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Gender Switchin’ Beauty & the Geek 3

I mini-marathoned all six aired so far eps of Beauty & the Geek 2, the show exec produced by Ashton Kutcher which pairs supposedly “hot” (skinny and heavily made up) girls with geeky (smart, socially awkward) guys. The guys learn about fashion and grooming, the girls learn there’s more to life than shoes and gossip magazines, and at least one pair hooks up. Game over.

It’s actually a pretty entertaining show. They’re clearly casting for personalities, since pretty much any bimboid girl would fit the “hot” archetype. The geeks are a bit trickier, but they have a bunch of programmers, MIT grad students, yada yada, what you’d expect. All these kids are really young, undergraduate age, and there are some fairly touching moments when the girls actually start believing they have more to offer the world than their looks, or when the guys realize they can participate in normal college-ish activities without being permanently shunned.

But it’s so predicated on predictable, sexist stereotypes. I’ve spent the last few days musing over how they could flip the casting for Beauty & the Geek 3: geeky girls and hot guys. It’s really difficult to figure out how this could work and not be insanely subversive, since so much of the “hot girl” / “geeky guy” dichotomy depends on really gender-specific things:

  • The girls have to be nurturing and willing to gently teach the guys stuff and help them open up.
  • The idea that a dorky or overweight guy could be a sex object is not completely out of the realm of possibility on television.
  • The girls have to be superficial, but not mean.

OK: Flip to socially awkward, supersmart girls and himbo, A&F chest-waxing dudes. The assumption is that the “hot” guys are just going to be complete assholes to the “dorky” girls. The idea that a woman might have something to offer the world other than her looks just goes against every single presupposition of reality television, not to mention consumer culture overall.

There really isn’t a way to make the relationship between a conventionally attractive man and a conventionally unattractive woman who’s smarter than the guy palatable to the majority discourse on television. We just don’t see that. We don’t see that many smart women, period, and we certainly don’t see them if they’re not perfectly coiffed, shaved, toned, plucked, and manicured. Imagine some hypernerd tough chick programmer who lifts weights and reads sci-fi and goes to LOTR conventions. Can we really imagine her neutering herself into a well-spoken, polite bimbo? “Geekiness” for women can sometimes be an extremely powerful form of opting out of mainstream beauty culture in a very effective, self-aware way.

Maybe I’m not giving the hot guys of the world enough credit, but from my experience with narcissistic men who don’t have much going on upstairs, they generally aren’t really into seeing women as people. Women are ranked on their looks and fit into very specific, sexist types, and if they don’t fit those types, they’re not sexual objects, and so they’re non-people. Television generally doesn’t have much time for women who aren’t “hot”, and the idea that a fat girl, or a girl who doesn’t wear makeup, or a girl who doesn’t dress trendily could be “hot” isn’t very common either.

I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in real life. But I am saying that on television targeted towards teenagers, switching the roles on this show would require a great deal of backpedaling and shifting in order to create something that would be acceptable to advertisers, etc. Seeing “hot” girls learning BASIC FACTS (Who is John Kerry?) isn’t threatening. Seeing a whipsmart, weird, awkward girl gaining confidence in herself and being constantly validated is. I really hope I’m wrong because I am DYING to see this show.

(Gossip: Wes from B&G2 is total slimeball! Check out the MySpace group: http://groups.myspace.com/wesislame. He’s a faker, dude, totally recruited by Ashton to geek out so he could be hottied up. And he cheated on his “real” girlfriend and his TV girlfriend. OH SNAP, you are so busted Wes!)

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8 Comments

  1. Laural

    Three words: She’s All That

  2. A few weeks ago I heard an ad for this show on the radio of my rental car, and, as a geeky girl, not only had the exact same thought, and then thought, and I’m not making this up, “I bet alicetiara writes about this!” Ha. I am pretty opposed to being on a reality show (surprisingly, architects are in somewhat high demand for reality shows — between the Fix Up Your House ones and strangely, things like the Bachelor (for men), but if it fell in my lap, I would actually go on a gender reversed beauty and the geek thing. Though preferably if it could be platonic in some way — of all the guys I’d ever be into sexually, himbo, A&F chest-waxing types would NOT be it. But we could be friends.

  3. jake

    Wow thats a good idea switching them around….it would be a good change and if ppl dont like it with im sure they wont then you could change it back to the geek boy and the hot girls even though the girls are too hot sooo…..changes can not be good….so pelase stick to the original beauty and the geek alright….cuz i mean the ladies are like HOT HOT HOT!!!!!

  4. nathan

    This is not happening. I am pretty sure B&TG 3 is the standard 8 guys, 8 girls

  5. I think it would be good to change it for a season or 2 so of the people that commented you are pigs. I think it would be good to change it.

  6. lex ein

    The wesislame myspace page mentioned above doesn’t seem to be there…

  7. a gender-switch BATG could work if you get contestants who believe in the experiment (more like Seasons 1 and 2 than 3). The trick I think would be finding hot straight guys with experience in giving girls advice already, probably professionally: personal trainers, hair and makeup artists, clothing designers… of course having them all professionals would detract from the natural chemistry of the show… I dunno, but bring on the geeky girls in season4, i say!

  8. Dal

    “from my experience with narcissistic men who don’t have much going on upstairs, they generally aren’t really into seeing women as people. Women are ranked on their looks and fit into very specific, sexist types, and if they don’t fit those types, they’re not sexual objects, and so they’re non-people.”

    I’m sorry to report that women are the same. Men and women, who haven’t ever had difficulty attracting desirable partners develop a callous attitude towards ‘the untouchable’. It’s part defense mechanism, all human nature.

    How about a show with hot guys and nerdy girls, but the men have one thing that superficially puts them on a level playing field? The men are model-beautiful, but all under 5′ 6”? Or they have a slight stutter…

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