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Black Women in Reality Television Docusoaps

A New Form of Representation or Depictions as Usual?


Adria Y. Goldman and Damion Waymer

Black Women in Reality Television Docusoaps explores representations of Black women in one of the most powerful, popular forms of reality television – the docusoap. Viewers, critics, and researchers have taken issue with what they consider to be unflattering, one-dimensional representations. This book discusses images of Black women in reality television during the 2011 viewing year, when much criticism arose. These findings provide a context for a more recent examination of reality television portrayals during 2014, following many reality stars’ promises to offer new representations. The authors discuss the types of images shown, potential readings of such portrayals, and the implication of these reality television docusoap presentations. The book will be useful for courses examining topics such as popular culture; mass media and society; women’s studies; race and media; sex and gender; media studies; African American issues in mass communication; and gender, race and representation, as well as other graduate-level classes.
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The origins of reality TV can be traced to the 1940s launch of Queen for a Day, an early US game show. Since its emergence, the genre of reality television has grown in presence and popularity among producers and consumers. We might assume that these unscripted, yet heavily edited, shows present reality to their audiences. However, scholars have found that many audience members acknowledge and accept the fact that reality television is not real (Andrejevic & Colby, 2006; Biressi & Nunn, 2005; Clissold, 2004; Gillan, 2004; Gray, 2009; Stern, 2005). Many producers and directors acknowledge the extensive participant recruiting and editing processes that go into the production of reality television shows (Andrejevic, 2004; Ouellette & Murray, 2009; Pozner, 2010). Thus, one could argue that the reality in these television shows is actually a constructed reality—produced by the editors, rather than the actual participants. So what does this constructed reality say about Black women in contemporary US society? We begin this exploration, first, by assessing what others have written about women’s roles, in general, in reality television. Then we discuss what reality television is, its effects, and potential implications of mediated depictions of women in these programs. We can then establish the basis for this project and begin to interrogate Black women’s ← 1 | 2 → depictions in reality television in general and in docusoaps, a subgenre of reality television, specifically via #EnoughisEnough.

Women in Reality Television

Reality television has helped to increase the number of...

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