Reality Televison, and the Monster of the Geek


Found on Tumblr, I do not own this image


I’m not going to lie, I have judged my own body based on the bodies of celebrities. I have Googled “so and so thighs” in an attempt to feel better about my own body, hoping that there would be celebrities whose bodies were similar to mine. And this is a common thing. Many of the ways that we self identify, and judge ourselves and the people around us is based on the entertainment industry, and reality television. Reality television is a new and ever growing medium, that teaches us how to police ourseleves. But, As noted by Ouellette & Hay, “Makeover Television, Governmentality and the Good Citizen,” reality television has become a way that we police and judge our citizens and our own bodies. When we see “addicts” on A&E Intervention, we learn what makes an addict. We judge people on their habits, their lifestyle and the choices they have made. We find comfort in the fact that this show is giving these people the “help they need.” And we go about our lives, monitoring our friends. Making sure they are living the “right kind of life.” It is an example of extreme Governmentality, in which we learn to police ourselves, based on what we see on television.
On Maury, there was an episode titled “Revenge of the Geeks.” For the purposes of this episode, “geek” means ugly, fat or queer. The point of the episode was to get these “geeks,” who are now “hot,” to show off their new bodies to men and women who ignored them when they were “ugly.” And, naturally, the people who are the desired object of the “geek” are thrilled to see them, and now want to date them, be their friends e.t.c, simply because they are now “good-looking.” This is a fantastic example of how we police ourselves. We see others as labels, and those who are labeled “undesirable” are ignored, bullied and marginalized. And instead of criticizing the teasing, we encourage the “geek” to change themselves. Rather then change society, we change the individual, and make them into what we find desirable.
Working off of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s idea of Monster Theory, this idea of the “geek” is a monster we created. We made those who are considered grotesque, either because of their looks or their sexuality, into the terrifying “geek.” We show the American Citizens the horror stories of what it is like to live as a “geek.” You will be marginalized, you will be ostracized, you will be depressed and you will be alone. The only way to change yourself, to stop being the monster, is to alter yourself. To make yourself beautiful. This is what reality television teaches us, and this is what we teach each other.


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