Minister of Science and Chief Protector of the Faith

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Media Clichés: Men Seldom Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses

 
There are several stereotypes that support the notion that beautiful women can't be intelligent, and intelligent women can't be beautiful.

I've always loved the old classic horror films, and a prevalent plot device would pair a female

I've always loved the old classic horror films, and a prevalent plot device in these films would pair a female "ice princess" scientist with a rough-and-tumble masculine hero. The other men in the film warn the hero to not attempt to approach her, that she is too cold and distant. The female scientist is always all business and no hanky-panky at the beginning of the film. Invariably at some point in the film the female scientist is saved from the monster by the rough-and-tumble hero, at which point she melts into his arms, and now coos warmly and affectionately at the man she formerly scorned. Science and protocol fly out the window as the two profess their love for each other and the monster dies by the final reel.

Another version of this stereotype is called the 'Miss Jones Syndrome.' where a seemingly unattractive, bespectacled woman is told to take off her glasses and loosen her hair, and voila! 'Why, Miss Jones, you are beautiful.'

Another version of this stereotype is called the "Miss Jones Syndrome." where a seemingly unattractive, bespectacled woman is told to take off her glasses and loosen her hair, and voila! "Why, Miss Jones, you are beautiful."

There are many variations and parodies on this theme. In his music video "She Blinded Me With Science," Thomas Dolby did an homage to this Cliché with the line, "Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, you're beautiful!"

Two recent films explore this theme, '10 things I hate about you,' and 'She's all that.' Both stories revolve around female leads that are intelligent and witty. They are also considered unattractive, not so much because of their looks, but because of their independence and attitude.

Two recent films explore this theme, "10 Things I Hate About You," and "She's All That." Both stories revolve around female leads that are intelligent and witty. They are also considered unattractive, not so much because of their looks, but because of their independence and attitude. (Imagine that!) Their male suitors must tame them until they are brought under submission. This rather sexist storyline is actually a recycled version of "the Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare.

How to get the Popular Boy Without Comprimising Your Unique Rebeliousness.

Another recent film that portrays these stereotypes is the film, "Not Another Teen Movie." The film is a parody, and the female lead portrays many of the cliches mentioned. The title of the book the character is reading in the center still in the photo above is "How to get the Popular Boy Without Compromising Your Unique Rebelliousness."

Independent women are portrayed on television as lead characters, but usually the same or similar stereotypes apply. Dana Scully is portrayed as very intelligent and perceptive woman in the television show

Independent women are sometimes portrayed on television as lead characters, but usually the same or similar stereotypes apply. Dana Scully is portrayed as very intelligent and perceptive woman in the television show "The X-Files." Her character seemed to have abandoned all femininity in the show, however. Any romantic encounters that she ever had on the show were merely foils to Fox Muldar's escapades. She is, in essence, the straight man to Muldar's goofy persona. She was not a romantic character. Even when she became pregnant in the series, the child's conception was a mystery. (Presumably the child was the result of an alien abduction.) Muldar was definitely the more sexual character of the two, as he at least had an extensive porn collection.

A stereotype seems to be fostered that states that submissive women are "rewarded" with romance, and independent women "punished" with a lonely and unromantic life. This stereotype is prevalent through out all media.

The same can be said for other strong female characters, such as Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown, Uhura, and Seven-of-Nine. The message appears to be that if you are an independent thinking woman, you are not attractive.

A cold and distant librarian by day, Barbara Gordon eschews the Dewy Decimal System by night and becomes the confident and defiant crime-fighting Batgirl. Batgirl is hot, Barbara Gordon is not, but neither seems sexually attainable. Batgirl is brassy and defiant, Barbara is so intelligent that no man would find her attractive.

Batgirl From the old "Batman" TV show is an excellent case in point of this phenomenon. A cold and distant librarian by day, Barbara Gordon eschews the Dewy Decimal System by night and becomes the confident and defiant crime-fighting Batgirl. Batgirl is hot, Barbara Gordon is not, and neither seems sexually attainable. Batgirl is brassy and defiant, and Barbara is so intelligent that no man would ever find her attractive. Note also that Batgirl is another example of the "Miss Jones Syndrome," by way of Clark Kent. Take the glasses off of the librarian and put her in a clingy outfit and she is instantly desirable!

