Reality Television in 2014 is no longer a guilty pleasure, it’s engrained into our culture. We talk about Honey Boo Boo, The Housewives of anywhere, 16 and Pregnant, and The Bachelor freely even if it is only to marvel at the train wrecks that are occurring from week to week we are invested in the lives of these people. I’ve seen passionate arguments that looked capable of ending friendships over disagreements about who should win American Idol. It can no longer be argued that these shows do not impact our culture when information about people on these shows is discussed on major news networks and made fun of on Saturday Night Live. In Reality Bites Back Jennifer L. Pozner explores the societal implications and influences of reality television on our perception of women. She argues that these shows have ingrained archaic ideals about beauty, love, ethnicity, class, and gender roles that have been detrimental to the forward movement of women in our society.
Pozner repeatedly addresses the common argument that it’s television and that we shouldn’t be taking television seriously by pointing out that these directors and producers are presenting their shows as reality which strips away the disconnect that audiences can maintain in a sitcom or tv drama. The actual reality of the situation is that what is shown on television is not what is happening on the show, everything is manipulated at the will of the producers and directors. In an interview with NPR an anonymous Bachelor producer said, “We have even gone so far as to ‘frankenbite,’ where you take somebody saying, ‘of course I’d like to say that I love him’ and cutting the bite together to say ‘of course I love him’… [It’s] misleading to the viewer and unfair to the cast member, but they sign up for this.” (Brownstein 2008). The existence of “frankenbites” proves that the directors and producers are constructing the reality they want the audience to see whether it’s that this girl is completely in love with a man she met two days ago or if it’s a girl who is in a catfight with her fellow cast member.
One of the troubling aspects of “reality” that these shows present deals with women and beauty. Pozner discusses shows like America’s Next Top Model, The Bachelor, Extreme Makeover, and What Not to Wear. She points out that all of these show emphasize beauty as the thin and white girl. The shows repeatedly show that if a woman does not meet this ideal she either has to take extreme measures to make herself look like that through risky elective procedure or she is going to be unhappy and unloved for the rest of her life.
There is also a focus on the entertainment of seeing women humiliated and crying. Pozner discusses the agendas of the producers of these shows saying that producers like Richard Fleiss “base shows on the desire to make woman extremely unhappy.” (Pozner 24) She even gets a statement from Fleiss in which he admitted: “It’s a lot of fun to watch girls crying,… Never underestimate the value of that.” Pozner goes on to discuss one show’s mistreatment and humiliation. On Fox’s Married by America a bride is left at the altar after going through the planning of her dream wedding while the audience watching knows that the groom is going to dump her. Pozner is brutal in her description of the woman’s devastation and humiliation at the hands of these producers, “The money shot in porn flicks usually involves male ejaculation. In reality TV dating shows, it comes when cameras zoom in on the tear-soaked face of some woman shattered by romantic rejection.” (53).
Audiences aren’t troubled by this treatment of women according to Pozner because the idea that they are “’real people’ behaving as they normally would in ‘real life,’ the none-too-subtle implication is that women in general may not deserve any more respect than is shown to the ones on the TV.” (56). The treatment of these woman has the potential to warp the ideals of how women themselves expect to be treated in romantic relationships. We as the audience need to keep in mind the scripting, frankenbiting, and overall fictional aspects of reality television. Just observe any cast on a reality show and you won’t see a diverse group that actually represents America’s reality, instead you will get three kinds of women according to Pozner: “Bitches and Morons and Skanks, Oh My!” is the title of chapter three in this book. She explores the limited views we get of women and how if there is any variation in race or sexual orientation those aspects are exploited in unflattering, two-dimensional ways. Especially for women of color who are only depicted as beautiful when they happen to look like their white counterparts with lighter skin and straight hair. Dark skin, kinky hair, almond-shaped eyes, wide noses are all viewed as undesirable in these shows and if cast member have any of these qualities they are turned into to a caricature of their race.
The overall goal of Pozner for this work is to analyze how reality television defines “Women” and the ideals on gender roles in relation to body, romance, marriage, home, and work. She emphasizes the reminder that “ ‘Woman’ is not a monolithic group” (21). It is important to understand reality television’s antifeminism because it is detrimental to the progression of women as leaders who are to be respected in our society. When a moderator sees no issue with asking two woman running for the United States Senate about their opinions on the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Gray we have a problem and that problem desperately needs to be addressed and fixed in our media.


