The Miss America pageant is tonight, a TV factoid that's gotten lost amid the frenzy over Lost's imminent return and the fallout from a bunch of rich white guys squabbling over who gets what late-night spot. The pageant is relegated to TLC these days, but it belongs on the History Channel as a living relic of an earlier time. This is appropriate given that straight-from-the-Salem-witch-trials Rush Limbaugh is one of the judges.
It's hard to make an argument for paying attention to the Miss America pageant because the pageant hasn't really made a compelling argument for its continued existence. Why hype up a competition that has so little ultimately at stake? The most famous recent Miss America is Vanessa Williams (1984), who launched to fame only once when she was forced to step down. The second most-famous may be Gretchen Carlson (1989), who is now hosting the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends. However, it's not like the pageant demonstrated Carlson's rigorous commitment to contributing to public dialogue in a scrupulous and civic-minded way; what it did was point out that really, Fox New's requirements for whomever is going to yammer on their show are admirably egalitarian, if by "egalitarian," you mean "there's no need to demonstrate anything beyond a fondness for sit-ups if you're a woman."
How do you reconcile Miss America in a country where women run the House of Representatives and the state department? How do you justify a pageant where women are supposedly the country's ideal based on talent and swimsuit segments? Or how do they compete on a TV spectrum that features Rock of Love? At least on that show, nobody's pretending to be a honor student who loves Jesus and wants to raise awareness about music education. They just want to bone a former rock star, hopefully without contracting something that can't be cured with a standard course of antibiotics. It's more authentic.
The fact that the Miss America pageant has gone from slumber-party staple to weekend cable's land of wind and ghosts in a twenty-year period is a great sign. It means America is not buying what Miss America is selling. There she goes, no longer our ideal.