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Video: WIMN’s reality TV analysis on PBS - advertiser-driven sexism is serious business

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

April 18th, 2007

Do you consider humiliating, degrading, objectifying and infantilizing women for the profit of advertisers and corporate media owners quality entertainment?

Neither do I, as I explained this weekend on the PBS debate show To The Contrary, in a taped “Behind the Headlines” interview with host Bonnie Erbe:


The video above is about four minutes long, and includes only the interview (if anyone reading has a digital copy of the ensuing debate about sexism in reality TV among To The Contrary’s four guests and host, please let me know).

It was gratifying to be able to bring a progressive media critique of reality TV and the economic forces driving the genre to a serious public affairs program, because even though most people view shows like ABC’s The Bachelor and Extreme Makeover, CW’s America’s Next Top Model, Fox’s Joe Millionaire, NBC’s Who Wants to Marry My Dad? and VH1’s Flavor of Love as harmless fluff or, at worst, guilty pleasures, I really believe that these programs have deep and damaging significance for our society. The manufactured, manipulated “reality” of so-called “unscripted” dating, mating, makeover and modeling shows function as the cultural arm of the backlash against women, yet after about six years of increasingly disturbing programming, To The Contrary’s short interview and debate was (unfortunately) the most in-depth attention I’ve seen any nationally syndicated news program devote to this topic to date.

For the last six years, as part of the media analysis program of Women In Media & News, I’ve been doing my best to draw critical attention to the reality TV genre in multimedia presentations on college campuses (I’ll come to your school if you want - just be in touch), magazine articles and blog posts, and, sometimes, via commentary in media outlets.

My hope is that with increasing scrutiny to this topic on public affairs programs like To The Contrary (and op-eds and blog posts and letters to editors, advertisers and networks written by people like you), more of us will begin to think critically about — and reject — the images and the ideas that are being sold to us by reality TV producers, and the product placement advertisers who influence the content, sets, dialog and even plotlines of these programs.

PS: If you have tips about particularly vile representations of gender, race, class or sexuality issues in specific reality TV episodes, please send them my way — video tape/YouTube them if you can, but send your tips to info [at] wimnonline.org. They may become fodder for future blog posts — or material/research for the book I’m working on about reality TV as cultural backlash against women.

Thoughts about reality TV? Share them in the comments field below.

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