John Oliver dissects the Miss America pageant

The show Last Week Tonight continues its series of serious investigative journalistic pieces wrapped in humor and satire. This time it takes on the Miss America pageant, an American institution that deserves to be ridiculed, but he spares the contestants who are the usual butts (ha!) of the jokes in such pieces. Instead he focuses on the organization itself, its anachronistic nature, its hypocrisy, and its misleading claims about what it represents and the scholarships it gives away.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    John fails to mention that Miss America was designed from the very beginning to be a cheesecake show. It was started during the 1920’s to entice visitors to come to Atlantic City, and it originally was called a “bathers’ revue”, so parading around in swimsuits is the very heart of the pageant.
    Also, non-whites were specifically excluded from competing until 1950, and the first African-American didn’t compete until 1970.
    So, yeah, they keep trying to wallpaper over the sexism, classism, and racism of this little peepshow, but it’s always there just below the surface.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Actually, i forgot about the ‘torso’ segment, so John did highlight this, but I still think a mention of the racism actually written into the rules for 30 years, followed by at least two more decades of secret segregation deserved a mention, too.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Wow. The Miss America Pageant is still a thing?

    Man, I am getting more and more out of touch with popular culture!

  4. says

    The really sad part is that they’re absolutely right that the Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships for women. That’s just atrocious and despicable. We should be offering so much more to young women, so much more opportunity for them to succeed in all fields of study.

    Why is there no STEM-based scholarship program offering scholarships to young women?

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