CALL me crazy, but sometimes I suspect that every now and then, the television industry has a tendency to reinforce stereotypes. I know what you're saying: "But Ben, what greater force is there for shattering damaging preconceptions and promoting more nuanced understanding of the diversity of the human race than television?" But it does seem to me that some TV shows tend less towards "let's get to know each other better" and more towards "let's laugh at that girl's ugly dress". For example, Everybody Loves Ray-mond perpetuated the stereotype that men are gormless morons and women are humourless harridans; while Big Brother perpetuates the stereotype that a just god does not exist.
But perhaps the most stereotypey tree in this stereotype forest is Beauty and the Geek, (working title: Incoherent and the Ineptly Maintained Beard). This is the popular show that matches a group of beautiful young women with a group of intelligent young men, based on the scientific principle that the gene for good looks cannot coexist in the same body as the gene for intelligence, which is why all attractive people are idiots and all smart people are hideous, as we all know. Or at least, we do if we watch Beauty and the Geek.
The selection process for BATG is quite rigorous: one team of producers goes undercover at science-fiction conventions and kidnaps any man who vomits when a woman talks to them. These men are then kept locked in a secure facility where they undergo powerful hypnosis to induce complete colour blindness when looking at clothes, and refused access to hairbrushes or razors of any kind for three months leading up to filming.
Meanwhile, another team of producers heads to fashion shows and Miss Nude Australia heats and recruits any female willing to follow their trail of jelly beans to the cage behind the kitchen. These young women, however, are allowed access to grooming implements as they are strapped to chairs and forced to watch endless videos of kittens playing with spaghetti while powerful electric currents are transmitted through their skulls. At the end of all this, both groups are thoroughly broken human beings and thus ready to begin making BATG.
Like most reality shows, there is a token attempt to cover up with a heartwarming fig leaf — in this case, the show claims to demonstrate that beauty is on the inside. Because we learn that actually these weird-looking dudes have great personalities, while on the other hand we learn that the beautiful women . . . know a lot about shoes or something, I guess. Point is, everyone learns a lesson. Naturally, this is nonsense.
What BATG teaches us is that a) men with thick glasses and unruly facial hair do not deserve love unless they undergo a makeover; b) attractive women are of subhuman intelligence until exposed to a chemical engineer in a cardigan; and c) Bernard Curry is still around finding gainful employment, so good on him.
But then, if all TV broke down stereotypes, it would startle and disturb us. Occasionally we like a show to challenge cliches a little, but only as an occasional contrast to the warm, loving embrace of the typical TV program, which solidifies our stereotypes, confirms our prejudices and kindly lets us know that, yes, we were right all along. So thanks, Beauty and the Geek: with you, we feel more right than ever.