3 A Companion to Reality Television
5 A Companion to Reality Television Edited by Laurie Ouellette
6 This edition first published John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Registered Office John Wiley & Sons Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK Editorial Offices 350 Main Street, Malden, MA , USA 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK For details of our global editorial offices, for customer services, and for information about how to apply for permission to reuse the copyright material in this book please see our website at wiley-blackwell. The right of Laurie Ouellette to be identified as the author of the editorial material in this work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, without the prior permission of the publisher. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. Designations used by companies to distinguish their products are often claimed as trademarks. All brand names and product names used in this book are trade names, service marks, trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners. The publisher is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned in this book. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author(s) have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. It is sold on the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services and neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for damages arising herefrom. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ouellette, Laurie. A companion to reality television / edited by Laurie Ouellette. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN (hardback) ISBN ISBN Reality television programs History and criticism. I. Title. PN R43O '75 dc A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Cover image: America s Got Talent, Photo NBC-TV / The Kobal Collection Cover design by Simon Levy Design Associates Set in 10.5/13 pt Minion by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited
7 Table of Contents Notes on Contributors ix Introduction 1 Laurie Ouellette Part One Producing Reality: Industry, Labor, and Marketing 9 1 Mapping Commercialization in Reality Television 11 June Deery 2 Reality Television and the Political Economy of Amateurism 29 Andrew Ross 3 When Everyone Has Their Own Reality Show 40 Mark Andrejevic 4 Cast-aways: The Plights and Pleasures of Reality Casting and Production Studies 57 Vicki Mayer 5 Program Format Franchising in the Age of Reality Television 74 Albert Moran Part Two Television Realities: History, Genre, and Realism 95 6 Realism and Reality Formats 97 Jonathan Bignell 7 Reality TV Experiences: Audiences, Fact, and Fiction 116 Annette Hill 8 From Participatory Video to Reality Television 134 Daniel Marcus
8 vi Table of Contents 9 Manufacturing Massness : Aesthetic Form and Industry Practice in the Reality Television Contest 155 Hollis Griffin 10 God, Capitalism, and the Family Dog 171 Eileen R. Meehan Part Three Dilemmas of Visibility: Identity and Difference The Bachelorette s Postfeminist Therapy: Transforming Women for Love 191 Rachel E. Dubrofsky 12 Fractured Feminism: Articulations of Feminism, Sex, and Class by Reality TV Viewers 208 Andrea L. Press 13 It s Been a While Since I ve Seen, Like, Straight People : Queer Visibility in the Age of Postnetwork Reality Television 227 Joshua Gamson 14 The Wild Bunch: Men, Labor, and Reality Television 247 Gareth Palmer 15 The Conundrum of Race and Reality Television 264 Catherine R. Squires 16 Tan TV: Reality Television s Postracial Delusion 283 Hunter Hargraves Part Four Empowerment or Exploitation? Ordinary People and Reality Television Reality Television and the Demotic Turn 309 Graeme Turner 18 DI(t)Y, Reality-Style: The Cultural Work of Ordinary Celebrity 324 Laura Grindstaff 19 Reality Television s Construction of Ordinary People: Class-Based and Nonelitist Articulations of Ordinary People and Their Discursive Affordances 345 Nico Carpentier Part Five Subjects of Reality: Making/Selling Selves and Lifestyles Mapping the Makeover Maze: The Contours and Contradictions of Makeover Television 369 Brenda Weber
9 Table of Contents vii 21 House Hunters, Real Estate Television and Everyday Cosmopolitanism 386 Mimi White 22 Life Coaches, Style Mavens, and Design Gurus: Everyday Experts on Reality Television 402 Tania Lewis 23 Reality Television Celebrity: Star Consumption and Self-Production in Media Culture 421 Julie A. Wilson 24 Producing Reality : Branded Content, Branded Selves, Precarious Futures 437 Alison Hearn Part Six Affective Registers: Reality, Sentimentality, and Feeling A Matter of Feeling: Mediated Affect in Reality Television 459 Misha Kavka 26 Walking in Another s Shoes : Sentimentality and Philanthropy on Reality Television 478 Heather Nunn and Anita Biressi Part Seven The Politics of Reality: Global Culture, National Identity, and Public Life Reality Television, Public Service, and Public Life: A Critical Theory Perspective 501 Peter Lunt 28 Reality Talent Shows in China: Transnational Format, Affective Engagement, and the Chinese Dream 516 Ling Yang 29 Reality Television from Big Brother to the Arab Uprisings: Neoliberal, Liberal, and Geopolitical Considerations 541 Marwan M. Kraidy Index 557
