Reality TV and Narratives of Female Identities


Ah reality TV, we’ve had a sordid history.

If our relationship had a status on Facebook, it would most definitely read, “it’s complicated”….


Now before I begin this post, I’d like to openly admit that I love reality TV. I remember being 10 years old and rushing home to watch Laguna Beach, The Simple Life, Keep Up with the Kardashians and the day-in-the-life reality shows of Paula Abdul, Janice Dickinson, and Denise Richards. I loved the very obviously scripted turmoil, the drama, the insane personalities, and the completely overblown situations. But now, nearly 12 years later, I can recognize the problems in the way reality television structures narratives of female identity, sexuality, success and friendship. Often in reality shows women are shown as manipulative, emotional, irrational, catty and conniving. Their sexuality is overt and often exaggerated, juxtaposing the visual image of chastity and purity but their actions are more geared toward appearing sexy and experienced.

In class we talked about My Super Sweet 16 and the Bachelor and the problematic narratives of female identity both of those shows display. On the Bachelor, women literally compete for the love and attention of a man, using whatever manipulative or competitive means they can. On My Super Sweet 16, spoiled young teens (often girls) terrorize their parents, often portraying the father as doting and accommodating and the mother as a difficult, almost competing presence for the attention of the father.

Reality TV has continued to grow in popularity in the last 10 or so years and introduced so many personalities into mainstream culture. I think it is incredibly important to analyze the content we consume, especially from reality television which is specifically scripted and constructed to closely resemble real life.


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