Miss . . . or Myth?

Institute History

  • 1988 Sundance Film Festival


This lively chronicle of the often highly-charged conflict which has surrounded the Miss California Beauty Pageant during the last decade raises profound questions about the legitimacy of beauty pageants and the role of women in contemporary society. Set in the coastal resort town of Santa Cruz for the past 62 years, the pageant traditionally served as a focal point for community pride and activity. In the 1970’s, however, a handful of feminists began protesting the pageants; by the 80’s, the protest had grown larger than the pageant itself, forcing it to move to San Diego in 1986.

Miss . . .or Myth? features rare archival footage of pageants from as for back as the 1920’s, juxtaposed with lively on-the-street action shots of confrontations at more recent contests. But the film’s ultimate distinction is the even-handed treatment of its subjects, women on both sides of the fence, making it clear that there are no easy answers for the thoughtful viewer.

— Robert Hawk

Screening Details

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