11 Notes on Contributors Mark Andrejevic is Deputy Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is the author of Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched (2004), ispy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era (2007), and Infoglut (2013) as well as numerous articles and book chapters on surveillance, digital media, and popular culture. Jonathan Bignell is Professor of Television and Film at the University of Reading, UK. He specializes in the history of television, and especially television fiction in Britain. His work makes use of archival sources alongside the detailed study of the audiovisual form and style of television programs and films. He is also interested in comparative work, including relationships between factual and fictional television, and the different ways that television developed in the United Kingdom, in Europe, and in the United States. His books include An Introduction to Television Studies (2004), Big Brother: Reality TV in the Twenty-First Century (2005), and A European Television History (ed. with Andreas Fickers, 2008). He has published a wide range of articles and chapters, and serves on the editorial boards of journals including the New Review of Film and Television Studies, Studies in Documentary Film, Critical Studies in Television, and the Journal of Science Fiction Film and Television. Anita Biressi is Reader in Media Cultures at the University of Roehampton, London. With Heather Nunn, she is author of Reality TV: Realism and Revelation (2005) and Class in Contemporary British Culture (2011) and editor of The Tabloid Culture Reader (2008). Nico Carpentier is Associate Professor at the Communication Studies Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels) and Lecturer at Charles University, Prague. He is an executive board member of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and was Vice-President of
12 x Notes on Contributors the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) from 2008 to June Deery is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York, and author of Consuming Reality: The Commercialization of Factual Entertainment (2012) and Reality TV (forthcoming). Rachel E. Dubrofksy is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and an affiliated Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies and the Department of Women s and Gender Studies at the University of South Florida. She has published articles in Critical Studies in Media Communication, Communication Theory, Television and New Media, and Feminist Media Studies. She is author of The Surveillance of Women on Reality Television: Watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (2011) and is coediting the anthology Feminist Media Studies with Shoshana A. Magnet. She is working on a third book project, tentatively titled Under Surveillance: Mediating Race and Gender, examining surveillance, new media spaces, and questions of race and gender. Joshua Gamson is Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco. He is the author of Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America (1994), Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity (1998), The Fabulous Sylvester (2005), and numerous articles on social movements, sexualities, and popular culture. Hollis Griffin is Assistant Professor of Communication at Denison University, Granville, Ohio. His work has appeared in Television & New Media, Velvet Light Trap, Popular Communication, Spectator, JumpCut, FLOW, In Media Res, and Antenna. He has articles forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and the Journal of Popular Film & Television. He is currently at work on a book manuscript, Affective Convergences: Manufactured Feelings in Queer Media Cultures. Laura Grindstaff is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis. Her areas of expertise include cultural sociology, popular culture, qualitative methods, and social inequality (gender, sexuality, class, and race/ethnicity). Her award-winning book The Money Shot (2002) is an ethnographic study of daytime talk shows that explores how and why ordinary people are incorporated into mainstream television entertainment in ways that reproduce their class marginalization. Her series of publications on reality television likewise draw on first-hand research with participants; in this work, she argues for a more performative understanding of identity formation and for a more dramaturgical notion of the public sphere. Hunter Hargraves is a doctoral student in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, Rhode Island. His research interests sit at the intersec-
