Friday, February 28, 2014

Beauty Over Brains: The Life of an Olympian

What Would Ryan Lochte Do? (or “WWRLD”) gives an insider view of the life behind Olympic swimmer and wannabe fashion designer, Ryan Lochte.  His perfectly toned body, designer outfits, and crystal blue eyes is every girl’s ideal celebrity crush.  But, don’t let those things get in the way of who he really is.  Underneath his swim cap, though, he dumbfounds viewers whenever he opens his mouth and creates phrases, such as “JEAH!” or “If you’re a man at night, you need to be a man in the morning,” to describe, well… nobody really knows what it means.  WWRLD is just one reality shows that showcases celebrity stupidity and how their appearance seems to be more important than completing an intelligent, constructed sentence.  WWRLD is an out of the ordinary reality show because it depicts a kind of masculinity, one that focuses more on beauty and less on intelligence, that is more similar to the kinds of stereotypical feminine representation found on shows like The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.  Now, strap on your swim cap and get ready to dive…we’re at the starting blocks.

You probably heard of Ryan Lochte for the first time in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, teaming up with Michael Phelps to win the gold for Team USA.  His post-race interview was…well, what can I say…intelligence wasn’t a description I would’ve used to describe it.  Fast forward five years later to the first and only season of WWRLD, which was the first show looking inside the Olympian’s personal life filled with family drama and his preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics.  WWRLD features Ryan Lochte, himself, his family, and the “Lochterage” (a.k.a. Ryan’s manager, younger brother, and friends).  The reality show was first featured in April 2013 on E! Entertainment, which only lasted for one season due to unknown reasons.  But, by the end of this race, you just might make your own assumptions to why this reality show only lasted for eight episodes.

Almost every episode takes place in Gainesville, Florida (home to his alma mater, University of Florida) with occasional episodes jetting off to Washington D.C. with his mom for a charity event or a “Lochterage” trip to cause nothing but trouble.  Through his family bowling nights to going out on dates with women he barely even knows, we learn the true colors (not just red, white & blue that he represents in the pool) of Ryan through his interactions with other characters on the show, as well as, what he shares to the camera off-screen.

After the premiere, there were already negative reactions from the media based on what they saw in the first 30 minutes of the show’s first episode.   Remarks such as “the show certainly isn’t going out of its way to make the Olympian look good” were made by The Huffington Post.  The premiere started its opening scene having Ryan show off his shoe collection…the very first scene!  But, the continuing scenes throughout the next 30 minutes were him admitting that he doesn’t know anything about Obamacare and describing how he takes every date to the same sushi restaurant and sits at the same table, as well.  Just from the first episode, the viewers already get a sense of how the show will be formatted and what kinds of mindless things are going to be said.  There is a clear distinction that this show highlights Ryan’s fashion sense and appearance more to make up for his immature, uneducated remarks.

The second episode, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do…in Washington, D.C.?,” is a perfect portrayal of focusing more on beauty and less on intelligence.  In one scene, Ryan talks to the camera off-screen, while the camera captures his flawless facial features and pearly white teeth, as he forgets what he was about to say.  He describes how a “jumping banana” will pop into his head when he blanks out.  As he continues talking, an animated banana with sunglasses crosses the screen as Ryan continues talking about his forgetful moments.  Keeping in mind that Ryan is an almost 30 year old man, this scene, especially, highlights unintelligence by talking about an imaginary banana.

In the same episode, Ryan goes to Washington D.C. with his mom to give a speech for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.  While enjoying a drink at the bar, Ryan is approached by a few women asking him about his political stance.  Questions start rapidly firing at Ryan, while he becomes overwhelmed by the number of questions being thrown at him.  However, he’s not knowledgeable enough to respond intelligently because he does not understand the topics of their questions.  I know our generation is stereotypically perceived as being lazy and not caring, but Ryan does not have a single clue what is even happening.  But, right after this scene, Ryan is being measured for a suit for his speech event, stripping down to his boxers and showing off his muscular body, making the viewers forget about his embarrassing situation at the bar thirty seconds ago. 

From these episodes and specific scenes, it’s clear that WWRLD doesn’t take seriously the importance of being a well-educated, hardworking man in American society.  Don’t get me wrong, Ryan’s dedication to swimming and training, as shown in the episode, are very important to him.  However, being well-educated is just as important as working hard towards a career.  This show just doesn’t see the two pieces of the puzzle fitting.     

