Loose Crowns: The Pageant Truther Movement Starts Here

As you know by now, on Sunday, a Notable Internet Thing happened: Steve Harvey, hosting the Miss Universe 2015 pageant (live on Fox!), did pretty much the only thing that you cannot do as a host. After announcing Miss Columbia as Miss Universe, the overjoyed would-be victor did it all: she cried tears of joy, walked to the stage, and put on the crown. As she gave her best Winner Wave to the masses over bad elevator music, a terror-stricken Steve Harvey reappeared on stage, looking like he had just watched his puppy get hit by a bus. And then he delivered the SHOCKING VIRAL MOMENT: Miss Colombia, you see, is the first runner-up. Miss Philippines is your winner.

WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA! Pandemonium ensued in the pageant’s mediocre Vegas venue as a shocked, nonplussed Miss Philippines walked haltingly to the stage and did her own Winner Wave next to Miss Columbia (who wore the expression of someone rapidly coming down with bad case of food poisoning). As audiences around the nation cringed, covered their eyes with their hands, and then peeked through at their televisions, contest officials TOOK OFF Miss Colombia’s crown and put it on the head of Miss Philippines, who wore it as the True and Rightful Winner.

The entire scene was exactly as awkward and terrible and absurd as it sounds. In fact, it made  wonderfully neatly prepackaged viral video clip. Come and gawk at how awkward and terrible and absurd this was!

LOL! WTF! OMG! (Pretty much all responses to this Miss Universe debacle bear a striking resemblance to BuzzFeed tags). What a hilarious, amazing turn of events! Bumbling ol’ Steve Harvey always brings the laughs, from The Original Kings of Comedy to Family Feud to this! Just putting his big ol’ foot in his big ol’ mouth and giving us one last #amazing moment to remember for 2015! Why, the jokes, they write themselves:

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Ho ho ho! Harvey’s inevitable follow-up apology on social media only COMPOUNDED his mistake because, incredibly, he managed to mangle the names of BOTH contestants’ countries, which became, respectively, an Ivy League university and a four-chapter letter of the Apostle Paul.

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Fail! What a fail! A classic human blunder in the midst of the bizarre, hyper-scripted world of pageantry. Just VINTAGE Steve. An unfathomable mistake gave us an Unforgettable Internet Moment (TM), and we all had a good laugh.

UNLESS.

I mean, I had no idea that the Miss Universe pageant was on Sunday night. Neither did you. And certainly neither of us had any idea that it was broadcast live on network television. In fact, the only real press Miss Universe received in the last year was profoundly ugly: as you may know, the pageant’s then-owner, human-shaped orange Play-Doh sculpture Donald Trump, launched his presidential campaign in June by outlining his nuanced, detailed stances on foreign policy and immigration:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

NBC, presumably on the phone with its lawyers before Trump even made it to his inane qualifier, swiftly announced that it would not air Trump’s Miss Universe pageant any longer. Trump, furious, purchased NBC’s shares of stock in the venture and then sold the entire Miss Universe operation to William Morris Endeavor, the agency founded by superagent Ari Emanuel, who served as the inspiration for Entourage’s Ari Gold. (You’re not going to believe this, but Trump weighed in on Steve Harvey after Sunday night.)

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Not clear how the pageant’s ownership would relate to the host’s critical reading skills, but sure. To be fair, 2015 is absolutely the right time to get out of Miss Universe, a sexist relic of the mid-20th century that institutionalizes the sort of simplistic rankings that you stopped caring about around the same time that you realized Tucker Max is a misogynist moron and all his ideas are terrible. As The Onion put it:

Trump’s inflammatory comments have reportedly prompted NBC to drop the event from its schedule and sparked a number of debates regarding decency and propriety, none of which were said to include placing women onstage and assigning them a number corresponding to their physical appearance. Sources went on to note that lining up 50 bikini-clad women so that millions of viewers could scrutinize their bodies and make their own ratings that they could then compare to the scores of the official judges was, for some reason, completely absent in the recent controversy, which instead focused wholly on whether the spectacle should be shown on a major broadcast network. Sources later confirmed that the pageant will now air on independent cable channel Reelz, which has declared its intention to preserve what is, evidently, an entirely unalarming American tradition.

So to recap: an obscure, overtly sexist beauty pageant was already going the way of the pay phone, the dial-up modem, and the Equal Rights Amendment. And the only time that anyone has said ANYTHING about said pageant in the past year is in the same breath as its former owner, a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, and proudly fascist anti-immigrant loon whose (God forbid) election as president would, ironically, spark the most significant exodus of Americans from America ever seen. How in the world do you generate some positive press for an event like this!?

