Monday, April 20, 2009

Miss USA Denied Free Speech

I’d be lying if I said that I knew anything about beauty pageants and the questions the contestants are asked, but I have a problem with the controversy over the Miss USA pageant and the question asked of Ms. California, Carrie Prejean. That’s right, my issue is with the question, not with the answer she gave. Gossip blogger Perez Hilton was on the panel and asked the question of Ms. Prejean about her stance on gay marriage.

Prejean made the catastrophic mistake of answering the question honestly. She doesn’t believe in gay marriage. She believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Her honesty likely cost her the competition and the title of Ms. USA.

When she gave her answer, there was some booing in the audience and I have no problem with that—those people have the right to their opinions just as Carrie Prejean has a right to hers. The man who asked the question, a judge in this competition and a gay man should be ashamed of himself though. Hilton wasted no time in blogging that Carrie Prejean was a “stupid bitch.”

Let’s just take a look at this shall we? Hilton, an obvious and vocal supporter of the legalization of gay marriage uses his celebrity to gain the post of judge at this pageant. Then, as a judge he gets to ask a question of the contestants for them to be judged on and he asks a question to which he strongly believes there is only one answer and when the contestant fails to trumpet his own views in an attempt to pander to him, he freaks out.

My question is this: Is it fair of a judge in this competition to ask a question on which they have strong views and believe there is only one answer? Isn’t this a trick question? A catch-22? Take the social issues out of the equation for a moment. Pretend that the question was something innocuous like this: Which color is better, red or blue?

If the judge has a love for the color red and a hatred for the color blue, the contestant—no matter how eloquently she speaks, how well thought out her response might be, no matter how well-stated her opinion may be, will be judged poorly by that judge simply for having the nerve to like blue.

Or add the controversy back into the equation. Replace Hilton as judge with Rush Limbaugh and have him ask the same question. How different is the response and the outrage when he casts his vote against a candidate for believing that gay marriage should be allowed?

I’m not here to discuss the issue. I’m not here to debate gay marriage, I’m here to stand up and point out that we live in a country that stands on the principle (or the illusion) of free speech. We have the right to our opinions here and we are guaranteed not to be judged for them unless they threaten the life of others. So I’m sorry, but I’m a little uncomfortable at the idea that the woman who wants to hold the crown of Ms. USA was judged on her opinion, an opinion held by a large portion of our country—right or wrong, when asked a loaded question by a judge with an agenda.

The person who should be ashamed here is Perez Hilton, not for his beliefs, not for his stance, but for his manipulative question. He should be ashamed of asking a question that forced a contestant to answer the way he obviously wanted them to answer, or face the consequences. Whether purposefully or not, he tried to manipulate a contestant into publically agreeing with his particular stance on a controversial topic and when she had the gall to disagree with his stance, he voted against her and cursed at her on his widely read blog.

Let’s not pretend that we’re awarding the title of Ms. USA to our best and brightest. Let’s not pretend that this is anything but what it is, a beauty pageant. The question is a formality to give some validity to it being a “scholarship competition.” These women are being judged on their boobs and butts, not their intelligence. The purpose of the question is test the poise and charisma of the contestant. No one expects her to be a Rhodes Scholar, she need only show vocal ability above the level of the lower primates.

The question is supposed to be about pollution, or saving the whales, or whether babies born addicted to crack should be detoxed or punted around like footballs, they should be easy and obvious questions that allow no possibility for offense to be taken by the answer. They should be issues that are entirely one-sided in the collective opinions of our citizenry, or at least questions on which we are open-minded enough to see both sides of the issue.

When a gay man asks a question on a gay or anti-gay issue he is not judging a contest, he is using the contest as a platform for his personal beliefs and that demeans the contestants, the viewers, and the country which this contestant is vying to represent. He puts his cause in front of his integrity and by doing so, he also demeans his cause and the people who fight for it legitimately. He arms critics and cynics with the ammunition they need to push their own agendas against him.

Everyone seems to be so concerned with the answer Ms. Prejean gave, but I find no fault with her for voicing her opinion. Of the two of them involved in this mess, only one acted with integrity and it wasn’t Perez Hilton. You don’t change people’s hearts and minds by demanding it of them. You don’t create lasting change through ulterior motives and manipulation. When you do, you push them further and further away, you create and foster the kind of bigotry you want so desperately to do away with.

They’ll call her names and she’ll be disparaged by the left leaning media and she’ll become a hero and darling of the right. Mission accomplished Perez Hilton, you caused division and separation. That was the goal, right?


Sarah Madison Caldwell said...

I was almost for Perez Hilton. Then I saw his blog about her and, more importantly, his expression when she answered. So yes, Perez Hilton was the bitch here, not Carrie Prejean.

Mrs. Aguillon said...

Extremely well-written and engaging. I did not see this event occur, but you display an eloquence and articulation that deserves recognition. I agree completely.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree ... the contestants are also judged on their legs.