13 Notes on Contributors xi tion of television studies, affect, and cultural identity. He is currently working on a dissertation on viscerally uncomfortable television, which explores the relationship between millennial television, spectatorial discomfort, and neoliberalism. Alison Hearn is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses on brand culture, television, new media, self-production, and economic value. She also writes on the university as a cultural and political site. She has published widely in such journals as Continuum, Journal of Consumer Culture, and Journal of Communication Inquiry, and in edited volumes including The Media and Social Theory (2008) and Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture (2nd edn, 2008). She is coauthor, with Liora Salter, of Outside the Lines: Issues in Interdisciplinary Research (1996). Annette Hill is a Professor of Media at Lund University, Sweden, and Visiting Professor at the Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster, UK. Her most recent book is Paranormal Media: Audiences, Spirits and Magic in Popular Culture (2011). Other books include Shocking Entertainment: Viewer Responses to Media Violence (1997), TV Living: Television, Audiences and Everyday Life (with David Gauntlett, 1999), Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television (2005), and Restyling Factual TV: The Reception of News, Documentary and Reality Genres (2007). She is the coeditor (with Robert C. Allen) of the Television Studies Reader (2004). A variety of articles in journals and edited collections address issues of film violence, media ethics, documentary audiences, reality television, and entertainment formats. Her next books will be Media Experiences and Reality TV: Key Ideas. Misha Kavka is Associate Professor in the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her research interests include Hollywood film, television, and feminist theory. She is author of Reality Television, Affect and Intimacy (2008) and Reality TV (TV Genres) (2012). Marwan M. Kraidy is Professor of Global Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, and a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His latest book, Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life (2010), won the 2010 Best Book Award in Global Communication and Social Change from the International Communication Association, the 2011 Diamond Anniversary Best Book Award from the National Communication Association, and the 2011 Roderick P. Hart Outstanding Book Award from the Political Communication Division of the National Communication Association. Tania Lewis is Associate Professor and a Vice Chancellor s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Melbourne,
14 xii Notes on Contributors Australia. She is author of Smart Living: Lifestyle Media and Popular Expertise (2008), editor of TV Transformations: Revealing the Makeover Show (2008), and coeditor of Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction (with Emily Potter, 2011). Peter Lunt is Professor and Head of Department in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, UK. His research interests include media audiences, public participation in popular culture (talk shows and reality television), media regulation, consumption research, and the links between media and social theory. He is author (with Sonia Livingstone) of Talk on Television: Audience Participation and Public Debate (1994) and Media Regulation: Governance and the Interests of Citizens and Consumers (2012). Daniel Marcus is Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College, Baltimore. He is the author of Happy Days and Wonder Years: The Fifties and the Sixties in Contemporary Cultural Politics (2004) and the editor of Roar! The Paper Tiger Television Guide to Media Activism (1991). Vicki Mayer is Professor of Communication at Tulane University, New Orleans. She writes and teaches about the lived experiences of media consumers and producers in light of widespread political-economic transformations. She edits the journal Television & New Media. Eileen R. Meehan is a Professor in the Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media at Southern Illinois University, USA. She also serves as the Interim Director of SIU s Global Media Research Center. Her research examines the intersections of culture, money, and power in the media. She is the author of Why TV Is Not Our Fault (2005) and coeditor of Dazzled by Disney? The Global Disney Audiences Project (with Janet Wasko and Mark Phillips, 2001) and Sex and Money: Feminism and Political Economy in Media Studies (with Ellen Riordan, 2002). Albert Moran has taught screen studies for almost 40 years. Born in Dublin, he has degrees from Sydney, La Trobe, and Griffith Universities. His scholarly output includes 30 books authored or edited singly or jointly, and more than 100 refereed papers. Recent publications include the monograph New Flows in Global TV (2009) and the coedited collection Cultural Adaptation (2009). He helped to pioneer the critical analysis of Australian film and television history and established the field of transnational television format studies. His business biography of Australia s format mogul Reg Grundy was published in An Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, he is Professor in Screen Studies in the School of Humanities at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. Heather Nunn is Professor in Culture and Politics and a Director of the Centre for Research in Film and Audio-Visual Cultures (CRFAC) at the University of Roehampton, London. She is author or editor (with Anita Biressi) of Reality TV: Realism
