Friday, December 3, 2010

Reality Bites

Aside from reality shows where people actually must have a skill--like Project Runway or the Chef shows--I'm not a fan of reality TV, in fact I only watch PR if I remember to and because I love Tim Gunn. But a new book by Jenifer Pozner, "Reality Bites Back" brings up the issue of how women are portrayed in reality TV shows and the genre doesn't make it out unscathed. She points out that any reality show is far from real--each cast is carefully selected, and Pozner points out, women rarely make it past the editing room without perpetuating derisive stereotypes. Pozner writes in an article for Women's News website (

"It's a time-tested bait-and-switch: smart, professionally independent women become more successful by playing the part of the silly, dependent dimwit in the media. The phenomenally accomplished 'I Love Lucy' star Lucille Ball, the first woman to head a Hollywood production company, is probably the most famous TV example. Reality producers may have cut their teeth on 'dumb blonds,' but they want viewers to believe female stupidity knows no racial limits."

Here's a fantastic clip, breaking down how reality tv is edited (I should warn you the last 5 seconds are not appropriate, but by then you'll have gotten the idea and can stop it if you like):

So I think the reason reality TV is so pervasive is something brought up in class--it's cheap, and therefore easy to import, export, distort and watch to make us feel better about our own reality.


  1. Alyssa-it's a cool clip. And makes an important point. I do think women end up becoming stereotypes on the editing room floor very often (as clips of "The Girls Next Door" run through my head). I guess what I worry about even more is the next generation of girls that grows up with these reality show women to model behavior of how women should act. Rather than a stronger female lead that an actual writer has had a hand in.

  2. I feel that people who watch some of the more trashy reality tv shows definitely know that it isn't representative of the average person; yet, they become addicted to watching people portray these crazy stereotypes that are apparently so entertaining. In a class discussion we had, some students noted that watching these shows makes them feel better about their life, while others honestly noted that they wish they could live like that and get away with it. Again, can we fault the producers for creating trashy HIT tv shows? It's amazing how much criticism these shows receive while their ratings continue to soar. I guess they are giving the people what they want.

  3. I definitely feel like women are portrayed more negatively in reality shows, as stereotypes, and as villains. While I do believe that it is a lot of editing, their notoriety still exists. If someone mentions Omarosa from "The Apprentice," Angelina from "Jersey Shore," or, well....just about anyone from a bad VH1 looking-for-love show, even if one doesn't remember too much about the show or the actual character, they recall the archetype of person on a reality show. Reality shows seem to portray women as either shrews or sluts, and I blame two things for that: the need to create false drama and the dichotomy of how women are generally viewed in the media, and editing.