It's also worth noting that the Batman TV series was high camp and rather silly, and Batgirl's role was usually to get captured and the rescued by the final episode. She was only allowed to kick or push villains in a fight - she was not allowed to punch them. The writers thought it would make her look "unfeminine."

From the cartoon series 'Scooby Doo,' Daphne Blake (AKA 'Danger-prone Daphne') is the coy and demure ghostbuster that is eternally captured and saved by Freddie, the male lead that is cryptically wearing an ascot. Velma Dace Dinkley is the resident genius of the group, and is often the member of the team that deciphers the clues and solve the crimes. She is also lacking in self-confidence, clumsy, and is considered sort of annoying by the rest of the team. She is a comedic foil to Daphne's damsel-in-distress. The smart girl is unattractive, the attractive girl is not smart.

From the cartoon series "Scooby Doo," Daphne Blake (AKA "Danger-prone Daphne") is the coy and demure ghostbuster that is eternally captured and saved by Freddie, the male lead that is cryptically wearing an ascot. Velma Dace Dinkley is the resident genius of the group, and is often the member of the team that deciphers the clues and solve the crimes. She is also lacking in self-confidence, and is considered sort of clumsy and annoying by the rest of the team. She is a comedic foil to Daphne's damsel-in-distress. The smart girl is unattractive, the attractive girl is not smart.

Daria Morgendorffer and her younger sister, Quinn, embody the same stereotype that Daphne and Velma exhibit, except the lead of the show is the mousy girl in the glasses!

Perpetuating the same stereotype, but in reverse, is the television program "Daria." Daria Morgendorffer and her younger sister, Quinn, embody the same stereotype that Daphne and Velma exhibit, except the lead of the show is the mousy girl in the glasses! Another show that has broken this same mold is "Ugly Betty."

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'Xena Warrior Princess' differed from these other show's in that the female leads in these two shows bend the rules of the adventure genre, in that a female is controlling the narrative and doing battle usually reserved for men. In these two shows the female leads are portrayed as fierce warriors, more able to fight in battle than their male counterparts.

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Xena Warrior Princess" differed from these other show's in that the female leads in these two shows bend the rules of the adventure genre, a female is controlling the narrative and fighting the battles usually reserved for men. In these two shows the female leads are portrayed as fierce warriors, more able to fight in battle than their male counterparts. The appeal of the show is the novelty of a female character portrayed as a dynamic and heroic figure. Note also that thes are female characters portraying typical male character attributes, these are not realistic women portrayed in a natural setting.

Another stereotype the television portrays is called the 'Betty and Veronica' syndrome, where two girls are in love with one man, or two girls are compared based upon their differing attributes. Veronica is a vivacious rich girl with sex appeal, whereas Betty is more of a dependable, down-home sort of girl. The male then becomes the central figure of the trio, with the two females competing for his attentions. This plot device is used to create an eternal sexual tension between the male and female characters without resolution.

Another stereotype the television portrays is called the "Betty and Veronica" syndrome, where two girls are in love with one man, or two girls are compared based upon their differing attributes. Veronica is a vivacious rich girl with sex appeal, whereas Betty is more of a dependable, down-home sort of girl. The male then becomes the central figure of the trio, with the two females competing for his attentions. This plot device is used to create an eternal sexual tension between the male and female characters without resolution.

The TV show "Gilligan's Island" had a similar competitive duo, with Mary Ann as the Girl-Next-Door, and Ginger as the Hollywood sex kitten.

As a quick final note, I would like to point out that almost invariably female aliens from outer space are sexy, and male aliens are much more likely to be ugly, threatening and made out of theatrical latex.

As a quick final note, I would like to point out that almost invariably female aliens from outer space are sexy, and male aliens are much more likely to be ugly, threatening and made out of theatrical latex.

 

This is a Zaius Nation Reprint.

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16 Comments:

At Tue Jul 28, 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Übermilf said...

This is why I have anger issues.

I am not "supposed" to be both feisty and maternal, yet I am.

I am not "supposed" to be both brainy and playful, yet I want to be. And how dare I enjoy watching football, yet be unrepentantly girly?

The fact that I am not what I am "supposed" to be alienated most men, yet the ones who ARE attracted to me, are very strongly intrigued, because I don't fit.

On the plus side, this is why I have the ability to develop empathy for minorities or gay people or others who just refuse to be put into their little boxes.

This is also why I love "geeks" -- Men who are not afraid to engage in non-burly activities in a nation that values men with veiny, bulbous muscles.

 
At Tue Jul 28, 11:04:00 AM, Blogger dr.morbius said...

A short word about Batgirl. She eventually got fed-up with playing second fiddle to Batman and Robin. As detailed in this PSA from 1973: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szZsKdJYR-A

 
At Tue Jul 28, 11:05:00 AM, Blogger dr.morbius said...

Making it clicky

 
At Tue Jul 28, 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Seeing Eye Chick said...

The reason that Xena and Buffy could blend the oil and water concept of beauty, brains and potential sexual availability, is simply because the story lines happen in completely fictional settings. Fake Feminist Herstory--peopled with Amazons and female Shamans, and Warrior Queens, and then of course, SciFi world where there are supernatural creatures--not too far removed from the Psuedo Greek and Roman Mythos prevailent also in Xena.

By removing the heroines to this Dark Time Everywhen, we are given permission to allow them to be something wholly other. Placing them in a "natural" setting would be pushing the envelope too far. It would be turning the plot line into a naked political statement. It would be too challenging for Western Movie Watchers to accept this departure from Consensus Reality which creates and sustains the cliches you discuss in this post.

As a regular woman in the real world I admit to being both a victim of, and taking advantage of these cliches to serve my own ends.

Sort of a weird take on the "if you can't beat em, join em" idea.

When I received too much sexual attention as a professional woman, I stopped wearing makeup, shaving my pits and bought some horn rimmed glasses. I frumped out. Wish I could say it worked. I discovered that all it did was attract predatory types who mistook my attempts at frumpiness to be a sign of some deep psychological scar that declared my victim status--i.e., ripe for the picking. A variation on the Mrs Jones cliche no doubt, but with much darker outcomes.

In the end, the stereotypes you describe are really the end product of what Women do to each other, as sexual competitors.

Its stupid pretty girls who will not allow smart pretty girls to be both pretty and smart.

And its Less confident, brainy girls who will not allow more confident brainy girls to be sexually precotious.

Geeks are the ones who rescue these women. Not in some damsel in distress scenario, but simply being allowing these girls and women to simply be who they are. Wishing for these women, what others might allow for them.

Nice Post Dr Z!

 
At Tue Jul 28, 03:08:00 PM, Blogger Randal Graves said...

I don't know what the hell you're smoking, but Scully always makes me feel extra randy, even without a push-up and miniskirt, but then I'm a giant geek. And the only time Mulder got any was when he switched bodies with one third of Spinal Tap.

 
At Tue Jul 28, 03:35:00 PM, Blogger Sidhe said...

Very intriguing and greatly enjoyed!

 
At Wed Jul 29, 01:10:00 PM, Blogger Odile said...

I´m a woman I´m a geek and I´m atractive... that´s why I´m a happy human been.

The big, big problem I have with my mom was (is) that she spects of me to be a cute, pinky, femenine and manipulative bitch who acts like a dump to be accepted in the men wold because you boys loves the femesfatale who acts like damsel in distress.

But you are forgetting that we humans loves the cliches, the stereotipes and all that things that made our live so simple and comfortable, we hate the change

My dear doc. thanks for this entry. A big kiss for you

 
At Wed Jul 29, 05:54:00 PM, Blogger beth said...

Seeing Eye Chick - I agree with most of your comments, but take issue with your generalization that geeks are our rescuers. First of all - I don't need to be rescued. And people are people. Some geeks are incredibly self-centered and needy.