However, WWRLD, a masculinity representation, is not the only reality show in today’s society that depicts this stereotypical representation of beauty over brains.  Shows, such as The Real Housewives of New Jersey, is the feminine representation of the description of reality shows.  The Real Housewives of New Jersey goes inside New Jersey wives’ lives filled with Botox injections, shopping sprees, and mansions decorated with the finest furniture.  But, do not let the “real housewives” part make you believe that EVERYONE who lives in New Jersey has this luxurious lifestyle.  WWRLD and The Real Housewives of New Jersey both depict the same stereotype of reality shows of lavish lifestyles with endless amounts of money and clothes, but speaking intelligent through interactions with other characters are not up to the same standards of their materialistic lives.  Fortune and appearance are their main concerns for both main characters in the show.  While The Real Housewives of New Jersey compete with one another who has the best vehicles, mansions, purses, etc., while Ryan Lochte just wants to have the best of everything.  What these characters from both shows don’t compete for who is smartest because having materials is more important to them.  But, how long can these reality shows go on before the viewers think this is normal behavior if it constantly is surrounding us?   

Entertaining, yet indescribably senseless, E! Entertainment’s What Would Ryan Lochte Do? captures the masculinity and stupidity of Ryan Lochte in only eight short episodes, but just from a couple of episodes, anyone can define who he really is.  Just ask him yourself… “What defines you?” “Ryan Lochte.”  Through his signature phrases and dumbfounding interview answers, we learn that WWRLD wants his masculinity appearance to overshadow his unintelligence. 

This show may be entertaining and hilarious to most viewers; however, this type of behavior is becoming a serious problem in today’s society with reality shows setting the stage that this behavior is normal.  Maybe cancelling the show is a turning point in today’s society for stopping this uncontrollable reality show behavior?  Or maybe not.  Whatever the reasoning, there is one thing for certain that we can all learn from Ryan Lochte…JEAH!

Works Cited


Genzlinger, Neil. “Housewives, Sure, but What Makes Them Real?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 May 2011. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

“What Would Ryan Lochte Do…in Washington D.C.?” What Would Ryan Lochte Do? April 28, 2013. Television.

“’What Would Ryan Lochte Do?’ Premiere: Ryan Comes Across Like a Dumb Jock.” Huffpost TV. The Huffington Post, 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

“’What Would Ryan Lochte Do?,’ TV Review.” NY Daily News. New York Daily News, 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

“What Would Ryan Lochte Do…With a TV Show?” What Would Ryan Lochte Do? April 21, 2013. Television.


  1. Wow, great post! Having only seen one episode of WWRLD (due to its ridiculousness), I completely agree with your argument that this is becoming a problem in what reality shows portray. Before watching WWRLD, I was a huge fan of Ryan Lochte and was excited to learn more about him, unfortunately after seeing one episode, I wasn't so fond of him after. It's hard to respect someone that relies on his appearance to distract viewers from his ignorance and inability to form a grammatically correct sentence.

  2. Great post! I agree with the points both you and Kelly Jo touched on. I haven't seen an episode of WWRLD but I have seen interviews. It is sad to me that he cannot speak intelligently yet was still asked to have his own reality television show. Just because he is a good looking young man, it doesn't mean he deserves to have his own show.

  3. This post interested me because I too have seen some pretty funny and cringe worthy interviews from Ryan Lochte. Because of these interviews it was no secret that he wasn’t the brightest guy out there. I think that may have actually been one of the driving forces behind the show. The comment from the Huffington post clearly demonstrates that the producers aren’t trying to hide his stupidity; the animated banana shows that even his own show sees him as a joke.
    Another interesting point you brought up is the comparison to The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The focus on beauty over intelligence is a pretty common feminine trait on television. But shows like this and Jersey Shore may be reflecting how this is being attributed to men as well, which is not necessarily a good thing. I think this show reflects how American society loves watching a good “train wreck”. I don’t think these shows necessarily promote beauty over intelligence, but rather make us feel better about our own intelligence while having someone nice to look at. Clearly it’s hard to get on TV if you aren’t attractive. Sure these people may make us self-conscious about our own looks, but because of their stupidity we can still feel some superiority over them as well.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.