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RecapsJuly 15, 2015

Recap: A Glittering Afternoon in Burning Beauty Pageant Hell With Miss USA 2015

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Alex Casey watches over three hours of Miss USA 2015 coverage, and reports back with some giant sneakers, rough public voting systems and a growing sense of despair. 

I have a shocking, groundbreaking announcement: Miss Congeniality lied to us, and the Miss USA competition is nothing like the movies. Sandra Bullock has left me high and dry, feeling like a sack of potatoes floating in a sea of glittering angels. Don’t ask me why I spent three hours and 20 minutes of my precious life on this Earth watching the infamous and archaic beauty pageant. I was just suddenly overcome with that familiar rising feeling in my stomach that I haven’t watched enough TV funded by Donald Trump.

Following the Miss USA co-owner Donald Trump’s charming comments about immigrants, the broadcast rights were thrown straight in the bin by NBC. A heavyweight TV network can’t been seen to support the views of a man who describes Mexicans as “rapists, drug dealers and criminals”. They have certain societal values to uphold. And as we all know, prior to Trump’s comments, Miss USA was the true beacon of equality and freedom for all. So long as you can walk in stilettos, wear a bikini and answer complex social justice questions in under five seconds.

Luckily, a definitely-fake channel called “Reelz” picked up this shimmering crown of female empowerment. I’ll say that again. Reelz. With a Z.

With the good folkz at Reelz hosting a global live-stream, I slumped into my chair to watch the pageant play out. Maybe I’m wrong about this all? Maybe it’s a wonderful, empowering and celebratory opportunity for women? Maybe Donald Trump is actually the feminist hero we’ve all been waiting for?

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The sweeping instrumental music fades in, marking the beginning of the marathon broadcast. It sounds like a cat screaming from down a drainpipe, and is frankly an ominous start to festivities. There are quick cuts of women lassoing cows, ice-skating and peering through microscopes, whilst disembodied voices whisper “I am strong, I am determined”. Not as determined as Donald Trump is to get you sheilas into bikinis tbh. We land in the studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a man in huge white sneakers is absolutely singing a song and giving it heaps.

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Over his dulcet tones and floor-commanding sneaks, all 987 of the contestants poured out onto the stage. They introduce themselves one by one, having to literally bellow over the cacophony of a terrible rendition of ‘Bad Mama Jama’:

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A few of their voices crack because they are having to scream into the microphone so bloody hard. Straight off the bat, this just doesn’t feel like a suitable platform for women to have their voices heard – especially not if you can’t even make out their first name over the banging tunes sung by a failed talent-show competitor.

Each woman finishes their introduction and they walk away, fan in hand. They need that extra little push of oxygen to fill their now empty lungs. Another set of women prance out, this time with umbrellas. Hold on, they were all bloody hot a second ago. What’s going on?

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“Her body measurements are in perfect dimension,” the American Idol runner-up croons, and I start to feel gently sick. A final group of women descend on stage, wrapping on some Lolita sunglasses for little to no reason. Either there’s crazy weather inside that studio in Louisiana, or the production team is already struggling to distract us from the ultimate truth of this competition – that it’s very, very bad. A few women with longer names struggle even get their whole introductions out. I’m half an hour in and we’re still in the name yelling section.

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The world’s loudest URGH comes through the mic, which can only mean one thing – the Kravitz hit and presumed pageant staple ‘American Woman’ is about to play. The contestants assemble in various clumps of red, white, and blue. Ah shit, I see what’s happening here. They are pulling an Olympics opening ceremony on me. Nice one Trump. The hosts take the stage, excited because “the girls are hot hot hot tonight”. As with many of the judges, the original hosts dropped out after Trump’s searingly hot take on immigrants. We are left with Todd Newton, a game show host, and Alex Wehrley, a former Miss Wisconsin USA. Just whoever was around, really.

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A flashback of game show host Todd shows him in 2001, hosting a similar beauty pageant. Alex, mucho his junior, asks cheekily “where has that all grey hair come from?” Todd bites back, “from you in rehearsals” No, mister sir. Your grey hair has come from you being a million years old, and yet still being allowed to mill fully-clothed around women in bikinis half your age.

