Is Chrissy implying that the finalists should not represent objective judgment, but should include a “Pick the five most beautiful girls who also represent as many racial and ethnic groups as possible” standard?
A contest with that standard isn’t a beauty contest, though. It’s…it’s..I don’t know what it is. Is Chrissy saying that the choices of the judges represent their biases in favor of women who would be hired by Roger Aisles as Fox anchors? (Hey! Was Roger one of the judges?) Is Chrissy saying that because none of the girls looked like her, then obviously the standard was unfair and wrong?
There’s no way out of this, from an ethics standpoint. If the pageant claims to select the most objectively beautiful teen–a really dumb answer in the interview segment will ding a contestant, though the IQ test didn’t screen out this year’s winner—then unless critics can argue that the finalists weren’t objectively beautiful, they have no case. If the idea is for the finalists to be diverse, then it’s not a beauty contest, but a fake beauty contest. If the finalists are made up of the blonde beauty already chosen as the winner and four multi-colored diverse contestants chosen to make the pageant look politically correct, then the whole thing is rigged, like the Fifties quiz shows.
It’s Bizarro World, Jake.
Diversity and merit cannot coexist unless it is understood that each must yield to the other depending on the circumstances, and when both merit and diversity are assessed according to appearance, such co-existance is impossible. The whole idea of beauty pageants is based on the lie that beauty can be quantified. There is no objective standard for beauty sufficiently precise that one winner, or five, can be chosen from a group of beauties. Since everyone knows that the pretense of objectivity is a sham, the lack of a diverse group of finalists will reasonably be assumed to be the result of bias, and thus will be viewed as an insult to the types of beautiful women not chosen. Requiring the finalist group to represent diversity, however, eliminates any pretense, already incredible, that the beauty contest has integrity.
If this reminds you of the Academy Awards mess, it should.
What’s the solution? One would be to start having lots of homogeneous beauty contests—best blonde, best mixed race (Asian-European division, etc.), best Anglo redhead, best African-American, etc—just like dog shows begin with breed contests—then have a second round of competitions in broader categories, maybe hair color or shades of skin, and then have the big prize go to the winners of each of those categories. Best in Show. this would still be absurd and degrading, but it would solve the diversity/ beauty problem. There’s never a final five at the Westminster Dog show with all terriers or all hounds.
Another solution, one that gets my vote, is to just stop the damn things. I’m embarrassed to be in a society that thinks parading women around on TV and picking “the best” according to their figure, hair and face is anything but barbaric.