The latest reality TV show, Beauty and the Geek Australia, is claimed to be the ultimate social experiment as it explores what will happen when two very different social worlds collide.
Eight women, average age 20 (which is probably higher than their IQs), are teamed up with eight geeks, average age 24, and then they compete in a series of challenges to test their brains and charisma.
Now I haven’t actually seen the show or the US and UK versions which have been around since around 2005. But I have seen the promos and am instantly offended at the stereotypical appearance of the geeks. The ‘Harry High-pants’ look complete with oversize glasses and a lab coat makes me cringe. It presents ‘scientists’ in an unrealistic and unflattering light that ends up being accepted as the norm by the wider community.
The ads looking for contestants stated:
“We are looking for the following:
Intellectual ‘Geeks’ who are socially challenged when it comes to women but think they could have a go at turning a beauty into a scholar. (If you’re a shy guy into comic books, star wars, RPGs, D&D, computers, on-line gaming, chess, or physics, etc, etc., we want you!)
Beautiful, sexy, social-savvy women who can turn a geek into a stud.”
Apart from my initial confusion where I thought RPGs were rocket-propelled grenades and thought this level of specificity was a bit out of control, I was so disappointed that the geeks all had to be male and the females were relegated to decoration. It is this insidious stereotyping that ultimately reduces the number of students taking up science and technology courses at schools and universities.
I think it's time for a revolt - for too long the ‘arty’ types have dominated mass media and perpetuated the stereotypical portrayal of scientists as geeks and nerds with no further complexity to their personas.
Perhaps we should march in a Geek Pride or Nerd Power parade.
Then again, perhaps we should take more control of how we present to the media and the community at large. Computer repair company Geeks2U is effectively using wit and humour in its radio ads:
“Its time to toast a truly under-rated Australian, its time to toast the geek. Sure, you might not have had a girlfriend till you joined the uni choir, but who was it that was first to class, first to chess, first to own a calculator watch, and first to quote Monty Python’s Holy Grail word for word. It was you, geek, the very same geek who, while we played air guitar, rocked the world with his French horn. Who, while we skipped school to go surfing, skipped all the way to school? Who, when our teachers stumbled, explained that integration is a distributive operation and thus the integral of a sum is equivalent to the sum of the integral of its parts …”
This ad, and the others in the series, adds a layer of wit that makes the stereotypical geek into a positive persona that is appealing.
However, before we go too far down this path, could we get the boys studying advanced maths at Sydney University to cut their hair and give up their cardigans?