Seeking papers for a panel proposal for the Society for Cinema Studies
conference in Denver, CO, May 23-26, 2002.
Reality TV's Appeals
"Reality TV" has changed the televisual landscape dramatically in recent
years. The genre is not easy to characterize, since the programs that make
it up vary widely in form: from highly contrived game shows and
pseudo-sports, like "Survivor" and "Battle Dome," to earnest documentaries,
like PBS's "American High," and from the improvised soap opera of "The Real
World" to programs consisting largely of home videos or surveillance-camera
footage, like "The World's Most Amazing Videos."
One factor these shows clearly share is their appeal to the voyeurism of
viewers. Sometimes this involves actually spying on people, as in the new
series "Spy Cam." Often it involves putting non-performers in stressful
situations and videotaping them, to see how they "perform." Almost always it
also involves sensationalistic elements, like sex, ghosts, or eating bugs.
The "reality" factor is also obviously part of the appeal of these programs.
For example, they almost always show people in some degree of actual
physical or emotional peril. In this way, they tend to validate otherwise
fantastic narratives or spectacles via the reality of the body. And the
genre may other appeals, as well, such as the discourses of age and/or
gender that often strongly inflect the shows.
We invite papers for this panel that explore the appeals of Reality TV, by
analyzing particular instances, by examining the attractions of the programs
in general, or (optimally) by doing both together.
Please send inquiries or proposals (in SCS Abstract format at
http://www.cinemastudies.org) via email to both addresses below by September
Theatre, Dance, and Film Department
Franklin & Marshall College
Lancaster, PA 17604
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Film Studies Program
New London, CT 06320
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