Thursday, April 5, 2007

"Reality Check: Artificial Intelligence on Beauty and the Geek"

Anna David’s article, “Reality Check: Artificial Intelligence on Beauty and the Geek,” explains her opinions on the interaction between the beauties and geeks on the television show. Although issues regarding race, class, and gender typically appear in analyses of popular culture, David mostly sticks to discussing gender, which is understandable considering it is a central part of the show’s premise. Her main point is that being around beautiful women makes smart men come off as dim-witted, mostly because of nerves and intimidation. Her argument therefore deals largely with aspects of gender and gender differences that contribute to the effect attractive women have on men.

David portrays the beauties, and women in general, in a rather negative light, while sympathizing with the geeks and depicting them as naive, pitiable, and “adorable.” It is clear that she thinks the women on the show are dumb, lazy, and full of useless knowledge like popular culture references and slang terminology. On the other hand, she makes the geeks out to be the innocent playthings of the beauties, who break hegemonic norms by manipulating and dominating the men. For instance, the author says she felt sorry for Matt when Cecille put makeup on him because his explanation for letting her do it was that he felt lucky to be spending time with such a beautiful woman, which he never gets to do in his real life (i.e., when he is not starring in a reality television show that forces attractive women to live in a house and interact with socially awkward men). This goes back to the author’s claim that desirable women make smart men act less intelligent than they really are. Had Cecille not been a beautiful woman, Matt presumably would have objected to the makeover; however, since he wanted her to like him and wanted to continue spending time with her, he permitted her to do whatever she pleased, regardless of the humiliation and taunts he endured from other contestants.

At one point in the article, David not only criticizes the females of Beauty and the Geek, but stereotypes other women as well. In discussing the situation between Matt and Cecille, she writes, “I had to wonder just how many IQ points breasts and platinum hair can deduct from a person’s mind.” David is undoubtedly referring to Cecille in this statement, but millions of other women also fit this physical description. It applies to many females who are not brainless and would not be perfect candidates for this show. Just because a woman has blonde hair and a large chest does not automatically make her an unintelligent, attention-seeking flirt whose passions include shopping and looking good. However, whether or not she intended to, the author does imply that interacting with any woman with “breasts and platinum hair” will make you dumber. In a piece about gendered television, John Fiske describes the typical soap opera villainess as a woman who "turns traditional feminine characteristics (which are often seen as weaknesses ensuring her subordination) into a source of strength. ...[S]he uses her insight into people to maniupulate them, and she uses her sexuality for her own ends" (474). Despite the fact that she is not a character on a soap opera, Cecille, who used her femininity and sexuality to win Matt over, seems to fit the description of a villainess. Again, Fiske, like David, (indirectly) portrays her and women like her in a negative, almost evil way.

In addition to gender, the media could easily propagate race as a controversial topic in Beauty and the Geek, but David steers clear of it in this piece. The only two black women on the show happen to be two of the three women she talks about in her article, but this seems to be a mere coincidence. Nowhere does she mention or imply anything about their race, yet she could have without difficulty if she so chose. The only indication of race in the article is where David describes Cecille as blonde, which implies that she is white. This seems to be included more as a reference to beauty, superficial appearance, and stereotypes (e.g., “dumb blonde”) rather than race, though. While race is hardly included, class is not discussed in the article at all. David focuses primarily on gender as the basis of her writing, but some of her views are surprisingly negative. She illustrates the men as being innocent geeks guilty of no wrongdoing while describing the women as unintelligent, manipulating flirts who make smart men act stupid. Given the context of the show, this is probably how viewers are supposed to think of the beauties and geeks in the beginning, but David does not take into account the changes incurred by the men and women throughout the show. Her depictions of gender in Beauty and the Geek unfortunately seem one-sided, showing only the innocent side of the geeks and the negative side of the beauties and women in general.




References:

David, Anna. (2007, January 7). Reality check: artificial intelligence on
Beauty and the Geek. FOX News. Retrieved April 5, 2007, from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,241842,00.html

Fiske, John. "Gendered Television." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 469-475.

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3 comments:

Jessie said...

Awesome job with this post Devon! You chose an interesting source for your news article, making the portrayal of women by the author of the news piece all the more relevant by using a piece authored by a woman to illustrate this negative valuation of women as a hegemonic norm.

micheal said...

"'Beauty and the Geek's Cheryl Tenbush, who won the show with her partner Josh Herman, is still dating the geek she met on the show, Wes Wilson. In fact, they 'just moved out to L.A. together last week' Cheryl told TV Guide."

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!