Defining Deviancy Down

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The MADD mothers have dumped Miss Teen USA. Thank goodness someone in this whole, ridiculous melee is capable of acting like a grown-up. Certainly no one can argue with the reasoning.

"In the past, MADD has teamed with Miss Teen USA to raise awareness about the serious and often deadly consequences of underage drinking. However, we do not feel, at this time, that Ms. Blair can be an effective spokesperson on underage drinking and will not ask her to represent MADD in future initiatives," Heidi Castle, a spokeswoman for MADD, said in a statement.

Full disclosure: I have no love for beauty pageants. I have this crazy, radically feminist notion that women should be judged by the content of their character. I know that pageant organizations have long emphasized the crucial role of talent and an abiding concern for world peace in their contests. Yes, the ideal woman can sing an aria, is congenial, and just happens to look great in a bathing suit. Pageants have to work very hard to elevate the idea of parading women around and judging them by their appearance above the obvious objectifying sexism. They do it by insisting on broader criteria that includes things like morals clauses. When Donald Trump gave Tara Conner a "second chance" he gave the lie to the whole business and reminded the world what beauty pageants are all about. Pretty matters. Character, not so much.

Madman in the Marketplace did an excellent job of putting this charade into a broader cultural perspective. There are different standards for pretty white girls from prominent families.

We like to say that we’re a land that believes in second chances, that if someone is sincere about changing their life we Americans will support and welcome them when they’ve picked themselves up, and we’ll do everything we can to help them. This is, of course, utter bullshit. You get second chances if you’re of the right class, the right race, the right connections. Otherwise the full weight of our government and rapacious tabloid media will be brought down on your head....if a darker pretty girl in it had been tested positive for drugs, she’d be far more likely to be facing charges than a stay at a celebrity rehab center. Our enormous prison system is bulging with people who did the same things that Miss Perfect American is reported to have done. Unlike her, many who get caught doing drugs or acting out in public are put into the system, and once in the odds of them getting a second chance disappear...

It would surely be grand if our culture genuinely supported the idea of treatment for addicts, rather than punishment. But there is a difference between the draconian nature of our criminal justice system and simple consequences. Tara Conner faces neither. I doubt Miss Conner is an addict. She's more likely a kid acting out. But lets say for the sake of argument that she really is an addict in need of treatment. If so, Trump has done the worst possible thing he could have done if his intent was to help her. He's enabled her addiction by depriving her of the opportunity to experience the consequences of her behavior. She violated an agreement. She should have been fired. Period.

Perhaps that's what Rosie O'Donnell was on about in her latest bout of verbal diarrhea. I suppose she means well when she tries to remind viewers of "The View" about simple decency. It's unfortunate that she can't seem to do it without equally indecent ad hominem attacks that will likely land her in a slander suit.

I seem to remember a time when public figures acted with a certain level of decorum. I was very young then, I think. It all seems like a memory in my dreams now; an America that strove for a certain cultural standard, even it never quite achieved it. News was presented with a sense of gravitas by men like Walter Cronkite, rather than the screaming hysteria of a Rosie O'Donnell or Bill O'Reilly. And beauty pageants were shiny, child-friendly spectacles, whose winners usually slipped into a kind of quiet, wholesome obscurity. I don't know. Maybe it was Utah.