Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pageant Culture

In the recent film, Little Miss Sunshine, 7-year-old, pint-sized, beauty-pageant contestant Olive Hoover is faced with a harrowing dilemma: with her family at a roadside diner, Olive orders waffles a la mode, only to draw criticism from her motivational-speaker father, to the tune of, “eating fat makes you fat.” Olive ponders the diminutive dish of chocolate ice cream before her, as her father persuades her to abstain (citing qualitative statistics—pageant contestants don’t eat ice cream!), and she dejectedly, but resolutely, resists.

Once at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, Olive prepares for her swimsuit and talent competitions, decidedly unlike the other pre-pubescent participants. Her hair isn’t hot-iron curled, her body isn’t blasted with fake tanner, her make-up is subtle, and her mother is comparatively unobtrusive. But, prior to taking the stage, Olive, in one of the saddest scenes of the film, pauses in front of the mirror, and seems to catch her reflection for the first time. She self-consciously evaluates her childlike frame, and you can almost read her mind. It’s a moment that signifies hope shattered, innocence lost, all in pregnant gaze. She’s a bit pudgier than the other girls, and she’s probably grateful she didn’t indulge. Olive looks at her reflection with a disappointment that can only reflect the internalization of adult-like messages, and in a flash, she seamlessly morphs into a pageant contestant.


ps22 said...

So sad. I try not to be judgmental about the whole pageant industry, but it's hard. Its always way too easy and "PC" to pick on pageant people, and not other issues that sit there like elephants in the room that no one wants to say anything about it. But at the end of the day, I really don't understand the whole pageant world and the supposed gains from it (is it really scholarships? do any of them actually go to school afterwards?). Seriously, can someone who's pro-pageant, or knows someone who's pro-pageant, give me their perspective? It's like yodeling....I know there are people out there who enjoy it as a hobby and appreciate it as an art and all, but I've never actually met any of them.

Haley-O said...

That is so disturbing, and sad....No pageants for my monkey, that's for sure! I was in a pageant: Miss Dance of Canada...(don't laugh). I was 15 years old. I was told to lose 30 pounds before the competition. I think I weight 110 at the time....Enough said, huh...?

drstaceyny said...

ps--good questions.
Way to integrate yodeling into this discussion. ; )

haley--30 pounds?! Enough said is right. I'm glad the monkey won't be exposed to this.

Anonymous said...

This pageant stuff is like a horrible car accident, you know you shouldnt be interested but at the same time just cant look away.
Does anybody have any insight as to what the pageant culture entails? I'm writing a paper for uni where I have to analyse and critique these pageants as a subculture and I would love to hear any opinions, expert or not.

Anonymous said...

I think that maybe you should actually watch the movie, or at least the scene you're citing, before you write about it. (An FYI, Olive eats the ice cream) I thought the same thing about the "Devil Wears Prada" post, where I seriously doubted you'd bothered to see the movie at all.


Jane Covel said...

I have been a dancer/cheerleader for years, and I am currently Miss Mid-State in Delaware. I love the Miss America system, and the "harshest" comment I've gotten about swimsuit was that I needed to "tone up." And yes I do actually go to school btw. Pageants have given me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, to refine my interview and public speaking skills, and to become more aware of how to be my best possible self. All of a sudden you are aware that you should eat healthy and exercise, but also be aware of what's going on in the world, and become more involved in the community.
I have met my fair share of little bratty pageant girls, but with all of the bad that is publicized there is also so much good that goes unknown.