John Oliver James Franco

John Oliver’s evisceration of Miss America shows he doesn’t understand beauty pageant winners

In John Oliver’s acclaimed evisceration of the Miss America pageant, HBO’s new host investigated the pageant’s oft-repeated claim that it makes $45 million in scholarship money available to contestants on an annual basis. Unsurprisingly, he concluded that the stated figure substantially overstates reality.

But he was wrong,* and it’s all because his fact-finding elves didn’t dig deep enough into the types of people who compete in the pageant — and particularly, into their educational proclivities (emphasis added):

Some schools offer scholarships directly to pageant contestants, and the trick is Miss America counts all of them, not just the ones they can physically take.

So for instance, Miss Pennsylvania’s website says it offers the winner scholarships to these four colleges, and the value of every single scholarship is counted together despite the fact that she is clearly going to attend at most one because she’s not going to attend four colleges.

John Oliver four colleges

She’s not James Fucking Franco.

Of course, she’s not James Fucking Franco — but she could easily be Sarah Fucking Palin. (God, I miss her.) Technically, Palin didn’t win the Miss Alaska crown, but she certainly could have,** and she would have gotten full mileage out of the experience while she was at it. Via Wikipedia, here is Palin’s educational background:

After graduating from high school in 1982, Palin enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Palin transferred to Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu for a semester in the fall of 1982, and then to North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d’Alene, for the spring and fall semesters of 1983. She enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow for an academic year, starting in August 1984, then attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska in the fall of 1985. Palin returned to the University of Idaho in January 1986, and received her bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism in May 1987.

That’s five — count ’em — stints at four different colleges over a four-year span. And you said it couldn’t be done.

So, John Oliver, it looks like you and your band of merry researchers owe Miss America an apology.


*And while I’m at it, Mr. Oliver, Sidney Rice is not an NFL wide receiver — he is a former NFL wide receiver. He quit after suffering too many concussions. But mentioning that would have undermined your “look at how sharp this Rice character is” narrative, wouldn’t it?

**In my opinion, anyone who wears this bathing suit — at any time — in Alaska is a winner.

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