“Bionic Woman”

Jamie Somers is an undercover policewoman attempting to stop a pageant from being rigged and prevent a microcomputer circuit from being smuggled into France.  On Monday, March 21 our class watched an episode of Bionic Woman titled “Bionic Beauty.”  The opening scene shows the braless and liberated Jaime Somers carrying an oversize heavy log into her home.  Within minutes, she has already revealed her physical strength and certainly does not need a man’s help for any heavy lifting.  Jaime is persuaded to go under cover as a Miss United States pageant contestant to prevent the contest from being rigged and find a microcomputer circuit that is about to be smuggled out of the country.  At first she opposes the job but Oscar convinces her by saying, “I can’t send a man into this job!”  Jaime reluctantly agrees and puts on the Miss California sash and immediately states, “I hate it.”  Jaime’s hatred for beauty pageants is exemplified by her rejection of the sash.  Jaime is the first character we have encountered in this class that seems to reject the modern standard of beauty.

Jaime rejecting the Miss California sash

Helen poses as her chaperon while she is competing in the pageant.  Upon her arrival, a list of rules is outlined by a supervisor, “No liquor of any kind, no cigarettes, no men, and a bed curfew of 11:00pm.”  Helen responds, “That’s reasonable” and Jamie retorts, “Reasonable?! That’s horrible!”  This statement demonstrates that Jamie, like Casey Jones, Pepper, and Flo, drinks, smokes, and likes men…she is a far stretch from the typical Donna Reed character we saw earlier in the semester.  According to the announcer, Ray Raymond, “The contest will be judged on poise, beauty, and intelligence…the qualities that distinguish an ordinary woman from extraordinary.”  Although the contest claims it judges contestants on intelligence and appearance the only section they even allow the females to speak is during the final question and answer period which lasts about thirty seconds.

Miraculously, Jamie can sing when the talent portion of the competition begins!  She performs “Feelings,” a chart topping song of the 1970s, in a loose-fitting top and pants.  Jaime’s song choice and attire contradict itself.  “Feelings” is thought to be one of the sappiest, “girlish” love songs of all time however, her attire sends off an appearance of a liberated and non-traditional woman.

The supervisor and security guards eventually notice that Jaime is acting suspicious and order her spend the day in her room.  “Next time she steps out of line will be her last time,” said a security guard.  “I think you better spend the rest of the day in your room,” said the supervisor.  This was an interesting scene in the episode because it shows the power that men have to simply whisk her away and confine her to her room.  After her room captivity, the swimsuit competition began.  Jaime expresses discomfort due to her minimal clothing, “I feel like a side of beef.”

Before the final event, Jaime is caught searching for the microcomputer and is knocked unconscious.  Jaime proved her mental and physical strength again when she woke up from her unconscious state, busted out of the room on her own, and still managed to compete in the evening wear competition.

In the end, Jaime finds the microcomputer circuit, wins the title of Miss America, and catches the criminals.  Oscar is impressed and remarks, “And all this time I thought you were just a pretty face.”  Clearly, Oscar is stunned that a woman could be both attractive and brainy.

This episode had many similarities to the year 2000 film, Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock as a “tom-boy” cop forced to go undercover as Miss New Jersey.  The episode also had many political ties as well.  1968 was a milestone year due to the following events: the Miss America protest, Nixon takes office, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, war protests, the ongoing Vietnam war, and the hippie movement. In 1968, controversy occurred when women’s rights activists protested the pageant and held up signs saying, “Miss America Cattle Auction,” crowned a live sheep Miss America, and chanted “Atlantic city is a town with class. They raise your morals and judge your ass.”  This episode describes Jaime as both physically attractive and independent.  However, Helen is still depicted as a pushover that will do anything you ask of her.

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