Monday, July 14, 2008

Culture For Sale

So I’m sure most of you can deduct by now that I’m a really shitty person to watch television with. I comment on everything and there is very little that doesn’t irk me in some way. Last night was no exception.

Last night was The Miss Universe 2008 competition. Obviously this is just a cesspool of misogyny, objectification, racism, capitalism, etcetera. Don’t preach to me about a “scholarship” program and all that jazz. Sure, the Miss Universe gig is prestigious and you get a lot of free swag, but you also get the same by being voted Playmate of the Year and nobody calls that a goddamn scholarship program.

They are grown womyn called “Miss” who strut around in their underwear, wanting world peace and if that wasn't enough, Donald Trump owns the franchise. And to quote David Letterman, why is it called Miss Universe? Shouldn’t it be Miss World? I haven’t seen anyone competing from Jupiter.

But I digress.

My issue last night was not with the competition per se, as I knew what I was getting into when I flipped to it, but with the “National Costume” portion of the show. This year, each contestant strutted in a “costume” that represented their “nation” and online voters decided which was best. Ironically enough, I made a guess before that part of the show even started as to what Miss Canada would be dressed as. And it turns out, yours truly was correct.

Miss Canada was dressed as... an Aboriginal.

Now, on the surface, that’s pretty damn stellar. Samantha Tajik, Miss Canada, was born in Iran and raised in Canada and was representing Canada in Aboriginal garb. Diversity as its best!

Except of course for the fact that it's example number 871267234 of Canada appropriating Aboriginal identity for its benefits and completely negating their existence as human beings (and yeah, I’m bitter that the costume was also incredibly inaccurate. But I’m a stickler for details).

At Disney exhibits demonstrating “Nations Around the World”, you go to Canada and you get totem poles. You go to tacky tourist traps in Canada, you can buy headdresses for your rearview mirror and little totem pole statues.

I’m all about the celebrating of aboriginal cultures but the commodification of cultures does not do this. It homogenizes them and keeps them somehow frozen in time, denying them the ability to actually you know… exist. There's no dialogue, no celebrating. There's this "Aww, aren't they cute?" quality to the whole thing that is gagalicious.

But what can you expect from a competition that places equal weight on your bikini strut as your ability to answer a question on the spot.

(For the record, Miss Venezuela won).

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