What counts as a talent nowadays?

The annual Miss America Pageant struggles for survival tomorrow. And what makes it different from Donald Trump's Miss USA and Miss Universe is the talent competition. (Yes, Miss World also has a talent competition, but nobody in the United States pays any attention to Miss World, probably because of the aforementioned Donald Trump.)

It's not that I go out of my way to watch these pageants, but if it's convenient, a bunch of us will get together to enjoy the festivities. During the opening parade of the Miss Universe pageant, we scream in horror at the hideous national costumes or the unflattering evening gowns. During the swimsuit Lifestyle and Fitness competition (Whom do they think they're kidding?) the women play the game "Real or Fake?" (I recuse myself from that game citing lack of expertise.) But my favorite part is always the talent competition.

The talents are mostly musical, primarily singing, with a decent amount of instrumental performance—I enjoy these, particularly the instrumental ones, since I actually know something about the subject. The ones that aren't musical are dancing—I'm not particularly knowledgeable about dance and usually don't know what to make of the performance. Extremely rarely you'll encounter a dramatic reading (which to me feels like a cheat). As accomplished as the contestants are, these talents all feel kind of "squishy". (Indeed, back in the Regency era, the term accomplished was used to refer to proficiency at these sorts of talents, and it was an open secret that the reason for developing these skills was simply to secure a husband.) But where are the real talents?

If only we had contestants demonstrating other talents like consensus building, project management, electronics repair, chicken plucking, or suitcase packing.

Then again, maybe those things are really skills rather than talents.

Comments (13)
  1. Thom says:

    I won’t be watching the Miss America contest, but I did enjoy the Miss America Reality Check show on TLC – it’s far more fun and interesting.  

  2. John says:

    Obligatory link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

    Even after watching that clip 20 times, it’s still hard to ignore how attractive she is.  I guess that’s talent enough for me :)

  3. Rich Shealer says:

    [If only we had contestants demonstrating other talents like consensus building, project management, electronics repair, chicken plucking, or suitcase packing.]

    Some of those talents are put to the test in Donald Trump’s Apprentice series.

  4. Erzengel says:

    John: I don’t find her particularly attractive.

    Ray: I think you misunderstand the "talent" aspect. The talents aren’t "musical" in nature, they’re "entertainment" in nature. That’s all these pageants are: entertainment. Watching someone manage projects, while interesting to those of us technically minded, is not entertaining to the vast majority of people that want to look at a barbie clone. They’d far rather watch a barbie clone dance or sing.

  5. Cooney says:

    So, how about a real talent competition? Freestyle bike trickery, juggling poodles, or (god forbid!) play something on a violin!

  6. nathan_works says:

    Yeah, alas that Karamazov Brother retired a number of years ago.

  7. RichardRudek says:

    Chicken plucking ?

    Secure a Husband ?

    Ponder, I shall… :)

  8. Thom says:

    Ahh, the Apprentice… that show had potential until Donald started steering it from following the players at work toward showing glimpses of them experiencing him, his pals, and their lifestyles.

    Since season one I’ve known what I want to see in "The Apprentice."  I want the two teams to facing a third.  In each task I want a team of current Trump executives, employees, or business associates – all hand picked by Donald himself – to go up against the contenders.  Donald’s always bragging that he hires the best, that he and his could do these tasks so easy, so I’d like to see him prove it.  Show the viewers how the people that do these tasks every day do it..

    If Donald’s team wins then both teams lose a player.  If both teams win then neither does.  If one wins and one is at bottom then one gets rewarded and one loses a player.

  9. Cooney says:

    Oh, I’d pay money to see trumps chumps get thumped – we could expand the idea by allowing other execs to put a group of champions forward. It’ll be modern day jousting!

  10. Thom, that is a great show idea–but I don’t see Trump risking the loss of face, when he can instead outsource it to a stable of D-list celebrities.

  11. Will says:

    Erzengel: Aside from Raymond I’ve never known a single person, male or female, to express any interest whatsoever in watching the barbie clones sing or dance so I’d have to disagee with your "far rather" statement.

    Also, the talents aren’t entertainment in nature they are justification in nature.  "These girls are a tad more than pretty faces on hot bods and that’s our justification *wink* for parading them around on stage and presenting them as role models for our little girls."

  12. Lanny Heidbreder says:

    "…or suitcase packing."

    I see you’ve watched Nickelodeon’s "Hey Dude" at some point. :)

  13. George Jansen says:

    Suddenly I’m reminded of the number "A Little Brains, a Little Talent" from "Damn Yankees".

    Donald Trump! Where would the USFL be without him?

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