EVENT TONIGHT: Sept 21, 7pm, Manhattan, Kansas: “Project Brainwash: Why Reality TV Is Bad for Women (…and men, people of color, the economy, love, sex, and sheer common sense!)
I’m excited to bring a critical conversation about gender, race and advertising in reality television to a campus that seems extremely engaged in ongoing discussions about other aspects of reality TV based on their “common read” book, The Hunger Games, a dystopian young adult novel about a world in which one powerful Capital city forces all its districts to send two of its children to a televised death match where only one makes it out alive. Picture Survivor, but with every 12-18 -year-old contestant out to slit your throat. And where Jeff Probst is secretly hoping you won’t starve to death… but only because getting viciously slaughtered by one of your peers would play better on TV.
I’ve been doing a version of this lecture since 2002, and by now I’ve brought it to upwards of 70 colleges. It’s evolved over time (hence the new title), but the core of the talk has remained the same. It’s a lively, video-centric presentation that helps audience members apply a critical media literacy lens to reality television, which I see as the most visible pop cultural manifestation of the contemporary backlash against women’s rights and social progress. (I defy anyone who has ever watched more than a couple of episodes of Extreme Makeover, The Bachelor; Wife Swap, or Flavor of Love to disagree.)
“Project Brainwash” exposes how so-called “reality” TV reinforces regressive ideas about women and men, race and class, and beauty, sex, love and marriage in America. It explores the lack of ethnic and physical diversity in a genre where women are sold right alongside soda and cell phones, and reveals how reality TV glorifies eating disorders, derides female intelligence, demeans people of color, and reduces Prince Charming to any jerk with a firm butt and a firmer financial portfolio. Reality TV isn’t simply reflecting anachronistic social biases — it’s resurrecting them. Its producers have done what the most ardent right-wing fundamentalists have never been able to achieve: they’ve created a version of the universe in which women not only have no real choices, they don’t even want any.
Tonight’s “Project Brainwash” lecture focuses primarily on women
in reality TV as an entry point to the subject, but touches briefly on race, class and masculinity, and on the influence and impact of product placement advertising over the genre. (Reality Bites Back delves into all these areas in depth.) We can dig in to these topics — and any others you want to investigate — in the Q&A, so bring your questions and your energy to K-State tonight.
Hope to see you at the talk tonight if you’re in town. And if you’re not — but you’d
like to bring this reality TV presentation, or another lecture, media literacy workshop or media training to your town or campus — contact me.
And follow me on Twitter @jennpozner; for semi-regular tweets on reality TV analysis, and media, pop culture and politics.
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