Today, in conjunction with the official release of Reality Bites Back, I’m
excited to debut a satirical book trailer and webisode series, “Reality Rehab with Dr. Jenn“– where all your favorite reality TV stock characters come to get deprogrammed:
In addition to the trailer, I’ll be rolling out seven webisodes, one for each character. The first webisode follows The Desperate Bachelorette (modeled after shows such as The Bachelor, Tough Love, Married By America, Joe Millionaire and more). When we first meet her, she embodies reality TV’s stereotype about single women as weepy, pathetic losers who can never possibly be happy or successful without husbands, mouthing lines pulled directly from actual quotes from some of these shows, such as “I don’t want to die alone!” and “I would be a servant to him!” By the end of the webisode, her media literacy therapy has helped her realize that, in fact, she has a full life, a great career and a lot going for her, and she can wait for a truly fulfilling relationship, rather than grasping for romance with any randy dude who’ll snog her for fifteen minutes on national TV.
Webisode #1: The Desperate Bachelorette:
As I was writing Reality Bites Back, I knew that although every news and infotainment outlet regularly reports on reality TV’s scandals, personalities, and ratings battles — it would likely still be a hard sell to get corporate media outlets to review or cover a book that exposes some of the biggest lies told by media companies about this genre (for example, that reality TV exists just because the public demands it, or that producers can’t put words in people’s mouths) while critiquing how product placement advertising, media economics and media consolidation negatively impact what we get to watch on television.
So when I originally decided to create a book trailer, I knew I needed something funny and attention-grabbing to generate buzz about a book that may not get major media coverage. I wanted to create a fictional reality series, something that would satirize the sexist and racist stereotypes found on so many reality TV shows throughout the decade. Problem was, how could I make a spoof that looked very much like any reality show you might see on TV, without actually reinforcing the gender and racial biases that the genre is steeped in? Then, I hit on it: I’d send the most pernicious and recurring stock characters to rehab!
Unlike the D-list celebs who hit bottom and get exploited in the guise of therapy on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, the stock characters of Reality Rehab with Dr. Jenn start out acting like the cliches you’ve seen on shows such as The Bachelor, Flavor Of Love, The Real Housewives, America’s Next Top Model, Tool Academy, From Gs to Gents and more, but along the way they learn about “Frankenbite editing” and other manipulative editing and production tricks. They get to hear how product placement sponsors collaborate with reality show producers to turn them into culturally toxic caricatures. And, eventually, they rebel against their TV-approved tropes and emerge as complex, three-dimensional human beings again. Turns out The Angry Black Woman is actually a compassionate hospice nurse, and the Slutty Bitch is actually there to make friends!
This is my first time producing a video project, and I couldn’t have pulled this all together without the BRILLIANT help of playwright Stephen Gracia, filmmakers Therese Schecter and Alia Hussain, and video editor extraordinaire Jesse Garson, whose bios and websites are all available at the Reality Rehab with Dr. Jenn website. See the site for bios for all the cast members (Cecilia Lederer, Bob Kulhan, Shelby Knox, Allison Jones, Kendra Leigh Landon, Brian Moreland and Whitney Meers) and an extensive photo gallery. And check out IfWeRanTheWorld.com, the newest project of Cindy Gallop, who generously allowed us to film Reality Rehab at The Black Apartment.
What do you think of the trailer and the first webisode? Comment below, and on YouTube.
If you enjoyed the Reality Rehab trailer and first webisode, please embed the videos on your blogs, tweet about them, post them to Facebook, email the links to your friends. Help me spark a critical, political (and still fun!) conversation about the implications of reality TV’s regressive messages and commercial underpinnings. The only way these videos — and the book — are going to start that debate, will be if you help me spread the media literacy gospel.
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