Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Certain As the Sun Rising in the Eek

Since we took an abandoned TV into our home, Emily and I have developed an interest (one I never quite managed to have before) in reality television. The only one I can *defend* as a choice of something to watch is The Amazing Race, and I will do so with eloquence in a later post, but the other night we sat down for an episode of Ashton Kutcher's new masterpiece of executive producing, Beauty and the Geek.

And I *refuse* to say that things about reality shows are spoilers. They're just not.

I have, recently, spent a decent amount of time noticing that the feminist movement, in the last thirty years, honestly *has* made a great deal of progress. I look at the lives that my female friends are leading (my male friends too, for that matter, but for purposes of this discussion I'm talking about them only in relation to the females) and am amazed--not simply for their employment, though that too is impressive (after all, until about 30 years ago want ads were entirely segregated by sex), but for who they are in the world and how unabashedly they are those people. Not only employed and earning (in most cases--I'm awfully unemployed right now, after all, and therefore don't say that to belittle the people who are not employed), but believing in their value in their fields, prepared to handle what comes to them. I give the individuals credit for being this way too, of course (another point of Ann Coulter contention), but there's also the question of their feeling safe in society being the people they are. They interview war veterans, they manage medical offices, they organize and lead and create like nobody's business. For myself, I'm a female director who works with a number of male actors and designers and has never felt that any power conflicts--which of course there are, as there are in any relationship that involves power, otherwise known as any relationship ever--are based on my gender or theirs. I'm not going to say there's not a lot yet to be done, because there is; this post is not at all intended to belittle the concept of the glass ceiling, or to say that such characters as those in In the Company of Men, a movie that Emily and I also just saw and which I thought was fascinating, do not exist, because they do and are important factors in the lives of both women and men. But the concepts that drove feminism changed things, and while obviously they changed things *more* for women with greater disposable income (whether from their own labor or that of a romantic partner)

Then, however, there is Beauty and the Geek. Or rather, the central gender oddity, which Emily pointed out--simply, that it wouldn't go the other way. Even the daring mind of Ashton Kutcher would not develop a show wherein stupid and inordinately attractive guys are paired with extremely intelligent and often less-than-gorgeous women. Why not? Because you wouldn't get an audience, for one thing; a decent number of people are still watching TV for the gorgeous women. (I mean, in my view the majority of the "Beauties" are fairly unattractive in that they're uninteresting physically, but they're thin and boobius, which I suppose is what draws the viewers in. And I also found a decent number of the geeks quite attractive, but my tastes have never been what you'd call conventional.) I also wonder if networks might be worried that the studs wouldn't treat the female geeks quite so shall we say charitably as most of the Beauties have thus far been treating the male geeks. I mean, I won't say that women are in general any less cruel in their comments about male attractiveness than are men in their comments about female attractiveness, but I think it is fair to say that men are less likely to know what women are saying about them physically. This is probably not a good thing in terms of female assertiveness/progress, but there we are. And in general, an ugly man still has a much better chance of gaining respect based on his other qualities than does an ugly woman. (That actually is something I want to take up in a later post, but for now it just gets a mention.)

The most interesting concept, which Virginia suggested, would be to have a mix--some of the geeks are male and some are female, some of the beauties are male and some are female. See which mix ends up doing better, if there's any statistical pattern to it. I'm guessing it would still be the pairs we've got now, because in the genres of people who go on reality television (though my sister's close friend might get on America's Next Top Model, so I need to make fewer generalizations), men are much more likely to have some confidence in their other assets. And yet, I don't think the way feminism is working is limited to higher-class and/or educated women--this I would say from my teaching. I do think, however, that women being confident in the work they do or the people they are and women being confident in relationship to men are two completely different categories, perhaps particularly among less educated groups, though I'm not sure about that part.

Then, of course, there's the prospect of gay beauties and gay geeks. That'll be a few years at least, because I think as far as the viewing public is concerned there are exactly two homosexual personae in America, and both of them are male. (No, I'm not counting viewers of Showtime or HBO--we are talking about audiences who watch shows produced by Ashton Kutcher.) I think the concept of gay men and lesbian women having individual personalities (even the Fab 5 are something of a conglomerate) is probably a little much for America--couldn't tell 'em apart without a scorecard, or something. I think that's really the distinction, that we live in a country where every public mention of an individual homosexual still has to be iconographic. Audiences honestly would have a hard time understanding why some were the beauties and some were the geeks. And besides, what would Ashton Kutcher call the show? (Everybody should propose something . . .)

On the other other hand, there are five fingers. There *is* something to be said for the beauties accepting ugly and extremely smart men, if not a whole lot. Then again, the argument could be made that it's something they're doing because they're stupid. Who could say?


At 10:06 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

this post doesn't seem to be about politics at all. maybe this just means it seems like something i can talk about intelligently without seeming like i'm going off on a tangent? but to me it just seems like it's about society. what are the boundaries of what you consider to be politics?

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Ammegg said...

I think it's as much about politics as anything else I've written here about art. I call it a "political blog" because I specifically refuse to blog about my day-to-day emotional life; I won't do online "journalling," because journalling is for me a very private act.

So writing about society, or the effects of art (as far as reality TV can be called "art") on society, is to me political in that it's macrocosmic. This blog is for me about figuring out the society in which I live, with the help of my readers, mostly those I know personally (but now I have at least one that I don't yay!). I dunno, I feel like all the posts have been about society--this one doesn't feel at all different to me. Where's the difference for you? And, what did you want to say about this particular post? :>)

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Connor said...

This is an utterly frivolous comment, but I'm always blown away by your titles.

Your titles could be whole books.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Ammegg said...

Hey, thanks!

At 3:51 PM, Blogger ?! said...

Who are the two gay men in America's consciousness? I'd say Ellen DeGeneres is an extremely high-profile and well-liked lesbian these days.

Anyways...yeah, I found the geeks hot too. Meow.



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