He may have grey hair, but Todd is still a dab hand at using modern technology. Demonstrating the new, very gross 360º Miss USA app, he swivels the camera around the backstage world until he settles on something he likes – it’s a female crew member backstage bending over. I grow about 70 grey hairs in three seconds.

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Time for Master P to randomly show up backstage with his daughter Cymphonique. They are peddling their new reality show, following his role as a hip hop mogul and his children’s journey to success in the music industry. It sounds a lot like Empire. Turns out it’s called Master P’s Family Empire. It’s hard to tell beneath his aviators, but I think his eyes are definitely closed.

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“SING SOMETHING FOR US RIGHT NOW!” the host demands of Cymphonique. She does a tremendously long trill. Why did they not ask Master P to do a rap? Why is this whole enterprise constantly asking women to drop everything they are doing and do some outrageous performance to prove their worth?

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Turns out that Cymphonique’s despairing trill was more of a war cry – it’s swimsuit time, and they begin to roll out in a bleak procession. There is an extreme close up on Miss Maryland’s boobs, as the voiceover informs us:

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The camera swivels around, less about that law degree and more about dat ass, please.

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Call me Rumplestiltskin, because this shit is GRIM.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t be in the UN and look good in a bikini, that’s not my concern at all. I’m more just wondering why the hell this crock of shit still exists? We know it’s bad, everyone says it’s bad, and yet nothing really changes? Women backstage get asked about what they will eat after the swimsuit comp, like starving is just the assumed state of being. I’m trying really hard, but I’m failing to feel empowered by starvation, or this fully-clothed male country singer swimming in a sea of bikini-clad beauties:

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“They are such powerful women” Newton beams “and we love them all!” All the while, onscreen graphics rank the public’s preferred choice to go through to the next round. Women on national television in bikinis, dudes at home in sweatpants voting online. I’ve never seen such a helpless erosion of power.

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“Thanks to you, the public, the woman you have saved is…” I black out momentarily, and tune back when Fake Bruno Mars hit the stage crooning “girl, you’re amazing, just the way you are”. Honestly Fake Bruno, stop lying to my face. I feel like dried crap right now. Am I supposed to stop eating or not?! FFS Trump, streamline your message!

We take a brief break to admire the mighty crown. It’s handcrafted in Prague, by a company called D.I.C. Thank god that doesn’t spell out something funny is all I can say. It’s worth $250,000, and contains 33 diamonds.

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To win the crown, contestants must get past the horrific questions round. They each choose a piece of glittery card, and then throw to the judges for a terribly complex question to answer in the blink of an eye. See if you can answer these out loud without making this face:

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“Miss Oklahoma, what will the next hot button issue be in society?”

“Miss Texas, should CEO’s have a limit to their salaries?”

“Miss Rhode Island, what is the role of political correctness in modern society?”

And the creme de la creme:

“Miss Nevada, how can we improve race relations in the US? Be specific.”

Hold on, is Mr Trump using Miss USA as a giant televised focus group to help him figure out some sassy answers to his upcoming Republican Primary debates?

The women flub their way through the answers, like absolutely any human would. But, of course, they aren’t home free yet. We have to hear from Mr Joe Bloggs in his sweatpants at home. David Scott Cartledge from South Carolina weighs in online with a heavy question. This one’s going to be a goodie, because according to his Facebook page his favourite movies include both The Grinch AND American Pie.

Turns out it’s not actually that bad – “what woman would you want to see on the $10 bill?” The women are asked the question one by one, standing stageside with ridiculous soundproof headphones on so they can’t prep an answer:

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Just like real life eh. ‘Tis rare you will ask a woman a question without having a tuxedo-wearing garçon plonk some Beats by Dre on her head. The answers are varied – a few Oprahs, a Rosa Parks, a panic answer involving the principal of a contestant’s primary school. I just hope David got an experience as rich and rewarding out of it as Finch had with Stifler’s Mom.

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And just like that – we’re onto the results. Three and a half hours of nonsense all for this. Miss Oklahoma wins the gem-laden crown, but I have lost almost every inch of my soul. We’re both gently fighting back tears, but for very different reasons. There’s only one show that will cheer me up, and that’s Master P’s Family Empire – only on Reelz.


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