Helmed by a man who plays dress-up with womanhood, the Miss Universe franchise is filing for bankruptcy — and as far as I’m concerned, that’s better than what the pageant, which has welcomed two cross-dressing male competitors this year, deserves. But there’s one thing about the annual extravaganza I’ll admit I enjoy: the parade of national costumes.
Each contestant chooses a costume that reflects her national heritage, culture, and pride. The outfits are always over the top, usually creative, and occasionally frightful.
Contestants often don costumes featuring their country’s flag, or nods to their mythology, history, local flora, or architecture. Two countries this year, however, featured the flags of other countries.
Miss USA’s costume sported miniatures of landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, but these were flanked by some 10 other flags besides the Stars and Stripes. Miss Canada’s boasted even more, with nearly two dozen flags of other countries perched on top of her costume with other flags emblazoned on her skirt, plus the message “inclusivity makes dreams come true” on her back. The Canadian costume, according to announcers, included the flag of each country in the pageant; no explanation was given for how the flags on Miss USA’s back, from the Chinese flag to the flag of El Salvador, were selected.
Look, I know it’s tough to be Canada. As for Miss USA, I know it’s a challenge to capture the broad diversity and cultural influence of the world’s greatest superpower in one costume. But with all we have to pull from, does our “national costume” really have any business celebrating the competitors‘ nations of origin?
Every year, beautiful women from all over the world dream up lavish costumes that reflect their national pride, and they’re cheered for it. But for the United States and other Western countries where cultural Marxists treat national pride as a faux pas, the costumes can sometimes reflect that self-consciousness. (The voiceover accompanying Miss USA’s entrance this year was all about immigration.)
If Western cultural contributions like classical music, the Renaissance, or liberal thought are tied to icky taboos like colonialism and “Eurocentrism” — Miss Greece even sported a costume calling for the return of ancient artifacts from other countries’ museums — it’s no surprise there’s going to be a bit of an identity crisis when contestants try to craft uniforms celebrating the same heritage that’s under scrutiny. As a result, the rich histories of people like the Germans and the Dutch often end up sanitized into costumes of a pink princess Rapunzel and a stroopwafel, while Miss USA walks around giving free ad space to competitor countries on a billboard strapped to her back.
I actually love Miss USA’s viral costume from last year, a diorama of planting an enormous American flag on the moon. It was outrageous, but that’s the point of the whole competition anyway. Americans should be proud of being the best country in the world, and winning the space race is one great example of her success.
Miss USA in 2002, right after 9/11, exuded pride in an FDNY uniform. In other years, she’s been renditions of a cowgirl, a bejeweled American Indian, Scarlett O’Hara, Wonder Woman, and even Elvis. Kitschy, for sure — but as tacky as rhinestone Elvis sunglasses might be, at least those costumes unabashedly honored residents of our own American pantheon.
We may be a melting pot, but we have no shortage of cultural heritage to pull from. We’ve got Norman Rockwell paintings, the Rocky Mountains, the marble architectural grandeur of our capital city, the brilliant autumn colors in our Eastern foothills, and our music. We’ve got heroes such as George Washington, Daniel Boone, Sacagawea, and Rosie the Riveter. We have our inventions from the automobile to the airplane, our particularly American style from Levi Strauss to Ralph Lauren, our literary greats from Jay Gatsby to Huck Finn, the golden age of Hollywood, the Mayflower, redwood trees, bald eagles, the Declaration of Independence, our coastal fishing towns, baseball, the Chrysler building, the U.S.S. Constitution, and Betsy Ross, just to name a few.
Our president’s doing a bad enough job representing American pride on the world stage. There’s no need for Miss USA to copy his “America Last” mentality.