Beauty Queens Don't Eat Ice Cream: Conceptions Of Beauty In "Little Miss Sunshine"

2301 words - 9 pages

Since the Miss America Pageant was established in 1921, conceptions of the beauty of American women have been based, in part, on the winner of this pageant. Sarah Banet-Weiser writes in her book, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, that “the woman selected as Miss America apparently 'represents' the nation” (Banet-Weiser 56). As a result of representing the American nation, the winner of the Miss America pageant is looked up to as a model for style and beauty among women. Since its inception, the Miss America pageant has come under attack from feminist organizations for exploiting women's bodies despite the fact that it is a scholarship program; the pageant rewards contestants a scholarship for continuing education based on their responses in the interview and the talent portions of the pageant as well as their performance in the swimsuit competition. A beauty pageant, such as the Miss USA pageant, is strictly concerned with a woman's outer beauty and does not include the talent or interview portions.
The judges of the Miss America pageant have changed through the years to reflect the changing ideals of the pageant itself. “In the early years of the pageant, the judges were primarily artists and illustrators, in part because such men – and they were all men – were considered to have the best eye for the beautiful feminine form. In more recent years, efforts have been made to attract judges who represent the various facets of the pageant” (Banet-Weiser 54). The selection of judges from the fields represented in the pageant show that the Miss America pageant is more than just a strictly beauty pageant. “Defining beauty is an elusive, if not impossible task. No single definition fits because as culture evolves, so does the definition of beauty” (Watson and Martin 115). The struggle to define beauty can be seen in the evolution of the Miss America pageants from bathing beauty contests to an increased focus on the inner beauty and intelligence of the contestants. Little Miss Sunshine, a movie about a child beauty pageant, examines the negative effects the conceptions of beauty presented by these pageants have on children.
The winners of beauty pageants have long been considered models for women's beauty. They are role models in all aspects of their personality, but especially their physical bodies. “Many critics of the Miss America pageant point to the obsessive concern with physical appearance that the pageant seems to espouse. Pageant corporate sponsors include major hair care and cosmetics companies, all of which reap enormous profits from enhancing women's natural appearance” (Watson and Martin 116). Although there is a clear focus on the physical body in beauty pageants, the Miss America pageant also incorporates the importance of the personality of the contestant through the interview and talent competitions. “The Miss America contestant's body, through her disciplined physique, her commitment to virtue, and her testimony to...

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