ENTER STEVE, AND HIS GLORIOUS FLUBS.

Like any good truther, in lieu of anything resembling evidence or proof or a well-reasoned thesis, I will rely entirely on speculation, conjecture, and Zapruder Film-like screenshots in which I hunt carefully for the third contestant hiding behind the grassy knoll. Let’s go to the tape.

0:14: The second runner-up, Miss USA, has already been announced, and we are down to Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines tearfully holding one another. Steve solemnly intones: “One of you is about to become Ms. Universe 2015. If for any reason she is unable to fulfill her duties, the first runner-up will take her place.” I always love when pageants treat the winner’s contractual responsibilities to promote the Miss Universe pageant like it’s access to the nuclear football.  

0:16: “Miss Universe 2015 is…” DRUM ROLL. Each woman adopts a different strategy for the final camera shot: Miss Philippines is loose, happy, and excited to be there, while Miss Colombia’s face appears on the brink of shattering.

0:17: It bears repeating: while this moment is not included in the carefully edited clips circling the Internet, Steve Harvey had JUST announced Miss USA as the SECOND RUNNER-UP. Why in the world would he not then announce the FIRST runner-up? Look, I fully acknowledge that the fact that the second-place finisher in contests like this has “first” right there in his or her title is confusing and inane. I also agree that naming the first runner-up is always anticlimactic because it simultaneously effectively announces the winner, who instead of celebrating wildly just has to stand there with her indirectly bestowed title and congratulate the first runner-up (who is, presumably, seething) for her second-place finish. But at the same time, the whole reason you announce the first and second runner-ups BEFORE the winner is in order to actually acknowledge them (those LOSERS), even at the marginal expense of the suspense associated with naming the top finisher. If you just came out and announced the top prize at the jump, no one will care about the second- and third-place finishers. (Arguably this is already true, but still.)

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Look at that face. Look deeply into those baleful brown eyes. Steve Harvey may be a middle-aged doofus in a double-breasted cream shawl-collar tuxedo and a bow tie and pocket square set that came in a plastic box at TJ Maxx, but he is NOT dumb. Like everyone else who has ever seen the Olympics, he knows there are three winners to announce, that you announce them in reverse order, and that announcing the third-place contestant and then the first-place contestant makes no sense at all. The only reason to do it is…well, we’ll get there.

0:29: HERE WE GO.

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0:35: COLOMBIAAAA!!!!!!! The loser (??) offers gracious smiles.

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Tearful, sisterly hugs ensue!

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Kelly Clarkson’s A Moment Like This starts, at least in my head.

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Here comes the sash!

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Apparently Miss Universe gets a lovely flower bouquet, a mini-flag, and a warm, lecherous embrace from a dark-suited Tony Parker.

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And, finally, THE CROWN. Yes, Miss Colombia, it fits great.

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0:51: Steve quietly strides off stage. His work here is done! (It is not done.)

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0:53: And so begin the faces of The Poor Lady Who Thought She Was Miss Universe 2015 For Two Minutes.

A Queen and Her Subjects:

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Breathless and Overwhelmed:

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The Winner Wave:

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The Blown Kiss (presumably to lecherous, black-suited Tony Parker):

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The Michael Jordan Fist Pump:

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And finally, the Peace Sign, Because Why Not, You’re Miss Universe:

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2:26: Yep, Miss Universe 2015, just soaking it all in.

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AND THEN!

2:27: Steve Harvey reappears entering stage right. Huh? What are you doing here, man? Shouldn’t you be two wrap party buffet plates and three cocktails deep right now?

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2:31: It’s clear from Steve’s stilted, staggering walk that something is amiss, though his two-sizes-too-small jacket (which is, again, a shawl-collared, double-breasted, cream-colored number) may be partially to blame, too. Hard to say.

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2:37: Head bowed and stiff-legged, as if he’s facing an executioner, Steve raises the mic to address the audience again, an event he DEFINITELY didn’t plan for all along. What could it be?

2:39: Man, look at that face. That’s the face of a man who knows he has some bad news to deliver.

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Maybe he knows it…a little TOO well.

2:51: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have to apologize. The first runner-up is Miss Colombia.”

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2:53: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO zOMG OMG OMG WTF NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WHAT NOOOOOOOOOO

2:55: [You run to social media to post the above reaction]

3:06: A cut to Miss Philippines, smiling broadly. Like everyone else in the audience, she absolutely no idea what’s going on. OR DOES SHE?

