Reality television, whether we like it or not, is here to stay. It is a genre that has revolutionized television and forced creative teams to up their game.
True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, By Danielle J. Lindemann, was published last month. Describing what she calls a “funhouse mirror”, she explores how this category of television both reveals our humanity and possibilities while relying on stereotypes to tell stories. Intermingling pop culture and academic research, it is a thorough look at how this type of small-screen entertainment reflects our general culture, warts and all.
I loved this book. She opens it by posing a question that she asks her students at the beginning of each semester. She asks them to make two columns. The first contains a list of current Supreme Court judges. The second contains the names of the members of the Kardashian family. It doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out which was longer.
As far as I am concerned, this tells me everything about where we are at as a society. There is nothing wrong with a “guilty pleasure” or watching a program that does not require a lot of thinking after a long day. However, there is something wrong when narratives rely on expected images of some people that are based on class, gender, or race. I’m not a huge fan of reality shows (as any regular reader of this blog knows), but I wish there was a bit more nuance in the tales that are being told.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.