Friday, August 31, 2007

Please do tell us what you think of the American educational system.

I know you've probably seen this already. But don't you want to see it again?
I didn't have the highest hopes when I heard about this video clip in which "Miss Teen USA contestant gives bizarre answer to geography question." I thought, oh, teen beauty queens are dumb and shallow, yawn, what else is new. But I am so glad I watched, because this exceeded all my expectations. It's difficult for any description to do it justice, but the closest I can come is that, in this moment, Miss South Carolina resembles a robot, programmed to respond to beauty-pageant questions, suffering a major system meltdown. Instead of stringing its stored stock phrases ("I personally believe... South Africa... Iraq... education") into a vacuous but generally coherent response, it's just spitting them out at random, and no one can make it stop. Here are a few things I love best about these 47 seconds of footage:
  • She seems to be off to a terrible start with "Some people out there in our nation don't have maps..." but by the end you realize that was actually the best part of her response. After that: total incoherence. And it gets so much worse than you think it will.
  • "U.S. Americans."
  • "...everywhere like such as and." It's the way she adds "such as" to that string that really does it for me. I didn't think it was possible for a native speaker of English not to understand how "such as" functions in speech, but I was mistaken.
  • "Our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. -- er, should help South Africa, and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries." I love that she corrects herself when she "misspeaks" -- because, whew, for a minute there she wasn't making much sense! (In fact, she was actually much closer to answering the question before she corrected herself.)
  • When the bell rings to signal that her time is up and she starts talking fast, as if to wrap up her answer -- even though there's nothing for her to wrap up. She knows she's not supposed to stop talking until she mentions Our Future, and by heaven, she gets it done.
  • Mario Lopez's steady, supportive microphone throughout, and stunned yet gentlemanly "...Thank you very much" at the very end. I once saw an episode of Pet Star where a woman claimed her cat could do this elaborate trick, and of course, as soon as she brought it onstage, the cat balked and ran back into the wings, leaving humiliation in its wake... and Mario reacted in much the same way, as if everything had gone exactly according to plan and nobody had any cause to be ashamed. If I ever embarrass myself on national TV, I want Mario Lopez there to pretend everything went fine. He couldn't save me from YouTube, but he would make me feel better in the moment.
Did I miss anything? What do you like best?

And with that, I am off to Boston for a couple of days! I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend. If you choose to spend it watching the above video over and over, I won't judge. You might want to take a break to spend some time with Strong Bad, though. He could use the company.


Marla said...

Oh my gosh, I do love that video. I love that video because, while it's a tragic reflection of the failings of the country's educational system and while it's kind of meta because you know poor Miss South Carolina can't locate the United States on a map (even though she wants a pretty sash with the name of said country on it to wear around 'n' stuff), it is so, so entertaining. Because watching stupid people say really stupid things is very, very funny. I'm a terrible person. I loved what you wrote about it.

My favorite parts: As you mentioned, "U.S. Americans." And also, "The Iraq." And how she tried to get "for our children" in there, but the microphone had fled by then, seemingly of its own volition. And also, she apparently stood there the entire time with her hands on her hips, like she was angry on behalf of The Iraq for not having maps.

Didn't I hear she came in third? Awesome.

You're also totally right about Mario Lopez's unshakeable stage etiquette. I think it was all those years of having to wear acid-washed Z. Cavariccis and pretending to have a crush on Elizabeth Berkeley. He knows what it's like to be humbled.

He truly is a brave U.S. American for our children and maps and South Africa such as.

And, Molie, so are you!

Marla said...

Dude, SO many apologies for the typo that I can't seem to fix. I spelled your name Molie. Like mole-ey. I'm like those store clerks you wrote about. Oy vey.

Hope Boston was excellent ...

Mollie said...

Don't worry, Marla, I haven't had my coffee yet, so I didn't even notice the spelling. At least you didn't try to throw in a "such as."

AND you made me laugh a lot. I think all my blog posts should come with automatic Marla commentary.

Anonymous said...

I thought you'd appreciate this (from

"She actually answered the question very well. No, not the question she was asked, but this question, which must have been presented in a practice round:

"Why can't Johnny find his way home? In your answer, please mention at least two countries that have been in the news in the last 50 years; be colloquial while maintaining a show of faux erudition; emphasize your utter inability to grasp anything that's said to you while the spotlight is shining; and, most importantly, do not even once give any hint of any notion of how to construct a sentence in the English language.""

This poor, poor, hilarious girl.


Mollie said...

That is funny! Thanks, Steph.

A colleague over at Rasputin Bigbodie (where I cross-posted this) pointed me toward Miss SC's redemption-seeking interview on Today. Or, rather, to this entertaining snark on said interview, which is dismayingly awesome in its own right.

All this is what the Internet is for. Just think, if this had happened 10 years ago, the only people who would know about it would be the ones who watched the pageant. So pretty much nobody, in other words.