“Miss America victory marred by racist slurs.” — Time, Sept. 16
Not since so-called “bra-burning” protests upended the 1968 Miss America contest have beauty pageants attracted so much controversy.
Last Sunday, the Miss America pageant crowned a 24-year-old of Indian descent, Nina Davuluri from Syracuse, which was seen as a sign of cultural progress until racist messages popped up on Twitter.
Those who had written off pageants as anachronisms of the tail-fin era suddenly found that the swimsuit-in-heels rituals were back in the cultural-wars cross-fire.
In the case of Miss America, no sooner had the glimmering crown been placed on Ms. Davuluri than the furor erupted.
“Congratulations Al Qaeda,” tweeted one user, @Blayne_MkItRain (the account has since been deleted). “Our Miss America is one of you.”
Bloggers were quickly compiling lists of the most inflammatory tweets, including a Buzzfeed listicle that generated more than five million views.
“Idiot racists got so mad, they started mixing up Indian, Indian-American, Arab, Muslim, and everything in between,” wrote Laura Beck on Jezebel, summarizing a collection of hate-tweets that she included in her post. “It’s (literarily) a most impressive display of dumb mixed with intolerance and even more stupidity.”
The cultural relevance of pageants, it seems, only spikes whenever they can be dragged through the mud.
All the chatter on blogs and social media did not seem to hurt the show’s popularity. According to Nielsen, the ABC broadcast of the pageant, which crowned the winner for 2014, had its best ratings in nearly decade: it drew an average of 8.6 million viewers, a 21 percent increase compared with the contest for 2013, which was in January.