Enlightened Sexism Book Review

This is my review for the Susan J. Douglas’s Book Enlightened Sexism. Within it she touches upon how that society as well as the media can be somewhat dissmissive of women, especially feminism. She talks about how the use of “enlightened sexism” can be destructive towards equality amongst the genders, when it is not preceived as such, something that is truly frightening.
Parthasarathy’s article on the progression of women’s careers on television is a comforting look at the positive direction that we are heading in. This list of trailblazing women on television shows how far we’ve come without taking away from how far we still have to go.
A major part of achieving equality is having a government that actually represents our country’s demographics. In our country 51% of citizens are women, but only 19% of congress and 20% of the senate. Elections are the platform for changing those factors, but this graphic based on research by Name it. Change it., shows that our media and its treatment of female candidates impacts the elections negatively for women.
As “The Women in Media Project” we have a clear focus on women (obviously), but it is important to call attention to the ways men are hurt by stereotyping media aspects. This article explores a few of the tropes that we see commonly in commercials and other ads. One of the criticisms of feminism is that it is all about women and misandry (the hatred of men), but misandrists can’t be feminists because feminism is about equality and you can’t fight for equality when you think you’re better than the other party. The patriarchy hasn’t just forced women in to girly boxes, it’s forced men in manly boxes. These gender ideals are equally detrimental to our society and culture.
Vitamin W posted this article discussing the one industry in which women make more than their male counterparts: the sex industry. There are many society stigmas that come with being a in the sex industry and while the pay may be better for women, it compensates for the stereotypes we have for women who choose to be employed in that field. Women tend to be looked at as desperate, immoral, whores; meanwhile it is either laughed off when a man is part of the industry or just not talked about. The area where the pay differs is in gay porn. Freleng says, “Female on female porn, particularly for the hetro-male gaze, is so widely accepted and desired that it doesn’t need to pay exceptionally high. In fact, it pays less for most women than doing heterosexual porn. Yet gay porn makers basically have to entice male porn stars with exceptional pay to get them to do gay porn.” This creates a conflict for me and I’m sure many other feminists: it’s refreshing to see a field where women earn more for a change, but that field does a lot to fuel misogynistic views towards women and their sexuality.

Gender as represented in spec script sales
This article and graphic show why women in the entertainment business tend to be unequally represented. If men are the one’s writing the majority of the stories, of course they’re all about men and what men relate to.
This New York Times article by Katha Pollitt is from 1991, but is still depressingly relevant to our media culture today. Pollitt proposes a principle of her own making “The Smurfette Principle” in which cartoons with an ensemble cast have one female character. She marvels at the fact that little had changed since she was a child watching television in 1950. Although aspects of this article no longer hold true (Sesame Street has added female muppet characters) there are still a lot of points that ring true. I googled “popular children’s tv shows” and the top shows I got were Spongebob Squarepants, The Wiggles, and Pokemon. All shows that feature one main female character, if any. Now I know that Spongebob and Pokemon have a variety of peripheral female characters, but the main cast have one girl: Sandy and Misty. This means that over two decades after Pollitt wrote about her Smurfette Principle; it’s still not only relevant, but prevalent.
Melissa A. Fabello offers 5 new points for improvement in the Body-Positive movement and discusses her reasoning. Fabello whole-heartedly supports the movement and uses this article to add ways that the movement can become more inclusive and realistic. Her critique suggests “deconstructing beauty as valuable”, focusing on being “more than just a body”, “diversifying the discussion”, working with others using “more coaching, less pushing”, and working on “prevention as well as intervention”. I agree that all of these points are absolutely necessary if the campaign is to gain ground more universally with every race, gender, body type, sexuality, and so on. The Body- Positive Movement has direct connections to every form of our media. We get our conventional ideas of beauty from media and this movement has taken hold through media. It is important that we finally use media as a tool to help body image issues instead of as a tool to fuel them.
Tamara Winfrey Harris discusses Beyoncé and the aspects of her feminism. She argues against those that say she can’t be a feminist because “Turns out, booty shaking and stamping your husband’s last name on a product of your own creativity makes a lot of folks question your feminist values.”. Harris makes a number of great points about Beyoncé being in a lose-lose situation due to her race and celebrity status. This article raised awareness in my own judgment of not just Beyoncé, but other celebrity feminists as well. It is not always easy for me to remember that being in control of your own sexuality and deciding to dress in a way that makes you feel sexy is not always bowing down to the patriarchy. If Beyoncé or anyone else chooses to dress in a manner that happens to coincide with what the majority of the straight male population finds sexy, that doesn’t compromise their independence or feminism. The key is the choice. When you feel like there is no choice, that’s when the patriarchy won.