My wife had a great point last night about “Average Joe,” the new reality show on NBC.
The concept of “Joe” is that a great-looking woman is wooed by sixteen average-looking guys, at least half of whom are shlubs, nerds, or both (not that there’s anything wrong with that — most of us would easily qualify). The twist is that the woman, a former KC Chiefs cheerleader, didn’t know these were the kind of guys she’d be forced to choose from. When the producers asked her what five qualities she was looking for in a potential mate, she listed “looks” at number five. The first two were “good personality” and “sense of humor.”
This is known universally to males of the species as “a lie.”
My wife’s point was that you could not do “Average Joe” in reverse. You couldn’t make it a hot-looking GQ-type guy thrown in with sixteen not-cheerleader-attractive but still very normal women. There would be such an uproar from the women of this country — about how the ladies on “Average Jane” were made the target of beauty bias, for instance — that the networks would bow to the pressure groups and never put it on the air.
A listener named Vivian expanded on this point today on my radio show. Look at other primetime shows, she said, to see this double standard in action. On “King of Queens,” Kevin James is an overweight delivery man for a UPS-like company. His wife is played by the extremely attractive Leah Remini. In real life, would a guy like that get a woman like that? Sure, Kevin James can get her, because he’s a rich and famous TV star. But your average truck driver? Doubtful. Same thing with “According To Jim,” where Jim Belushi’s wife is played by the lovely Courtney Thorne-Smith.
Now, name for me one show where an overweight, plain woman is married to Studly Studright. There aren’t any. Can you even name one successful show where the lead character is an overweight female? The last one was probably Roseanne, who cast her show perfectly, with John Goodman as her husband. As the Conners, they looked a lot more like real American couples than any other sitcom duo I can remember.
This is not to say there’s anything at all wrong with average-looking women. Why, if it weren’t for them, we average-looking guys would never get any female attention! But it is more proof that “reality TV” rarely reflects actual reality.
The irony is that we — real, average Americans — turn these shows into hits by watching.