15 Notes on Contributors xiii and Revelation (2005), The Tabloid Culture Reader (2008), and Class in Contemporary British Culture (2011). Laurie Ouellette is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches Critical Media Studies. She has published extensively on reality television and is coeditor of Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture (2004 and 2009) and coauthor of Better Living through Reality TV: Television and Post-Welfare Citizenship (Wiley, 2008). Gareth Palmer is Professor in the School of Media, Music, and Performance at the University of Salford, UK. He is author of Discipline and Liberty (2003) and editor of Exposing Lifestyle Television (2008). Andrea L. Press is Professor of Sociology and Media Studies at the University of Virginia, USA. She is internationally known for her interdisciplinary scholarship on the media audience, on feminist media issues, and on media and social class in the United States. She is author of Women Watching Television: Gender, Class and Generation in the American Television Experience (1991), coauthor of Speaking of Abortion: Television and Authority in the Lives of Women (with Elizabeth Cole, 1999), coauthor of The New Media Environment (with Bruce A. Williams, 2010), and coauthor of New Feminist Television Studies: Queries into Postfeminist Television (with Mary Beth Haralovich, 2012). For the past 12 years she has coedited the journal The Communication Review. Her forthcoming book Feminism LOL looks at representations and reception of feminism and postfeminism in popular media. Andrew Ross is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. He has written extensively on issues of labor. His recent books include No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden Costs (2002), Low Pay, High Profile: The Global Push for Fair Labor (2004), Fast Boat to China: Corporate Flight and the Consequences of Free Trade Lessons from Shanghai (2006, 2007), The University Against Itself: The NYU Strike and the Future of the Academic Workplace (ed. with Monika Krause, Mary Nolan, and Michael Palm, 2007), Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times (2009), and Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World s Least Sustainable City (2011). Catherine R. Squires is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota, USA. She received her PhD from Northwestern University in Prior to coming to Minnesota, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from 2000 to 2007 in Afro-American and African Studies and Communication Studies. She is the author of Dispatches from the Color Line (2007) and African Americans and the Media (2009). Her work on media, politics, and identity can be found in many journals, including Critical Studies in Media Communication and the International Journal of Press/Politics. Graeme Turner is Professor of Cultural Studies in the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. His research and publications are
16 xiv Notes on Contributors in media and cultural studies, and his current project is a collaborative transnational study (with Anna Cristina Pertierra) of television in the postbroadcast era, published as Locating Television: Zones of Consumption (2012). His most recent books are Television Studies after TV: Understanding Television in the Post-broadcast Era (ed. with Jinna Tay, 2009) and What s Become of Cultural Studies? (2012). Brenda R. Weber is an Associate Professor in Gender Studies at Indiana University, with adjunct appointments in American Studies, Cultural Studies, Communication and Culture, and English. She teaches courses in reality television, gender and popular culture, masculinity theory, the politics of representation, celebrity studies, and theories of embodiment. Her books include Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity (2009) and Women and Literary Celebrity in the Nineteenth Century: The Transatlantic Production of Fame and Gender (2012). She is presently editing an anthology called Reality Gendervision: Decoding Gender and Sexuality on Transatlantic Reality TV. Mimi White is a Professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University, USA. She has published a wide range of articles on television and film, and is the author of Tele-advising: Therapeutic Discourse in American Television (1992), coauthor of Media Knowledge: Popular Culture, Pedagogy, and Critical Citizenship (with James Schwoch and Susan Reilly, 1992), and coeditor of Questions of Method in Cultural Studies (with James Schwoch, 2006). Julie A. Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Department of Communication Arts at Allegheny College, Pennsylvania, where she researches the shifting cultural politics of celebrity and stardom. She has published articles in Velvet Light Trap, Cinema Journal, Television & New Media, Cultural Studies, and Genders. Ling Yang is Assistant Professor of Chinese at Xiamen University, P.R. China. She is the author of Entertaining the Transitional Era: Super Girl Fandom and the Consumption of Popular Culture (2012) and the coeditor of Fan Cultures: A Reader (with Tao Dongfeng, 2009). She has published articles on fan culture, Internet culture, and web fiction in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, Cultural Studies, and a number of Chinese journals.
