As the nation’s premier commentators on beauty pageantry, it is incumbent on us to note what happened last night in the Miss USA contest. Miss North Carolina won, with Miss California second. Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was, as you can see, a formidable competitor:
At the eleventh hour, however, controversy erupted. One of the of the judges, the flagrantly gay Perez Hilton–put aside, for a moment, the question why he was a judge of the Miss USA contest–asked Miss California her opinion on gay marriage. Ms. Prejean answered the question straightforwardly:
“I think that marriage should be between a man and a woman.” This answer was universally described as “controversial,” as, for example, by Yahoo News. Fox News wrote that her opposition to gay marriage “spark[ed] a furor.” A US News business (!) columnist called Prejean’s answer a “gaffe.” The Christian Science Monitor said that Miss California’s answer “spark[ed] outrage.” One could go on and on.
Many observers have speculated that Miss California’s “controversial” answer on gay marriage cost her the title. Ms. Prejean herself endorsed that theory earlier today, and added: “I stated an opinion that was true to myself and that’s all I can do.” Perez Hilton, who posed the question and was, of course, one of the judges, called her a “bitch,” for which he later apologized. That was after having voted, of course. [UPDATE: Perez has now retracted his apology, explaining that he really meant to call Miss California a c***. Perez is a typically high-class liberal. Which doesn’t explain, of course, why he was chosen to judge the Miss USA contest.]
The two co-organizers of the Miss California pageant said they were “personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman.”
Nothing about this narrative could be surprising to anyone who pays attention to our news and our popular culture. Yet there is something very weird about the idea that Miss California lost the Miss USA crown because she gave such a “controversial” answer to a political question. After all, she represented the state of California in the pageant, and we know for a fact that most Californians agree with her, as evidenced by the recent Proposition 8 vote. Moreover, her position is not only the one endorsed by most Americans in opinion surveys, it is also the view taken by President Obama. So why is it more “controversial” than any other political opinion? We all know that if Miss California had answered Hilton’s question by saying that she believes in equal rights for all, and that means gay marriage, there would have been no controversy and, very likely, she would have won the title.
Miss North Carolina, the winner of the Miss USA competition, was also asked a political question–about bailouts. She responded by disapproving of the federal government bailing out private companies. Yet this answer, which 1) runs counter to the policies adopted by our national government, 2) stands in stark opposition to the actions of our President, and 3) is more a matter of current debate than gay marriage, was not considered “controversial” by anyone. Why not?
Two questions were posed, to which there were four possible answers. All of the four answers are consistent with the views of many millions of Americans: in favor of gay marriage; opposed to gay marriage; in favor of bailouts; opposed to bailouts. Yet of these four possible answers, only one is “controversial” as that word is used by our newspapers–the one given by Miss California, opposition to gay marriage. Of the four, that position may be the one most widely held by Americans, yet only it is “controversial” and only that answer could have caused Miss California to forfeit her chance to be Miss USA.
Why? It isn’t surprising, perhaps, that gay marriage advocates would like to stigmatize and silence their opponents. But why is it, exactly, that our media establishment has fallen in with this preference? Why is it that opposition to gay marriage is deemed “controversial,” while opposition to bailouts isn’t? I can’t fully explain the phenomenon, but what happened at the Miss USA pageant last night shines an uncomfortable light on a rather dark corner of our public life.
None of this is intended, of course, as a criticism of Miss North Carolina, especially considering the dim view she takes of bailouts. She looks a lot like Miss California: