[27 July 2005]
TV gets no respect. Many intelligent people consider everything on ‘the tube’ to be a waste of time, save for perhaps A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts or the occasional Discovery Channel documentary. For the most part they’re right, but everything on TV is only as dumb as the individual viewing it. In reality, there is lots of valuable content beneath the surface. The Littlest Groom speaks volumes about America’s obsession with exploring the boundaries of normalcy. Dancing with the Stars tells us everything we need to know about fame-whoring. And nearly every reality or celebrity profile show on the air offers everything one needs to know about choosing a mate.
The process of mate selection among the heterosexual-behaving animals follows a fairly simple concept: females choose males based on their access to resources (i.e., wealth), while males pick their partners on the basis of fertility (i.e., big tits). This is the very foundation of gold digging and trophy wives—women get access to enough money to raise their future offspring well, while men gain sexual access to a desirable woman. A show like Beauty and the Geek plays around with this idea, but instead of trying to make a match, the show attempts to level the contestants to common ground by geeking up the beauties and beautying up the geeks.
While it’s a somewhat progressive idea, the show treads all over the biological sanctity of mate selection without regarding the effects on the social order. Many of the women on the show have lucrative careers, such as a life-size Barbie and/or beer spokesmodel, and therefore do not need whatever measly funds the president of the Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club could bring in. This renders the show’s premise implausible. Unattractive males have to have money or a desirable skill, like musicianship, to get the babe. Even VH-1 knows this!
Scientists have spent a great deal of time deconstructing physical desirability among humans. But all they had to do was watch MTV-lite’s 100 Hottest Hotties and call it a day. According to this special, hotties can be run-of-the-mill pretty, like Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron, or “hot because they’re funny and/or talented”, like Dave Grohl and Adrien Brody. Fame and celebrity also drives up one’s desirability. I personally don’t feel that Kate Hudson (number 38) is any more or less appealing than Sarah Michelle Geller (number 69), but Goldie’s girl does come from celebrity pedigree and fetches more per movie than Our Ms. Buffy.
Even drug use and other self-destructive habits can be used to determine evolutionary mating fitness. The theory states, “If I can be dead sexy after shooting heroine or being hit in the nuts by a toddler with a baseball bat, than I have more awesome genetic material than someone who can’t handle said self-abuse.” Ergo, Jackass. Johnnie Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-o and the gang do fabulously stupid things to themselves, act like complete idiots on national television, and then drive their Hummers to pick up the hot chicks. In biological terms, they are geniuses, except for one little problem. I’d be shocked if any of the Jackass dudes have any surviving sperm left after all the things they have done to their testes.
After his stint on Jackass, Bam Margera, a professional skateboarder, got his own spin-off and brought along some of the jackasses for good measure. Viva La Bam focuses on Bam and his parents, April (“Ape”) and Phil, and his half-wit uncle, Don Vito. In the opening credits for the show Bam ‘shreds’ while a voiceover asks, “What will he do next?” to which Bam responds, “Whatever the fuck I want.” That pretty much sums up the show, though I suspect that the production staff has more than a little say in the matter.
Bam has seemingly limitless funds, uncommonly tolerate parents, and a crew of friends willing to be guinea pigs for any stunt he can think of. He lives the ultimate representation of the life that money can buy for a 25-year-old dude. He has the respect of his parents, a wealth of material goods, and the occasional Slayer concert in his living room. In short, he has power, which makes him hot in the way that JFK, Jr. was hot. If Hollywood gossip is to be believed (and it almost always is) many, many women agree. In fact, at a recent concert I saw several replica Bams: young men who believe that they can enhance their mating prospects by emulating his look, right down to his signature Bam t-shirts. You know you’re sunbathing in the gene pool when kids decide that they need to dress up like you.
Combining the sexiness of physical adversity with true talent is the very basis of Behind the Music. Take Aerosmith, for example. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the population in 1972 would not have found Steven Tyler attractive. However, by 1977 he was established as a successful and talented rock ‘n’ roll frontman who was still mostly functional despite massive drug addictions—and he was dead sexy doing it. There was a period around 1982 when Tyler was much less hot, as he was selling fewer albums and clearly missing partner/guitarist Joe Perry (who had left the band). However, he became even hotter when he gave up the drugs and got back together with Perry. Now he has regained his status as a hottie with a large portion of the population despite looking like he’s already been embalmed.
Nearly every episode of Behind the Music tells some approximation of this story. It gives us band after artist becoming sexually attractive and then repulsively addicted before coming full circle to being hot for having survived. Obviously, this theory does not apply to those who died before making it back to babe-dom.
So, what can we learn from TV today? Well men, first and foremost, be hot. If that is not an option, then be either wealthy or talented. To enhance your hotness, damage yourself, but not in any way that can’t be repaired. If you follow this plan, you will be sure to land a mate. And ladies? Make a living of your own. Then you will be less tempted to saddle yourself with some loser junkie rock star boyfriend. Life is much easier without them.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/horn050727/