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"Beauty and the Geek"

“Beauty and the Geek? just finished its third season by coupling 8 female “beauties? and 8 male “geeks? together into a mansion to live and compete against other couples to win $250,000. It is one of the many reality television shows on the CW Twin Cities-WUCW23, the product of CBS and Warner Bros. merging. The show is produced by Katalyst Films and 3Ball Productions with executive producers, Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg (“Guess Who?, “Punk’d?) in the forefront. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. also plays its role with President and CEO David D. Smith.

Despite the lack of diversity between leaders of these businesses, the show began with some racial diversity; however, 5 of the 8 women were white blonds, and by the episode I watched, the three remaining women were all very tan, very blond, very skinny, and very young white characters. The men were also skinny and young, and before their make-overs were hairier and dressed in contention with popular style. These similarities/lack of differences tell the viewer exactly what society considers to be beautiful and geeky. For women the message is clearly: change your size to skinny, your hair to bleach blond and long, your pale skin darker, or your dark skin lighter, and wear as little cloth as possible. For men, it is: cut your hair, bulk up, and dress like everyone else is dressing. Based on the tasks given, the messages go even further to claim that this is what other people are attracted to. One task puts the men up for auction and he who raised the most money was deemed the least “geeky?.
In addition to the message on appearance is the message on personality and behavior. The “Beauty and the Geek? website describes the men as “socially challenged? and the women as “academically impaired?. Upon viewing the show, its definition of “socially challenged? becomes clear and narrow. They depict the men’s challenge simply based on whether women are attracted to them. This is shown in an earlier episode where the men are competing to see who can get the most phone numbers. This can put pressure on the male viewers to equate social acceptance to sexual conquest. Similarly, the show’s definition of “academically impaired? is rarely even tested. The women are often given very physical tasks, or tasks that include the aid of the men to direct them; these have nothing to do with academics, and after watching the show once it’s obvious that what most of these girls are lacking is common sense which is actually more of a social problem than an academic one. Despite all of the contradictions, the show still seems to manipulate the characters into the stereotypes of beauty=dumb and smart=ugly.
Equally concerning is that with all of this pressure to please the opposite sex and being paired up and living with the opposite sex, the show gives off a heterogendered message, normalizing the heterosexual attractions and relationships. The show even took it a step further, completely implying that homosexuality between men is socially frowned upon and very unattractive. Toward the end of episode 6, the men were spraying each other off with a hose because they were sweaty and full of mud. During this moment, the show went into slow motion and background music began to ooze out of the speakers. The camera (in slow motion) kept going back and forth between the half naked men spraying each other down, and the women’s disgusted facial expressions.
“Beauty and the Geek? shows its hypocrisy on the sexuality issue, however, on their website. One of the site’s featured photographs is a picture of two of the women kissing a third woman between them.

beauty and the geek.jpg

The message given to the viewer is that it is not socially acceptable for a man to show affection to (or even assist in hosing down) someone of the same sex, but it is acceptable for women to do so as long as they are doing it to entertain another party (as the photo shows one of the women looking straight at the camera while she kisses the other girl). Through this hypocrisy, the show stresses heterosexuality, but also normalizes and encourages the objectification of women.
With all of this criticism, it could be difficult to understand why anyone would volunteer or audition to be part of this type of program. Myra Mendible gives a possible explanation, “Humiliation here occupies a second-order of meaning in which any televised activity—regardless of how embarrassing—is elevated in status? (p.336). Due to the normalization of humiliation in reality television many characters feel important just because people are watching them. Yet, the consumers are perpetuating this humiliation by watching the shows, gloating and judging who they see. Yep and Camacho optimistically conclude their critique of normalized heterogendered standards for women of reality television, “Although we recognize the material advantages and consequences associated with this norm, this mythical center is in perpetual need of those outside of it to define, maintain, and reaffirm itself? (p.340). If the large television corporations can mold what is considered socially acceptable, the viewer can mold it as effectively by not watching discriminatory shows and by being smart consumers.

Comments

Sexual objectification is perfectly natural, and if you would relax the militant attitude somewhat, you'd probably find you're capable of it yourself. Perhaps you're trying to claim you've never imagined yourself pleasuring a particularly stunning specimen?

That's the seed, and the rest grows naturally from there. I think your problem is that you think objectification and respect are mutually exclusive. They're really not. Even if you think they can't exist simultaneously, that's no reason to rule out that people can have an abundance of both in their lives.

You don't hear a lot of complaints about men being objectified, despite all the squealing on show, when guys display their bare muscular chests, but why is that? I'll tell you.

It's because we don't equate it with a lack of respect the way (some) women do. We simply go about our lives commanding respect the same way we would have if you didn't squeal like a schoolgirl.

It's not men who devalue women, it's women who alter their self-perceptions based on how good looking we happen to find them. Its incredibly possible to remain respected, and have a little fun being sexy, as long as you don't treat YOURSELF any differently after the fact.

What you dislike about objectification isn't the act itself, it's what you've seen objectified women become. Their character shrivels, they place too much emphasis on their appearance alone, forsaking education, they begin to view objectification as their only source of approval, etc...

... but objectification isn't the cause of that. Poor character is the cause of that. If hearing the words "omg you're so freakin hot" every day can turn you into a raving idiot with no future, then THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU.

Perhaps instead of lumping men with the (blame, or) responsibility to coddle and protect you from your own tendencies to be characterless one-dimentional vegetables, you should focus your efforts on why you descend so easily, as a gender.

Man-up... as it were. Strength of character solves all your problems, and you can't look externally for that. We sure as hell don't. Women joking about limp penises and poor sexual performance, or deriding our low income and our crappy cars certainly isn't helping our self-respect as a gender... yet we seem to manage without a particularly serious percentage of airhead sluts.

Perhaps you disagree? - Perhaps there's an equal number of male airhead sluts? Maybe so, but then why is there gender bias in your point of view, and what are you complaining about?

Good read. I saved the page for future visit.

However, it came off as dumb, unnecessarily violent and gross, and lacking in the hilarity that many reviews promise.