Reality Television and Reflexive Audiences
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
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My sincere thanks go, first, to the generous people who completed the surveys and agreed to talk about makeover television for this project. They trusted me with their revealing perceptions of the shows and their engagements with them, even as they were aware of a general disparagement of the genre and its viewers. ...
1. Self-Projects: Makeover Shows and the Reflexive Imperative
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Midway through interviewing people who watch makeover television shows, I had a conversation with Seth,1 a white, single, heterosexual man in his thirties. He was a fan of the United States version of the popular competitive weight loss show The Biggest Loser who wanted to lose about eighty pounds in weight. ...
2. Gender and Genre: Making Over Women’s Culture
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On August 2, 2006, the US cable channel Bravo aired an exceptional episode of their makeover show Queer Eye that featured Miles, a female-to-male transgender person, with the project to “trans-form the trans-man.” Since its debut in 2003, the show had featured five openly gay men, the Fab Five, who with camp ruthlessness ...
3. Not Like Paris Hilton: Instruction and Consumption in Makeover Shows
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The previous chapter offered a critique of makeover television that focused on how gender, class, and race norms are worked through contemporary demands to be more flexible workers and enthusiastic consumers. The rest of this book looks at how the audiences we talked to engaged with the project of self-making represented in these shows. ...
4. Shame on You: Schadenfreude and Surveillance
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Like many journalists, Sarah Rodman assumes that exposure and humiliation are makeover shows’ stock-in-trade. Of The Biggest Loser’s home channel, she worries that “NBC” now stood for the “Nothing But Cruelty network” and that “survival and talent are out, and self-improvement by way of self-abasement is in.”1 ...
5. Feeling Real: Empirical Truth and Emotional Authenticity
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Julie’s discussion of her emotional engagement with the housemates on Starting Over frames the intertwined themes in this chapter. For Julie, the housemates’ expression of emotion, particularly crying, signals the authenticity of the show, a rare value in most television. This authenticity is underpinned by her sense of the housemates’ vulnerability, ...
6. Mirror, Mirror: The Reflexive Self
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Danica here draws together some of the themes from the preceding chapters. She disputes that What Not to Wear is a makeover show, suggesting a narrow definition of this genre that focuses only on physical transformation. What she enjoys instead about What Not to Wear is its attention to “internal” change, despite the candidates’ conscious intentions. ...
7. Research Reflexivity: Audiences and Investigators in Context
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In the first quotation, a survey respondent chided us about a badly designed survey question; in the second, an interviewee told us where to look for good data about the candidates on a show. As I developed the frame of reflexivity to describe participants’ engagements with the shows, I realized that they were also reflexive about taking part in a research study. ...
8. Once More with Feeling: Reconsidering Reflexivity
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This book began with cautionary tales: makeover shows invoke people’s worst impulses toward laughing and pointing at others’ misfortunes, produce obedient consumers, and turn people into self-governing, rational automatons. It narrates a story that focuses on some of the people who watch makeover television, ...
Appendix I: Protocols
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Appendix II: Demographic Data
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About the Author
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Katherine Sender is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Business, Not Politics: The Making of the Gay Market (Columbia University Press, 2004) and coeditor of The Politics of Reality TV: Global Perspectives (Routledge, 2011). ...
Publication Year: 2012