In the 2007 promo for the CBS show, The Big Bang Theory, it is advertised as “Geek meets Chic,” but judging from the content of the promo, it might as well have been described as “Clichéd Concept meets Insulting Stereotype.” It begins with the phrase, “Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking. Get for the next generation of great minds.” What follows are clips of a group of embarrassingly dressed, socially awkward young men and their fumbling attempts to impress an almost impossibly attractive, vapid young woman.
This piece of popular culture exemplifies the definition of ideology as a tool used to present a particular image of the world. Men of above-average intellect are depicted as unattractive, disheveled, and socially inept. Their intellect is shown to be a hindrance to their assimilation into normal society (for example, the young man loudly and effortlessly solving the receptionist’s crossword puzzle for her, apparently unaware that his behavior is obnoxious, if not borderline autistic).
Upon the introduction of a woman into the lives of the “nerds,” they immediately start to compete for her affections, desperately jockeying for her attention while sabotaging each others chances any way they can. One of them points out to the woman that the other cannot digest corn, perpetuating the stereotype that intelligent people are frail and sickly. In another clip, one of the men is thought by the woman to be unable to speak English. “He speaks English,” replies a different man, “He just can’t speak to women… He’s kind of a nerd.” He then seductively offers her a child-sized juice box, the dramatic irony being that he is also a “nerd.”
As for the representation of the woman in the promo, she is the modern aesthetical ideal: skinny, blonde, and Caucasian. As for her personality, she is not simply portrayed as less intelligent than the male characters (referring to the complex equations the two are working on as “some serious stuff”), but is actually shown to be unintelligent. “I’m a vegetarian,” she says, “Except for fish… And the occasional steak. I love steak!” She is seen as an unobtainable prize, one to be fought over fruitlessly and never won. She smiles vacantly at the nerds’ clumsy advances.
The effect the ideologies promoted in this commercial may have are difficult to discern. One hopes that people do not take ridiculous stereotypes like this seriously, but inevitably there will be people that do. If taken seriously, the promo would perpetuate the notions that just the sight of a woman can whip “nerdy” males into a frenzy, that attractive women are unintelligent, and that being intelligent and socially adept are mutually exclusive.
Switching gears to the second half of the prompt, specifically the question on how ideologies have affected my life personally, I think it is a very tricky question to answer. The whole idea of an ideology, as I understand it, is that it is not wholly perceived on a conscious level. If one could gauge the amount that ideologies have changed his view of the world, the ideologies would not be considered very effective. I like to think that I am relatively aware of the influences that seek to skew my perception of reality, but in all honesty I do not know. As was stated in the video, Killing Us Softly 4, very little of what we see, in advertising or anything else, is actually perceived by our conscious brain. A scary thought, but one that we all must live with in an age where profit usually comes before ethics.