Wishful Thinking and Eye Candy

I have to admit. I am a fan of Big Bang Theory. Maybe it is because my son and I are so similar to these characters. No, I am not a PhD and my son is still in high school. But, Sheldon, Raj, Howard, and Leonard all illustrate attributes we can painfully identify with. My son and I are both geeks. These characters on Big Bang Theory are very real stereotypical geeks. At times, perhaps all too many times … we are them. I will not elaborate, but those close to both of us can easily fill in the blanks.

Penny and Priya on the other hand are just wishful thinking. There is no way a eyecandyperson like Leonard would ever stand a chance with either of these two women in real life. The producers know this perfectly well. They write them and cast beautiful women as a great way to build viewership especially for geeks. I have been lucky enough to meet and marry woman myself, but most geeks are resigned to the Amy style members of the opposite sex. They may actually be much more realistic, but her presence certainly doesn’t draw the viewers in. The male masses want to watch Penny and Priya.

I never expected to attract Susan to me. But, why not try, so I did. My mother always told me that women like this were high maintenance and that I should be thankful I wasn’t good looking. She said “The good looking guys have all the problems.” It is funny that I didn’t take it as the insult it was. I found it a bit comforting. So, when I started seeing Susan and found her to be both warm, intelligent (she is a physicist you know), and willing to marry me … well, clearly I was surprised.

Fox News has a similar formula to Big Bang Theory and it is getting very irritating, and they are not alone. Every woman announcer or commentator is gorgeous. Media is pandering to our deep seated wish to be worthy and deemed attractive enough to even be around women who are this pretty. They are simply eye candy. These are defined as visual images that are superficially attractive and entertaining but intellectually undemanding. Yes, I know that many of the women at Fox News are very intelligent, but believe me, that is not what the producers are counting on to get the viewers to watch.

We all know sex sells. The cover of Golf Digest created a frenzy on this mornings’ news. Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of the hockey great Wayne Gretsky has virtually nothing to do with the sport. The swim suit edition of Sports Illustrated could be criticized on the same basis. Sure, it is innocent fun on one level to admit sex sells, but I think part of the reason we seek diversions and wishful thinking is that we are tired of serious talk and our boring lives. We are worn out. Life is too busy and too hard.

Maybe that is the root of the problem. Maybe we simply do not want intellectual challenges. We are intellectually lazy and/or exhausted. We are so weary of the bombardment that we want to lose ourselves in some form of delusion. I often hear of people going to movies to “escape” into another world of thought. Maybe it will make us feel better, refreshed, or inspired to do something meaningful in our lives.

Perhaps the opposite is really what is going on. Our TVs are so full of pixels they rival real life. CGI is now so powerful we can’t draw the line between animation and actual video footage of real events. We can now touch up and photo enhance anyone to look like a supermodel. And, despite our intellectual arguments to the contrary, it works. We are getting sucked in. In fact, perhaps we are so addicted to this visual stimulation that we are just less prone to want to think about the fact that we are.

Can’t get away from it. Our phones are now so powerful they can substitute for TV and our desktops. We watch video on any and all and the quality is addictively good. Merchandizers are onto it. I opened up my browser to order a book on Amazon and this gorgeous model danced across the screen in a “spring fashion” video that, despite my disinterest in the subject, still caught my eye.

Catching my eye. That’s it. Marketers are no longer worried about what you think. It is all about catching your eye. I used to think we were competing for mind share. Now, I think we are competing for eye share. Think about how communications have changed over the past 2500 years.

Plato argued with Socrates that writing would ruin memories about 400 BC when reading and writing were being introduced in Greek schools. He was right. Memories were drastically reduced within 100 years. We no longer rely on our memories. We also no longer write letters either. There are times when I have to sign my name that I struggle to make my hand perform those motions. Whey I try to write a thank you card I really struggle with my penmanship. I can still write equations on the whiteboard, but writing a letter?

Think about how little we now truly listen any longer. I remember listening to stories being told on the radio. Yes, I was a child before TV was introduced. We had to use our imaginations back then. Listening carefully brought us into alignment with the story. Once TV was introduced we relied almost totally on our eyes. Even the small screen black and white TV proved extremely powerful. I am sure some of you remember how addictive color TV was once it was introduced in the 1960s at affordable prices. Now we all watch HD TV where you can see the pores and individual hairs on a person’s face! We now have computer generated imagery (CGI) that dominates much of what we see on TV, our PCs, portable digital devices and phones. And we can watch high definition video that rivals movie quality production values.

We have also lost our appetite for critical thinking. We want to be entertained. We watch a lizard pitch insurance. We prefer funny over challenging. We love dogs and children. Maybe that is why Kaiser Permanente’s ad for health insurance using a small boy was so enchanting. Watch this and compare it to the way we pitch our messages in the utility business: http://vimeo.com/43738302

Maybe that’s our problem. We in the utility business have been too eager to talk about our messages rather than catch your eye. We certainly wouldn’t use gorgeous blonds with long shapely legs to talk about energy efficiency and demand response. And, for female viewers, we don’t use beefcake either. We stay with boring details. Sure we may have prettier colored pictures and charts, but we are still mighty boring. We need to be using dogs and kids and fun.

One of the funniest scenes I have seen on Big Bang Theory was all four guys playing a video game when Penny and her friends walked in scantily clad and suggested a racy escapade. They never looked up. They were having too much fun immersed in their video game. I don’t think it is only the PhD geeks who are so immersed and distracted. Can’t you feel it yourself? We want to escape.

Maybe a game about energy will change this? I asked our son who is a serious gamer and he said “Dad, energy is just boring!” Beam me up Scotty, there are no intelligent signs of life.

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