Multiple reactions abound to the youtube video showing Miss South Carolina, contestant for the Miss Teen USA pageant, fumbling over an answer to the question she received in the pageant's nod to intelligence. Some saw a scared teenager who couldn't find her words and these people rushed to protect her, as one would one's own child. Some saw the failure of the U.S. education system. Some saw stupidity, and compared her to our fumbling president. Some just felt sorry for the poor girl and depicted her as simply dealing with a brain white-out. Why so much attention? Perhaps it speaks to a very public recognition that beauty pageants are a thing of yesteryear, losing ratings, and quite out of sync with what we really want to know about and hear from young women today. Or perhaps because her answer was so terrifically bad in that recognizable way that makes for countless beauty pageant jokes and spoofs, that we recognized it wasn't the girl but the packaging of the girl that fell apart. In that moment the pretty blonde hair, the over-made up face, the gown, the "poise", the figure, became part of the joke. (It's odd that those who defend her intelligence point to a cogent interview she gave the next day after her packagers had, of course, helped her with the answer to the question! Odd only because these folks seem to forget that there is a behind-the-scenes packaging element to these pageants, the after-pageant interviews, and, well, to TV in general.) For those who saw a morality tale of what emerges when girls spend too much time practicing walking in high heels and choosing the right push-up bra for the gown, they have some support: A swimsuit study that randomly assigned college students to a group: half of the women got into a swimsuit in a dressing room, and half got into a sweater. Same for the men. Then they gave them a bunch of surveys to fill out and a math test hidden within. Turns out that the women in the swimsuit group did worse on the math test than any of the other groups. The authors concluded that chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other endeavors. And fewer cognitive resources is a good explanation for South Carolina's speech. What else is a beauty competition about but chronic and excessive concentration on physical appearance. Even the talent competition revolves around beauty, so much so that we hear tell girls take up the xylophone or marimba at an early age because it's such a good pageant instrument! Why? Does it give a girl more room to flounce around than a tuba? Speaking of talent, there was another kind of pageant this summer, called "So You Think You Can Dance", an American Idol of the dance world, featuring teens and young adults whose bravado "yes they do think they can dance" paid off. They were amazingly talented. Sure they were packaged for the viewing public--lots of "hot" moves and racy outfits adorning a diverse group who, off the dance floor, were polished up to look wholesome and earnest, the purported "arrogance" knocked out of some. But the talent was there. And those kids looked absolutely beautiful dancing. Will beauty pageants survive? Probably not for very long with so many better reality show competitions on TV -- except for the pure campiness of it, a chance for us all to critique, laugh at, reflect on, and deride the spectacle, and sometimes, the witting or unwitty participant.