Thursday, March 1, 2007

Are you a Beauty or a Geek?

I recently had a chance to watch an episode of Beauty and the Geek. Basically the whole point of this show is to pair the “beauties” with a “geek” and then these pairs will test their mettle in missions/challenges that are foreign to them. For example the episode I watched had the geeks getting fashion makeovers and strutting their stuff on the runway in hopes that they would be auctioned off for the most money.

This show is filled with messages that reflect the normative definition of masculinity and femininity. Just the fact that this show is on air states that it is not good to be a little different, like star wars, and be intelligent. A lot of these geeks were aloof and awkward; I feel like the aim of this show was not really to change these geeks but to further poke fun at them. By trying to change these geeks the show is saying that they are not normal and that being more fashionable, fit and in tune with the goings-on in popular culture is what should be strived for.

The beauties of the show were a very interesting set of girls. They were all admittedly very attractive, and all struggled when it came to more intellectual concepts; this provided a stark contrast between the beauties and the geeks. In Laura Ouelette’s article Inventing the Cosmo Girl she speaks about the Beautiful Phony and its “… (looks) created with wigs, false eye lashes, tinted contact lenses, fake beauty spots, false toenails, false fingernails, nose surgery, padded bras, false derrieres, and fake jewelry” which were recommended (Ouelette 121). The beauties of this show screamed Beautiful Phony; there were many scenes in which the girls were out tanning instead of studying and spending hours in the bathroom getting ready for these challenges. In the penultimate episode, two of the said beauties new they had to get dirty and partake in missions on a ranch, but they still opted to wear the boots that matched their outfits, which included daisy dukes and matching bandanas. Correct me if I am wrong but I thought the point of the show was to change these beauties and stray away from their vain and high maintenance ways.

Despite the obvious “Beautiful Phony” these girls were considered the epitome of beauty. It was interesting to see the occupations of these beauties; there was a playboy model, a runway model, a sorority girl, etc. Basically the show reinforced the stereotypes that come along with these jobs: they are beautiful and that’s how they get by in life, by their beauty alone. There were no law students, med students, or anything like that; this must mean their all ugly, right?

On the other hand many of the geeks came from schools of much prestige such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. But of course that is not enough, being aesthetically pleasing takes precedence over intellect. The geeks were poked fun of, and depicted as seemingly social outcasts. This house seemed like a microcosm of what high school life is for most people, when everyone is in their different cliques: the jocks, the geeks, the Goths, the cheerleaders, etc.

On the one hand you have what the media believes is beautiful, on the other hand you have guys who are struggling to reach the masculinity norms that society and the media have created. But what is beauty? Is it blonde, tan, long legs, etc. What is a geek? Having a degree in engineering, being a med student, or having attended an Ivy League University. I sure wouldn’t mind being a geek.

1 comment:

Jessie said...

Very clearly articulated and interesting. I'm curious about the comment that the trajectory of the show isn't meant to change the geeks but to further make fun of them...does one seem better than the other?
Overall you've done a nice job with your post. I just would have liked to see a bit more analysis of the implications for the depiction of these norms and stereotypes. For example, who benefits from trashing the "geeks" and "beautiful phonies." Or, how is it that trying to change the girl's "high maintenance ways" will benefit them, women in general, or anyone other than the show's producers? Is it going to give them the degrees currently held by the geeks? Is there an element of reactionary storytelling--i.e. putting the intelligent guys and the beautiful girls "in their places"? Based on social norms, who wouldn't want to be intelligent and beautiful? Perhaps the people who fit both criteria were unavailable for the spin-off show (eh hem...hehehe)?