17 Introduction Laurie Ouellette Reality television became a phenomenon around the turn of the millennium. In the United States, Survivor, Big Brother, and other high-profile prime-time reality programs (many adapted from existing European formats) arrived in 2000, setting the stage for a reconfiguration of television schedules that continues to this day. Television viewing habits were also transformed when audiences were invited to vote on, comment on, and interact with new reality programs such as American Idol (2002 present) using cell phones and the Internet. These were hybrid reality entertainment programs that combined the factual conventions of journalism, observational documentary, and video diaries with the plot elements and entertainment appeals of soap operas, sitcoms, dramas, and game shows. Many were based on generic formats that had debuted (to great success) in various national versions on public and commercial broadcasting systems in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and other countries. Whether one loved or hated (or both) these emerging reality formats, they became must see TV, fodder for online and face-to-face watercooler conversations bolstered by the television industry s own publicity machines. I was among a generation of media scholars who watched with fascination as what we now call reality television expanded, mutated, fragmented, and spread. Hybrid reality television entertainment became a visible staple of television culture, even as critics and TV viewers alike recognized (and often bemoaned) its scripted dimensions, commercial manipulations, recombinant tendencies, and stage-managed emotional appeals. The boom wasn t limited to big-budget network productions. In the United States and many other countries, TV viewers were presented with a burgeoning swatch of reality-based entertainment featuring ordinary people in ordinary and extraordinary situations (Murray and Ouellette, 2004, p. 3). By the mid-2000s, major broadcast and specialized cable channels alike were awash with makeover shows, A Companion to Reality Television, First Edition. Edited by Laurie Ouellette John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2014 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
18 2 Introduction dating shows, every manner of lifestyle and self-help program, reality sitcoms, talent contests and game shows, charitable interventions, adventure competitions, docusoaps, and more. The success of the prime-time network reality shows begat imitations and variations on themes pitched to specialized cable audiences. Reality programs were developed for mass audiences and niche markets conceived on the basis of targeted demographics and lifestyle clusters. For example, in the United States, the MTV, Lifetime, Bravo, and BET cable networks developed a cadre of popular reality shows for youth, women, upscale urbanites, and African Americans respectively. While this fare was pitched as spontaneous and real, it was also tightly edited and carefully packaged with high doses of voyeurism, suspense, gossip, sensationalism, melodrama, affect, and cruelty. As cable and satellite systems expanded and the number of channels requiring programming continued to proliferate, existing forms of educational, lifestyle, and documentary television became part of the reality phenomenon, their somber pedagogical conventions revamped in the image of the much splashier prime-time docusoaps and reality competitions. In the United Kingdom and other countries, public broadcasting systems were among the first to develop popular reality programming, much to the horror of critics who protested the decline of traditional public service remits based on educational and civic development. In the United States, commercial cable venues such as The Learning Channel (TLC), which once carried medical programming and exercise videos, developed new lineups around the mundane everyday affairs of Jon & Kate Plus 8 and other individuals and families pitched as simultaneously real and spectacular because they had eight children, or were little people, or were conjoined twins. Regional, religious, and class subcultures presented the raw material for twists on this type of reality television, as exemplified by recent TLC hits Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (about a seven-year-old child beauty-pageant star and her white, southern, working-class, redneck family) and Breaking Amish (which follows young people as they leave their religious sects). Discovery and other cable channels formerly branded as scientific and educational have increasingly turned away from feature-length documentaries and have developed slickly packaged reality series based on unusual, dramatic, and spectacular personal experiences with exploration and the wild, from the labor of deep-sea fishing (Deadliest Catch) to real-life survivalism (Survivorman). Historically slowmoving and subdued nature programming was also revamped: on the Discovery Corporation s channel Animal Planet, programs such as Meerkat Manor, My Cat from Hell, River Monsters, and My Extreme Animal Phobia borrow extensively from and often mimic outright the conventions of docusoaps and reality competitions. The makeover, long a staple of women s daytime television and magazine culture, developed as an especially high-profile subgenre of reality television. Television makeover programs elevated the transformation of the body, psyche, home, and even the family pet into a fascinating and suspenseful challenge that could be documented and ritualistically observed. Some popular makeover programs, such as The Biggest Loser, drew elements from Big Brother and Survivor and made the self-
