Tony Panaccio: The start of Hypocrites Season

Column by Tony Panaccio
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I wish hypocrites had seasons, like allergy season. Every spring, we all know that the dander will be flying and most of us will be loopy on antihistamines to keep us from sneezing our proboscis off. That’s why I wish there was a hypocrites season, so we’d be able to anticipate their yammering, and be able to take an Advil in advance to prevent the headaches these idiots cause.

The hypocrites are in full bloom this week with the advent of sexy Miss USA photos that are being used to introduce the contestants on the Miss USA Web site. Apparently, the Miss USA organization received some angry emails and phone calls from the legion of Leave it to Beaver throwbacks to the 1950s who think scantily clad beauty pageant contestants will contribute to the fall of western society. After all, if impressionable young children log on to the site, they might be encouraged to, you know, think about girls and stuff.

So, let’s review the situation for those who may not be up to speed on the facts. It’s a BEAUTY PAGEANT, people, where physical beauty and attractiveness in women are judged by a panel of experts who all hold PhDs and are schooled in the science and history of fashion, etiquette and style. Oh, wait, never mind. They’re judged by a panel of second tier celebrities. Oh well, same thing, really. Oh, and did we mention that one of the long standing traditions in the beauty pageant game is the SWIMSUIT COMPETITION? Hold on… I’m getting a call on my cell. Oh, it’s for the hypocrites. It’s reality calling, and it wants to talk to you.

Beauty pageants themselves are Cro-Magnon remnants of a time when women existed solely to be good wives to their husbands, stay home, cook, clean and do their wifely duties. Of COURSE they objectify women. It’s a contest in which they get rated on how good they look when they parade around wearing nothing but 20 square inches of fabric to cover their naughty bits, for heaven’s sake. And don’t give me a lecture about the talent competition and the interviews where they talk about world peace and fighting oppression. At the end of the day, those are in place so they can JUSTIFY the existence of the swimsuit competition.

Truthfully, the beauty pageant has no real place in a society that is striving to grow past sexism and racism and other isms that make people feel like they are worth less than the person standing next to them. But the Miss USA pageant is still around because it is a business. Somewhere, someone is still making money on these darn things, and commercial television thinks they can get a few people to tune in to watch the thing. But competition on TV is tough. There are so many other shows where people can watch scantily clad women run around, like Dancing with the Stars (did Erin Andrews even wear a costume the other night, or did they just spray some glue on her and throw sequins at her?), Survivor (they have to dress in bikinis because it’s really hot on the island), Bad Girl’s Club (a train wreck with implants), Keeping Up with the Kardashians (who ARE these insufferable women, and why does ANYONE care enough about their lives that someone is filming them all day long?) and, well, just flip through the cable channels. Here’s the news: sex sells. Always has, always will, but the people who are buying it don’t want to admit that they watch all that garbage because they are interested in the prurient nature of the content. It’s an argument that falls as flat as “I read Playboy for the articles.”

Miss USA has to compete in a firmament that is populated by shows that treat women as objects on a daily basis. I mean, even the lady cops on TV are hot! So, in order to keep in the ratings, they are using one of the tactics that is used by just about every other show on the air – show some skin. What right do we have to be outraged by that? If there weren’t millions of people tuning in to the other trash that’s on the air, then Miss USA wouldn’t feel compelled to dress their contestants up in lingerie and swimsuits to get our attention. We get the media we deserve, folks. That’s why we live in a nation in which the New York Times rates only 5 million in circulation and the National Enquirer gets 25 million in circulation. We lose the right to criticize the media we think is trashy if we are the most conspicuous consumers of that trash.

They justify the anachronism of the Miss USA Pageant by saying it’s a “tradition.” Well, we’ve had a lot of traditions that went away, like slavery, preventing women from voting, public hangings, and reality shows about celebrities with no talent (okay, the last one still exists, but we can hope). Those upset with the “racy” photos are only upset because they tear down the wall between the lie and the truth, and expose them for the misogynists they truly are. The truth is that as long as we put up with the beauty pageant as a staple of American television, we should not be so hypocritical as to suggest it is anything but an excuse to look at women with next to no clothes on, and to judge them based on their appearance.

The Miss USA Pageant is battling falling ratings and the irrelevancy that eventually wraps itself around concepts that no longer have a place in a progressive, thinking society. They went with the racy photos to generate interest in a pageant that is rightfully dropping from the media radar screen. And boy, they got it, didn’t they? Let’s see if they reap what they are sowing.

Tony Panaccio, senior campaign strategist for EMSI Public Relations , is a 25-year veteran writer, marketer and producer in the entertainment industry, having worked with luminaries such as William Shatner, Stan Lee and Michael Uslan. He has been a journalist and a senior executive with several of the world’s largest PR firms.

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