12th March 2018

Beauty Queens – Libba Bray

Beauty Queens is a satire about a group of beauty queens who are stranded on an island and thus removed from the patriarchal rules that shape their daily lives. It is a commentary on society and what happens when people are removed from it. Essentially, it is a female take of Lord of the Flies by William Golding with themes of what it is like to grow up female/female-identified in a male dominated world. A world where we do not make the rules. A world where it seems as if we’ll never get a share in making the rules.
Beauty Queens brings to the forefront many serious social issues with it’s diverse cast of female characters. It has themes of gender, race, LGBT and disability issues through all of the diverse characters. This book has the most diverse cast of females I have ever seen portrayed in any medium.
One of the first things you may notice about Beauty Queens is the controversial choice to have a lack of male characters with many people asking “Why so many women?” My answer is “Why not?” Too many times we have seen a lack of strong and complex female characters. This book finally gives us that.
Personally, I find it funny how the fact that all the main characters are female is questioned when there are many books and movies with a lack of females that are not questioned (Lord of the Flies and the Maze Runner movies to name a few popular ones).
The patriarchy only sees women’s worth in what they can do for men. Hence, we get two-dimensional, quiet women. We get manic pixie dream girls. We get angry black women. We get mean girls. We get two dimensional background characters with little to no personality whose only job it to encourage the male protagonist.
There is a test called the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test requires that in a book or movie, there be two female characters that speak about something other than a man. Only about half of books or movies pass. There was a study that showed, that in 885 of the most successful U.S. films from 1950 to 2006, there were on average, two males to every female character.
Beauty Queens rejects the status quo. Beauty Queens has girls who are intelligent, beautiful, competent and will not be silenced. They are so much more than their bodies or male sidekicks. They have flaws, strengths, doubts, fears and existential crisies like male characters are allowed to have. As Mary Lou says “Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching so they can be who they really are.” These women do not exist for a man. They exist in their own right. They exist because they exist.


Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi Luella,

    This is a strong response to the text. We discussed some means of developing it further:

    1) Make a reference to the Bechdel test and perhaps weave this into your argument somewhat
    2) Use some specific quotations from the text will go a long way to adding the necessary detail to the response
    3) It would be very interesting to see whether there might be a quote from the Lord of the Flies that might illuminate your argument even further.

    Nice work – and an interesting text!



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