Fairly Legal

I tune to NBC just in time to catch the awarding of Miss Congeniality, as voted by all 51 contestants of the Miss Teen USA 2003 pageant. Oregon╣s Tami Nichole Farrell takes the title, no surprise even to this newcomer. With her million-megawatt smile, perfect posture, blond hair and fresh-water breasts, there╣s no one more congenial than Tami. No male judge could possibly deny her the commemorative Hoya Crystal congeniality trophy (retail value: $3200).
Miss Teen USAí 2003 is a production of the Miss Universe Organization, which also stages Miss Universeí and Miss USAí. This year╣s ceremony, held in Palm Springs, CA, was co-hosted by a once-accused date-rapist, Mario Lopez, popularly and forever known as Slater from Saved by the Bell. In 1993, Lopez was investigated for date-raping a young woman in his California home; another soon came forward to tell a similar story. Charges were never filed due to lack of evidence and contradictory witnesses.
Throughout the last half of the program, standing alongside tv╣s Brooke Burns, Lopez runs color commentary as the girls strolled by. Not since the R. Kelly video has a grown man said so many creepy things to the young and naive.
A few commercial breaks later╦Zoloft, Crest whitening strips, Nair╦Tami╣s got the crown, beating out Misses New Jersey, Michigan, Alaska and Massachusetts in the final round. During her acceptance stroll, jaw chattering as if from too many diet pills, little Miss Oregon is golden.
Give me a freeze frame of America during the Miss Teen USA 2003 bathing suit competition, let me peek into every household tuned to that channel, and dollars to donuts, the viewing audience is clearly divided. On one hand, teen and pre-teen girls, talking on the phone, IMing and SMSing; on the other hand, grown men masturbating. In what I imagine to be a beautiful and burning-bright Venn diagram intersection, both are under the same roof.
Even the sight of the bloated omega-lister Lopez wouldn╣t keep most good men down. Miss Teen USA contestants must be between the ages of 15 and 19 and, judging from this year╣s crop, they must also be willing to name A Walk to Remember, Dirty Dancing or Miss Congeniality as favorite movie. They have perfect abs, the memorized mechanized body language of a lifelong beauty pageantist and a knack for spewing nonsense and puffery during backstage interviews.
They volunteer at homeless shelters, and count baking and the violin and par-3 golf among their hobbies. The shortest top-10 contender is Michigan╣s Alicia Jaros, at five-foot-four, and Hawaii╣s Camille Peraro is the token chubby girl, with an extra kilo in the trunk that╣s only out of place next to Alaska╣s statuesque Brittany Ann Jackson and Massachusetts╣ ripped Jacqueline Bruno.
During the filler segment at the water park, they hold their perfect breasts high and dance in the wave pool and pose with fellow contestants as if shooting Cinemax softcore. They wear identical two-pieces╦yellow bottoms, striped tops╦and, as led by the perky Marshel´ Virginia Tiffany Lee (Miss New Hampshire), shake their asses like washing machines out of balance: awkwardly, but with gusto. There╣s an upskirt shot of Miss Teen Kansas in one sequence, and in another, there╣s more blondes per capita than at a Nuremberg rally.
Miss New Jersey, a five-seven brunette beauty named Jacklyn Pezzotta, sports large hoop earrings appropriate to her state╣s fashion sense. When she struts in the bathing suit competition, she ends with a pose not unlike gubernatorial candidate Schwarzenegger╣s in that nude photo of him that╣s making the rounds╦shoulders back, hips out, cock flapping in the breeze. Only with this young lady╦even they don╣t call themselves "women"╦there╣s not a bulge to be seen. A commercial for Nair in the next break only helps the mind wander further into degeneracy.
Speaking of poor Jacklyn Pezzotta. She makes it to the top five and even takes home the coveted Miss Photogenic title, as voted by the general public. But our Little Egg Harbor native blows it when she opens her mouth during the final Q&A. You can feel her pain as this culmination of so many years of taped titties and clandestine vomiting comes to a close, and no amount of backstage blowjobs for Lopez can rescue her from the fourth-runner-up spot.
These young women are fillies able to stand yet unable to run using their newfound sex machinery. They are Ballard╣s empty swimming pools and overgrown launch pads and failed filling stations. They are the products of poetry machines; they are the sound sculptures run amok. These (mostly) barely legal automatons, with perfect abs and textbook smiles, are living, breathing, chirping monuments to a bankrupt culture.
I think of a lesson taught to me by, of all people, a late-night television preacher. I watch religious programming with genuine interest. When I╣m disgusted by late-night television╦to which I╣m drawn when I╣m disgusted with magazines and newspapers╦I tune to the religious end of the massive dial (just as I often tune to religious radio stations when I drive long distances).
This man of the cloth was speaking to a college-aged crowd about pornography. He was young himself╦mid-40s╦and claimed that beyond simply desensitizing us, porn cripples us socially. (To his credit, he did not single out men.) Smut becomes a substitute for contact, and we slowly but inevitably lose something of our dignity.
I╣ll put my hand up first. I have trouble feeling connected, attached to anything. I╣m forever floating, not in a stoner way or in the manner of a flaky cultist, but as one immersed in observation. Not because I consume too much pornography. I╣m a recreational user, as it were, with the occasional mpeg finding its way to my hard drive╦
And then I take it off my hard drive as quickly as possible, scrubbed away using a paranoia-born utility written for terrorists and child pornographers. Your favorite website may claim legal models, but if they╣re not, you╣re fucked, not the site. Judging from the lax consent laws in Eastern Europe (the majority provider) don╣t count on the average smut-peddling webmaster to verify the DOBs. And good luck using the Pete Townshend defense when the feds find illegal photos. The only "research" you were doing, they╣ll charge, was how many loads you could harvest from a nine-megabyte QuickTime clip.
Back to the preacher, whose claim that porn damages us was quite far-removed from the standard Falwellian doom cast upon sinners. He said nothing of smut leading to rape, leading to abuse, leading down a slippery slope to other sins. He was simply lamenting that we are cutting ourselves off from one another. No doubt there was a baseboard of moral condemnation holding up his rhetoric, but he was wise enough to tamp the hellfire.
Watching Tami take her victory stroll, I wonder how many men will soon be logging onto the website, choosing each contestant╣s profile and dragging favorite bikini shots into their hidden porn folder. I wonder if Mario Lopez really raped those girls, if he╣s as slimy in real life as he is on television. Most of all, I wonder if Tami Nichole Farrell, Miss Teen USA 2003, is allowed to ever stop smiling.