Reality Television is the most ubiquitous and popular programming on American Television, garnering 50 percent of prime time viewers in 2013. Though most Americans claim hatred of reality shows, the influence of the programming and its reflection of American culture is undeniable; the shows' mediated narratives reverberate with American's desires, fears, and showcase our discourses and discursive production. Through the study of reality television, we can understand ideals and forms of American citizenship, race, gender, sexuality and class. This class will use a variety of disciplines, including American studies, media studies, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, and theoretical lenses, such as affect, performance, and Foulcauldian genealogy to unpack the narratives produced by and around these shows. The class will look at a variety of reality programs, including makeover, identity-based (i.e. The Real Housewives, Shahs of Sunset), competition, and therapeutic shows (Hoarders, Intervention, Couples Therapy) to ask questions about American social life and culture. This class will also explore realms of culture and life where we can follow the bleed over of reality television; that these reality stars' real lives are continually followed on and off the shows speaks to cultural obsessions and fixations that are a part of the reality of American lives.
Susan Lepselter, "The Disorder of Things: Hoarding Narratives in Popular Media"
David Grazian, "Neoliberalism and the Realities of Reality Television"
Neal Saye, "No "Survivors," No "American Idol," No "Road Rules" in "The Real
World" of "Big Brother": Consumer/reality, Hyper/reality, and Post/reality in
“Reality TV, or The Secret Theater of Neoliberalism” by Nick Couldry from Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 30:1, 3-13
“Jersey Shore: Part Fantasy, Part Train Wreck, Cloaked in Neoliberalism” by Mark Sherry and Katie Martin from The Journal of Popular Culture, December, 2014. 10.1111.
"The Unwatched Life Is Not Worth Living: The Elevation of the Ordinary in Celebrity Culture" by Joshua Gamson in Theories and Methodologies 126.4
"The Mass Production of Celebrity: ‘Celetoids’, Reality TV and the ‘Demotic Turn’1" by Graeme Turner in International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 9(2): 153–165, 2006
"Reality TV and the Production of 'Ordinary Celebrity': Notes from the Field" by Laura Grindstaff, from Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Volume 56, 2012
Oct 2 – “Reality Celebrity: Branded Affect and the Emotion Economy” by Laura Grindstaff and Susan Murray from Public Culture, 01/2015, Volume 27, Number 1 75: 109-135
Assignments (include % of grade):
6 one-page (single space) responses to reading: 30%
Final paper proposal (1 page): 10%
Annotated Bibliography (5-6 sources): 10%
Contribution to Zine: 15%
Final paper (10-12 pages): 25%