STOP THE PRESSES!
...Did she give the "wrong" answer?
Does the world really care
what Miss California thinks?
By CHUCK McFADDEN
You cant make this stuff up.
The latest Only in America stop-the-presses moment came a few days ago, when Miss California, a blonde college student from San Diego named Carrie Prejean, said she opposed gay marriage.
She did it during the traditional question-and-answer session which beauty contestants, the judges and the audience have to endure. The Q and A sessions are held to prove that the contest isnt just about great legs. Even if it is. Usually the curvaceous hopefuls say they favor world peace and let it go at that. But poor Carrie had the misfortune to get a question about gay marriage from Perez (not Paris) Hilton, who blogs about celebrities and was one of the judges.
In answer to Mr. Perezs question, Ms Prejean said: "We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."
Well. (As George Will would say.)
All hell broke loose. Hilton promptly went to the media with a vitriolic attack on Ms. Prejean. He said it was the worst answer in pageant history.
"I applaud her for her honesty. However, she is not a politician, she's a hopeful Miss USA. Miss USA should represent everyone. Her answer alienated millions of gay and lesbian Americans, their families and their supporters. She lost it because of that question. She was definitely the front-runner before that."
He also used a nasty word to describe Ms. Prejean, who is unbelievably gorgeous and is a student at San Diego Christian College studying to become a special education teacher. Then he apologized for using the epithet. Then he withdrew the apology.
Ms. Prejean and Mr. Hilton agree on one thing: She was going to win the contest for Miss USA until her answer opposing gay marriage. She was definitely the front-runner before that, Hilton said. Ms. Prejean said she was sure her answer cost her the crown.
The young woman who finally wound up winning the crown, the new Miss USA, said she was proud of Miss Californias stance. Well, sure. It won her the title, didnt it?
Ms. Prejean, without intending it, has now become the darling of the right wing, right up there with Sarah Palin. Gary Bauer, president of an outfit calling itself American Values, lost no time in declaring, "The backlash to Prejean's commonsense comments demonstrates the naked intolerance of the militant homosexual movement.
Gay journalists or straight journalists, whether they work for a newspaper, write a blog, or are in broadcasting, couldnt wait to go with this story.
Everyone is having a wonderful time.
I have a soft spot in my heart for beauty pageants. No, its not because Im an old goat. I used to cover them when I was the news director at radio station KSCO in Santa Cruz, back when the Miss California pageant, a preliminary to the Miss America Pageant, was held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. The girls all had chaperones. I think they were all certified virgins. If you had asked them about gay marriage, they would have said, I think its great that married people can laugh all the time.
But now we have another Miss California making headlines, all because of her utterances on same-sex marriage.
It tells us something about the world we live in. Its a world where half-formed opinions on public policy from a beauty contestant are deemed worthy of serious consideration by serious people. Or at least serious media coverage. What kind of background does she have that would lend weight to her opinions? Is there any evidence that she has studied the issue? Why, then, is her opinion given widespread attention?
Its because she is a celebrity, of sorts. Celebrity opinions carry a wallop, even if said celebrity has the brains of a celery stick. Let me hasten to add here that just because youre beautiful doesnt necessarily mean you are dumb. (Lifes unfair that way.) Ms. Prejean may indeed have an IQ like that of Stephen Hawking, but that isnt what got her observation all the coverage. It was because she is MISS CALIFORNIA. Who knows? She may not have won top spot, but this could still be a great career move.
Look for her at the next Republican national convention. I wonder if she has a manager yet.
Ah, well. Those among us who are, or were, journalists have a great time observing the human panoply. It just doesnt pay to look at some of it too closely. I confess that if I were still molding public opinion for the dailies, Id probably be all over Ms. Prejeans observations. Never mind what that portends for the future of the republic. Its a celebrity-driven age.
Ridiculous? Of course. But what fun.
©2009 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted on May 3, 2009.
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