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3:15: Wait, no, Miss Philippines has no idea what’s going on. It quickly becomes apparent that she has no part in this conspiracy, because she is suddenly wearing the same terrified look that Steve Harvey wore about 30 seconds earlier. Miss USA, who is incapable of expressing the emotions of shock or surprise, giggles, leans in close, and delightedly confirms to Miss Philippines that she is, in fact, the true winner. Miss Philippines vomits a little bit, I think.

3:33: Miss Philippines begins the approximately 10,000-yard walk down to the winner’s stage. The audience is going nuts.

4:05: A great sequence where Miss Philippines apparently snaps out of it, and her look of sheer terror gives way to a flawless beauty pageant smile. You can’t rattle them for long, Fox!

4:16: THE TWO WOMEN JUST STAND THERE ALL ALONE SIDE BY SIDE WAVING TO THE CROWD. This is terrible. I imagine both of them are considering hurling the crown to the ground and impaling themselves on the resulting shards (which REALLY would have made for a lively Notable Internet Event, but would also likely run afoul of FCC regulations).

4:27: Finally, mercifully, some lady comes out and stands between the two women like a boxing referee before a fight, vigorously and noticeably rubbing Miss Colombia’s back. Who is this noble dame who has come to save the day? Wikipedia indicates that the answer is one Paulina Vega, the reigning Miss Universe and Miss Colombia 2014, AND, incredibly, current Miss Colombia’s cousin!

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4:38: Oh man, this is going to make for some profoundly uncomfortable conversations about comparative family accomplishments at the next reunion.

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4:39: Finally, Steve overcomes his sudden muteness in a newfound burst of authority. “Let me take control of this.” Hahahahahaha. Yeah, that’d be a first for the night.

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4:41: “If I can just make it through this, I trend on Twitter, do the talk-show circuit, get all my old friends to defend me and talk about what a great comic I am, oh, and I make a bajillion dollars.” Okay fine, Steve didn’t actually say that, but this face certainly does:

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4:43: Steve shows us the card, so we know it’s not rigged. You underestimate us, Steve.

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4:44: But for real, take a closer look at that card. What the hell, man?!? The runners-up are listed in a TINY font on one side of the card, and Miss Universe in an equally tiny font on the other. This is hardly the series of indecipherable  Egyptian hieroglyphs that Steve’s blunder would lead you to believe that it is, but it’s also certainly not the most intuitive way to present the information.

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In other words, the card is JUST confusing enough to make you think that such a simple (viral!) mistake is plausible.

4:50: “I will take responsibility. It was my mistake.” Right, I’m not sure who else would be a candidate for fault here, but sure.

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5:02: “STILL A GREAT NIGHT!” Steve bellows. Presumably this was Mrs. Lincoln’s take at the end of Our American Cousin.

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5:05: “Please don’t hold it against the ladies!” Steve helpfully cautions against a reaction that zero percent of watchers were having.

5:07: And then, the pageant coup de grâce: Miss Colombia’s own family takes the crown off her head and places it upon that of Miss Philippines, who begins her own wave-kiss-first pump-peace sign sequence for the crowd. Spectators clap, credits roll, and Twitter implodes.

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Voila! Just like that, what was a previously almost-entirely-irrelevant pageant rules the day, dominating social media and providing endless fodder for office break rooms and awkward family holiday dinners alike. Clearly, the Ari Gold ownership era of the Miss Universe franchise is off to a rousing start.

Look, this is good hustle! But what about Steve, you ask? The bumbling oaf who can’t read his notecard, can’t spell country names, and can’t remember how runners-up work? What’s in for him? I’ll tell you what’s in it him: LOTS AND LOTS OF MONEY. Turns out that the man had just signed a multi-year deal to host Miss Universe that would pay him “more than they’ve ever paid before for a host.” And did Sunday’s blunder cost him his future payout? Not by a long shot! What say you about the entire episode, IMG Chief Content Officer Mark Shapiro?

I definitely want him back. I would hate to see him not come back. He’s going to want a shot to redeem himself.

I bet he will, Mark! And I bet that when he does, Miss Universe enjoys its best ratings ever, and ad prices skyrocket, and viewers hang on Steve’s every word, and everyone laughs heartily at the inevitable self-aware, self-deprecating joke that Steve offers announcing the winner (“Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, but please, help me remember: no matter what, I’m reading THREE names this time.”). And Donald Trump, who by that point will be back to being a private citizen who rambles on about the evils of illegal immigrants even while he pays them to build his mediocre, wildly overpriced hotels, will be furthest from everyone’s minds. And no one will be the wiser. EXCEPT FOR US.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more YouTube research to do on the temperature at which jet fuel melts reinforced steel beams.

 

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