I try to make it a point not to blog about celebrities as I think their dominance in modern culture is immensely damaging to people, particularly young teenagers. Beauty Pageants like ‘Miss America’ perpetuate the myth of physical perfection and objectify women as commodities rather than human beings. Parading around a stage in a bikini and reeling off a list of extra curricular school activities isn’t exactly beneficial to civilization, and the winners of the competitions shouldn’t be revered as saviors of the planet.
However, the recent ‘Miss America’ scandal has opened a can of worms that is pitting Liberal America vs Conservative America in another chapter of the culture war that is so successfully exploited by politicians.
The unfortunate demise of Carrie Prejean was symbolic of the entire beauty pageant institution. A seemingly innocent Christian girl with a winning smile from small town California is revealed as – shock horror – a rather narrow minded, narcissistic hypocrite. The sheen of the pageant was damaged because, as with everything, nothing is as perfect as it seems.
Prejean’s comments on gay marriage shot her into the spot light, and she became the favorite target of liberal Hollywood. It was revealed that Prejean had breast implants and had taken part in a topless underwear shoot. More recently, an ex boyfriend revealed that Prejean had sent him a ‘sex tape’ of herself. Hardly the behavior of a devout Christian.
But here’s the thing. Prejean is a young woman, only 21 when she took part in the Miss America pageant and made the controversial statement on gay marriage. At that age, and given her background, some ignorance and prejudice is probably understandable.
I spent a year of my life in Corvallis, Oregon, going to Oregon State University. I was exposed to a completely different side of American life than I have previously experienced (some background – I was born in London, and have lived in Los Angeles for 7 years). I made friends with many fundamentalist Christians and got an interesting insight into their lives. While they were most certainly anti gay marriage, pro-life and pro (at the time) George Bush, I didn’t find any of them hateful or malicious. It was just a different perspective, and in my opinion, one born of lack of experience.
When you live in big cities and are forced to interact with people from all walks of life, you naturally become more accepting of it. It’s a common fact that big town Republicans are more liberal the small town Republicans, and small town Democrats are more conservative than big town Democrats. Coming from a city of under 100,000 people in Vista, California, Prejean’s experience of different sexual lifestyles was probably limited, and her views on politics shaped by that.
I was often struck at the hypocrisy I witnessed on campus in Oregon, as Christian girls would engage in sexual activity that didn’t technically go against the bible, talk blithely about blowing up other people’s countries (the Iraq war was extremely popular at the time), and obsess about their body image while criticizing ‘liberal’ America for having no values.
But then again, most of them were just young and unaware of what they were really saying – and you could probably say the same about me. Many of them have gone on to be more conservative, and many have turned 180 and are now card carrying progressives.
At a certain age, people become responsible for their views, and a level of vitriol is probably warranted against those who are willfully ignorant. As far as I am concerned, people like Sarah Palin deserves everything she gets. She espouses a narrow minded, prejudiced view of the world and uses fear and hate to further her political objectives. She’s a mother and a grown woman, and has no excuse for bigoted hate speech.
Prejean, on the other hand, is still a young woman and should be given some leeway. Carrie Prejean’s views, while offensive to many Americans, aren’t particularly extreme, and she can’t be lumped in with people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.
Prejean isn’t running for office, and isn’t promoting a political cause. She’s just an inexperienced girl who happens to have dived into the vicious culture war she probably didn’t realize existed.
It’s time to leave her alone and pick on the real enemies of tolerance.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.