19 Introduction 3 transformation of human subjects into a quasi-communal experience and a competitive game. Real-crime television programming, which first appeared in the United States in the 1980s, exploded and fragmented into an expanding array of increasingly specialized police procedures and operations caught on camera and into interactive calls for TV viewers to monitor safety, surveil neighborhoods and borders, and help apprehend suspects. More recently, cable channels such as TruTV, which brands itself as a venue for grittier and more authentic versions of reality television, have created programs around the intake of inmates at criminal detention centers and country jails. In just over a decade, reality television has transformed television culture (Murray and Ouellette, 2004, 2009) in ways that have quickly become naturalized as the status quo. Indeed, many of my undergraduate students no longer remember a time before the reality phenomenon: they grew up with the conventions of reality television, and have come to take its blend of entertainment and documentary, irony and sentimentality, authenticity and scriptedness for granted. This collection encourages a deeper and more critical view of reality television, which is too often regarded as merely a guilty pleasure. Reality television is more than a fad or a discreet development in media culture, and A Companion to Reality Television takes it as the grounds for tracing and examining the changing economic, social, cultural, and political conditions in which we live. Studying Reality Television Reality television is not going away anytime soon, for business reasons identified by industry scholars (Raphael, 2009). Reality productions can be produced more quickly and flexibly than other forms of television (such as news or drama) because they avoid (or minimize) the use of professional talent, writers, and other unionized personnel and rely heavily on freelancers, short-term workers, and the free labor of the ordinary people who appear on them. In an age of soaring production costs, commercian-zapping technologies, digital convergence, and increased audience fragmentation, reality television has also lent itself to experiments in integrated branding, global franchising, and interactive marketing (Magder, 2009). But, if the political economy of television and new media explains the staying power of reality television, the conversation certainly doesn t end there. The growth and visibility of reality television worldwide has triggered a surge of new scholarship concerned with the business, production, aesthetics, ethics, and politics of television marketed and sold in the name of the real. In our collection published in 2004 (revised in 2009), Susan Murray and I observed a dearth of scholarship on reality television and pointed out the need for scholars to keep pace with its transformative impact on television culture. Today, there are many books, articles, and special issues of journals devoted to the critical analysis of reality television. It is time to take stock, reflect, synthesize what we have accomplished, anticipate emergent issues, and chart what needs to be done.
20 4 Introduction A Companion to Reality Television presents the major debates, questions, and theories orienting the study of reality television today, as determined by leading scholars in the field. The chapters provide a toolbox for studying a wide range of factual, unscripted reality television entertainment circulating around the world today. Together, they also map the parameters of reality television scholarship to date. Because reality television as an object of analysis has prompted many scholars to explore new questions and consult alternative or emergent conceptual paradigms, the book also points to new directions in media studies. One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of studying the reality television phenomenon involves tracing and understanding its complex relationship to the present. A Companion to Reality Television models this type of scholarship and provides resources for furthering its objectives and aims. In their quest to come to terms with the surge and significance of reality television, the authors assembled here also address the broader social, political, economic, technological, and cultural circumstances in which reality television has proliferated and matured. In so doing, they remind us that the reality television phenomenon is about more than individual programs or even modes of engagement (such as following the Twitter feed of the latest reality star or voting for a contestant on a talent show using a cell phone). As we will see, the reality television phenomenon is also historically connected to and therefore useful for examining the shifting dynamics of production and consumption, amateurism and professionalism, selfrepresentation and branding, and democracy and citizenship. The best scholarship on reality television has engaged with conversations in social, political, and political theory to make sense of these links. This work has in turn helped to bring a wider range of critical perspectives and concerns into media studies, from neoliberalism and governmentality to immaterial labor to surveillance and the affective turn. Scholarship on reality television has also been instrumental in advancing ideas and debates on more rehearsed topics. In addressing the rising visibility of ordinary people on reality television, for example, scholars have also theorized (and retheorized) media culture s relationship to publics, celebrity, difference (gender, race, class, sexuality), and personhood. In analyzing the adaptation and reception of global formats across contexts, they have also refined understandings of the media s relationship to globalization, national identity, political activism, cosmopolitanism, and geopolitics. A Companion to Reality Television consolidates and extends this multidimensional approach by connecting reality television to the changing conditions and contradictions of contemporary societies. What Is Reality Television? Reality television is an ambiguous term that encompasses the swatch of ostensibly unscripted programming featuring ordinary people as contestants, participants, and subjects described above. While scholars have identified shared conventions (use of nonactors, mix of fictional and factual elements) and distinct subgenres (makeovers,