Private Drama, Public Gold: Reality TV

Golden Ages: Styles and Personalities, Genres and Histories
The 2014 Film & History Conference

With an increasing number of sensational reality programs on both cable and network television, the new millennium is shaping up to be the “golden age” of reality TV. Whether one is watching a bride-to-be duke it out with her maid of honor on Bridezillas, or a fashion designer having a meltdown on Project Runway, the pinnacle of reality TV is right now. Matchmaking, apprenticeships, cooking, weight loss, musical talent, special effects make-up, and extreme survival have all brought the “reality” of weekly competition into viewers’ living rooms, along with entrepreneurship (in shows like Kitchen Nightmares), cultural exposés (in shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding), and makeovers (in shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). Under the auspices of the reality genre, everyday lives become scripted spectacle, while audiences serve as the ultimate voyeurs, seeing how “the other half” lives and indulging in their own fantasies of reality stardom.

This area invites 20-minute papers exploring questions related to the culture, context, history, and impact of reality TV. How do these shows align with – or help create – shifts and trends in culture, in America and elsewhere? How do we interpret their star-making – or reputation-breaking – impacts? How has reality TV changed viewer orientation to televised programming? What does the future of reality TV hold?

Paper proposals exploring any of the multiple dimensions of reality television influence are welcome, from close critical analysis of a single reality show, to thematic examinations of clusters of programs.

Topics for further exploration may include, but are not limited to:

• Makeover TV
• Race, Class and Gender Representations
• Children on Reality Television
• History of Reality Television
• Representations of the Body
• Performativity
• Reality Television Production
• The Instant Celebrity
• Reality TV Across Cultures
• Global Reality TV Market
• Audience Reception
• The Future of Reality Television

Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an e-mail address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Please e-mail your 200-word proposal by 1 June 2014, to the area chair:

Christina Hodel

University of Kansas


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