Women: Reality Bites Back: the Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV

23 Oct

I just got Jennifer Pozner’s new book, Reality Bites Back: the Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV, in the mail and I am completely stoked to read it! In this book she basically exposes reality tv’s underlying messages that are being sent out into the world. She talks about really breaking down these television shows and forming an understanding that these shows ultimately shape how we view ourselves and others. She calls out every single stereotype these reality tv shows portray female participants as. In her introduction she says,

“On ABC’s the Bachelor and NBC’s Who Wants To Marry My Dad? fifteen to twenty-five interchangeable hotties compete for the chance to marry a hunky lunkhead they don’t know from Adam. Weepy waifs line up to be objectified for a living (or simply for a moment) on the CW’s America’s Next Top Model. Branded ‘ugly ducklings,’ appearance-obsessed sad sacks risk their health to be surgically altered on Fox’s The Swan and E’s Dr. 90210. Starved women get naked for Oreos and men gloat about ‘dumb ass girl alliances’ on CBS’s Survivor. Women of color are ostracized as deceitful divas on NBC’s The Apprentice, lazy or ‘difficult’ on ABC’s Wife Swap, and ‘ghetto’ train wrecks on VH1’s Flavor of Love and I Love New York. And through it all slurs like ‘bitch,’ ‘beaver,’ and ‘whore’ are tossed around as if they’re any other nouns.”

Being guilty of watching some of these reality tv shows as a form of entertainment myself, she really made me realize exactly what it is that I am watching. I always saw shows like these as being funny, but in reality, they really aren’t. Women are ALWAYS portrayed in an objective manner; they are almost always overly emotional, overly aggressive, or overly sexual. What kind of message are these shows sending about women? These shows often reaffirm both gender and racial stereotypes that people uphold towards women and women of color.

In her book Jennifer Pozner discusses the history behind reality tv and how it came to be as popular as it is today. She also brings up the point that it is much cheaper to produce a reality tv show than it is to produce a regular television show. So that would explain the rise in reality television shows since 2000 when the very first show aired. The number of reality television shows rose from 4 shows in 2000, to 320 shows in 2010. What keeps reality tv on the rise is the controversy that surrounds a lot of these shows. Issues like misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia, and drug and alcohol dependence are typically the main focus of these shows. This is pleasing to the creators of the show because it’s a way to keep the attention on the show. Whether the publicity is bad or good, the producers don’t care. Either way people are going to tune in due to the attention the show is getting; either to show their distain or their satisfaction. So at the end of the day, the only reason these shows are continuously being made is for the money, they are cheap to make and promote themselves, whether it’s for positive or negative reasons.

I’ve only had the opportunity to read the introduction of Jennifer Pozner’s book so far, but just in the few pages that I have read she brings up a lot of good reasons why reality tv is being made, is so addicting, and has became so popular. Another topic she begins to address in her book which I love is the importance of media literacy, something I personally advocate. She doesn’t appear to be criticizing these shows that falsely represent people as well as reinforce stereotypes. She promotes the idea that it’s okay to watch them, as long as you think critically about the message they are sending out. And as long as you are completely “in tune” to what you are watching, then there is no big deal about watching a reality tv show on occasions. Also calling out the prejudices, the sexist comments, and the stereotypes we see can help with learning when to recognize when these shows are acting in a prejudicial manner. I am super hyped up to finish this book and I hope it turns out to be just as intriguing from beginning to end!


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