reality-tv shows Beauty And The Geek is currently in the depths of doing makeovers on the ‘geek’ contestants, and while it’s pitched to the audience as inspiring and fun, I find it more depressing and outdated.
The makeovers are simple and based purely on physical appearance. No one is going to therapy and working on themselves. Instead, they are just given a new look, as if a haircut can somehow solve someone’s confidence issues.
Geek contestants usually get a new haircut, a new wardrobe, and some basic grooming and then when their new look is revealed, the beauties react with excitement and delight! Usually, there’s even some squealing and tears.
Yes, that’s how much this show wants to tell you looks matter.
Often the makeover helps the relationship move along. Suddenly a beauty sees a geek in a new light, and romance begins. But what kind of message is that sending? It’s sending a very loud one that how you look should determine if you are worthy of love.
The makeover trope is nothing new. We’ve seen it in a thousand romantic comedies, from The Princess Diaries to Miss Congeniality. The makeovers in these movies, just like in Beauty And The Geek, were used as a vital plot point. Ultimately, it sent a message that the female character wasn’t worthy of love unless she looked a certain way, and it’s the exact same message Beauty And The Geek is sending. The geeks aren’t enough as they are; they need to change to earn love.
One of the geeks who just received a makeover is software engineer Christopher, who afterwards said: “I feel amazing. The reaction to my appearance is like nothing I’ve experienced in my whole life.”
Meanwhile, when Batman fanatic Mike underwent his makeover, he said: “I’ve never been called hot before.”
But why do they feel this way? Because of the over-reaction of the beauties. Given everyone’s excitement and fanfare, they are told that they are finally worthy, which also tells them they weren’t worthy before.
For instance, one of the beauties, Heidi, reacted to Mike’s makeover by saying, “He didn’t just look good, he looked unreal, like perfect.”
The emphasis on looks is uncomfortable. Surely in our looks-obsessed society, we should be pushing a different narrative. Shouldn’t the geeks be enough the way they are? Truthfully, the geeks never look that drastically different, but the reaction they get suggests a vast difference, which is depressing.
Surely the message of a show like Beauty And The Geek, which brings different types of people together, is that you don’t have to change to be worthy of love. That beauties fall in love with geeks all the time, how we view beauty and “hotness” is super subjective, and love has ultimately got nothing to do with looks. And that beauty is often skin deep.
The show presents itself as trying to change our perceptions of how we view each other, particularly in romantic relationships. That beauties are not just about being beautiful but need to be valued for their whole selves and not just the way they look. And that geeks have much more to offer than you might first imagine.
But instead it is just enforcing tired stereotypes.
The show has decided to zoom in on the idea that a geek could be worthy of love only if he physically transforms himself. It’s grim, depressing, and outdated; Frankly, the geeks deserve better.
Mary Madigan is a freelance writer.