Miss America’s God
Faith and Identity in America’s Oldest Pageant
350 pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- ISBN: 9781481311977
- Published: November 2019
The Miss America pageant has extraordinary staying power. Despite the cultural winds of the past century, Miss America continues to captivate the nation, giving America what it wants most—sex, entertainment, competition, religion, and even self-discovery.
In Miss America’s God, Mandy McMichael traces the pageant’s long and complicated history. She demonstrates that the pageant is a little explored window into American culture, one that reveals a complex cocktail of all Americans hold dear. Ultimately, McMichael contends that the pageant is an unexpected cultural space of religious expression and self-discovery for many contestants whose faith communities support and validate their pageant participation.
Miss America’s God utilizes feminist theory, women’s history, sociology, psychology, ethnography, and religious studies to explain the enduring popularity of the pageant, as well as religion’s curious embrace of its spectacle. While contestants use the pageant to build faith and identity, the pageant uses the faith of the contestants to remain relevant in a society that is increasingly suspicious of it. McMichael shows just how central religion has been to Miss America. Religion, for Miss America, sanctifies sex, ritualizes entertainment, justifies competition, and enables self-discovery. Religion makes Miss America a cultural icon that withstands the test of time.