Nice post Z!

 
At Wed Jul 29, 08:17:00 PM, Blogger Seeing Eye Chick said...

Just speaking from my experience, however flawed it may be.

Being around people who merely accept me, its like letting oxygen into the room. Clean crisp oxygen.

I no longer feel the pressure to perform in a certain way. It also may be that a big part of my makeup is Geek.

I have yet to meet anyone who isn't self centered and needy. Some might be hiding it better than others.

One might even say, that My neediness and self centeredness hinge on my desire to not conform to the desires some have foised upon me in order to be considered authentically feminine. If only I could be more generous, and just take on the shape of whatever container others wish to put me in, whatever filter they desire to see and experience me through.

If only.

 
At Wed Jul 29, 09:49:00 PM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Übermilf: Indeed! I wrote this specifically because I felt that the stereotypes of women in modern culture are even more ridiculous than the stereotypes of men in modern culture... And geeks shall inherit the earth. (What's left of it.)

Dr. Morbius: I've seen that! I love Batgirl. ♥ [ 1, 2 ]

Seeing Eye Chick: Yes, Xena and Buffy are strictly novelty, "imagine if" items in an "impossible to imagine" world. Sadly, I don't have to work at my own frumpiness. It comes naturally!

Randal Graves: Dana Scully? I want to believe...

Sidhe: Thanks, Sidhe!

Odile: Probably the most annoying thing about media stereotypes is that they not only promote negative stereotypes for girls, but they are very lazy storytelling. Thanks, Odile!

Beth: True, women don't need to be rescued. And some geeks can be very sexist. But on average, geeks are far less objectionable than beer-bellied jocks. Thanks, Beth! ;o)

Seeing Eye Chick: My clothes seem to be constantly shrinking. I just wish that I could take on the shape of the container that I would like to fit in! ;o)

 
At Thu Jul 30, 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Seeing Eye Chick said...

Shrinkage! That word has so many possibilities.

Well I am off to eat more Chocolate. My ass won't get bigger all by itself.

Good luck all!

 
At Thu Jul 30, 10:41:00 PM, Blogger Matty Boy said...

This is a fine post, doc. I have something stewing in my brain called The Hot-Adorable Continuum, which covers the same ideas from a slightly different angle.

 
At Sat Aug 01, 01:37:00 PM, Blogger The Fru-Gals said...

Came for the delicious photos, stayed for the pithy posts.

Thanks!

Suz

 
At Fri Aug 14, 04:34:00 AM, Blogger Stephen Shea said...

I'm sorry, I'm still processing the concept that Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine character from ST-DSN (BTW, when did they make ST-FU? I haven't heard anything...)is not the stuff of adolescent* male fantasy. Let's see: large breasts...check!; tight outfit...check!; available...check!

*Older males still have these.

 
At Sat Dec 04, 08:13:00 PM, Blogger Ish Engle said...

While I think you've made some astute observations, I feel that you only address half the issues. The stereotypes that you explore are conditioned by the stereotypes for men (which are reciprocally conditioned by women's stereotypes).

The male stereotype is strong, independent, protective and a leader. By allowing himself to be subordinate to a woman, a man is declaring her to be stronger, he is surrendering his independence and he is becoming a follower or at best a codependent. Thus, a strong woman MUST, for males, be unattractive.

That is not to say that she cannot be physically appealing. Women who are strong become attractive only as a conquest for a male, or rather, the male must subdue her to his strength, proving his dominance, for her to be attractive.

I am in no way endorsing this view. I merely point out that it goes hand in hand with the stereotypes you have identified, and it explains some of the issues you raise (at least a surface level explanation).

Until the male stereotypes change, the female stereotypes will struggle to change, as men still hold most of the controlling positions in society. Change is happening, but not quickly.

 
At Sat Apr 23, 10:59:00 AM, OpenID RepubAnon said...

What makes you think the Zorn was male? After all, it WAS pursuing Captain Kirk...

 

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