Reality TV I Have a Problem With

In general, I don't have a problem with reality TV, which doesn't mean, confusingly enough, that I like to watch it. I don't have a voyeur personality; well, I do because everybody does; what I don't have is an objective voyeur personality. I feel bad when people self-implode. I get embarrassed when people behave stupidly. I want to run away, or turn off the TV, when people are mean. On top of which, many reality TV shows are tedious in the extreme. Others are incredibly tasteless (Temptation Island, Extreme Makeover where people who don't feel good about themselves are convinced that plastic surgery will change all that and then it doesn't). I've watch a reality TV episode here and there. One summer, I watched Big Brother; it was like watching my college apartment except that no one could leave. Like I say, people self-imploding.

So when I say I don't have a problem with reality TV, I don't mean I like reality TV. What I mean is that I don't see reality TV as prefiguring the end of civilization as we know it. Ever heard of the gladiators? Reality TV to the max, with the WWF thrown in for laughs. (In fact, there's a Star Trek episode where Kirk et al. show up on a planet and find the Romans televising the "games.") Which, I suppose, could augur the end of civilization as we know it, but at least we can take comfort in not being unique. There's this idea in academe that people who vote on American Idol and go to Walmart and watch NASCAR don't really want to do any of those things, they've been brainwashed by corrupt capitalism. But this is, really, just another case of "high culture" meeting "low culture" in which high culture is thoroughly bewildered that there exist people in this world who aren't like them. So they decide it just can't be possible. Americans don't really like shopping at Walmart, they just think they do.

Idiots. Academe, I mean. Anyway, to return to my point, I don't in general have a problem with reality TV shows. I don't like them, but hey, I don't much care for country music either or for that matter, peas or muggy weather. It's a matter of personal taste.

But I admit to having a problem with The Beauty & The Geek. There's two reasons. The first is that ordinary people mugging to the camera is one thing (Good Morning, America); beautiful people mugging to the camera is another (Joe Millionaire) but geeks mugging to the camera is hard to take. NOT because they aren't lovely to look at. I love looking at geeks. I consider the ground crew in Apollo 13 the sexiest sight in the world. It's hard because one of the points of reality TV is a kind of unwritten contract where the people mugging for the cameras become the property of America which then has the right to make fun of them, belittle them, laugh at them, dissect their personalities, etc. etc. etc. And I think the "geeks" who signed up for Beauty & The Geek probably knew that; they are smart after all. But haven't they been through this already? You know, like High School. Why go through it again? The result is that they seem less at ease (for all three minutes I watched last night) than your average Survivor contestant. There's a kind of "Why am I here? this is stupid" look to their postures, which you don't find even amongst Extreme Makeover participants.

My other problem is totally visceral. I call it my "Hey, leave the geeks alone; they're mine" reaction. I'm perfectly okay with beautiful people chasing beautiful people all over the sets of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. But when models start chasing geeks, my feeling is, "Oh, just stay on your own turf already." Which is visceral, as I say. Intellectually, I know that beautiful women marry geeky guys; even the walking dead (if you've seen Mick Jagger lately) can marry beautiful women. But there is still a tendency to think in High School clique terms, which is silly really. You hang out with AV guys in High School, you tend to keep thinking that not only are they your type but a pretty well kept secret. And if the cheerleaders start waltzing in, figuring out that these guys are smart and make money and are fun to be around, that's just SOOO unfair. But perhaps, I'm giving the cheerleaders too much credit or not enough as the case may be (since being beautiful doesn't, contrary to what many people would like to believe, exclude smarts, sensitivity and kindness), and the AV guys a clue to begin with.


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