Reality TV, ritual, ritualization, Couldry, ideology, media rituals, celebrification, gamedoc, Big Brother, naturalization, authenticity, cinema vérité, performer, television, social norm, behaviour, governmentality
"Media rituals are actions that reproduce the myth that the media are our privileged access point to social reality" (p. 60) Couldry argues in Reality TV: Remaking television culture (2004). This myth is particularly significant in reality TV whose claim is to present real life. Thus, if rituals are actions that have a larger meaning then media rituals are at the core of reality TV programs. But not only do they legitimize reality TV as a social reality broadcaster, they also participate in promoting norms and behaviours, an ideology while keeping it hidden.
What sorts of rituals are at work and to mask which ideology? How do they give an impression of reality and authenticity? How is ideology naturalized and enforced in reality TV? And finally why are reality TV shows a useful tool to ideology?
[...] The presence of a figure of authority stops people from contesting the myth. The ritual of liveliness enables viewers (even if outside the house) to get the sense that they are following an event from within (Dayan and Katz, 1992) and that this event is not fake. There are cameras in every corner of the house recording 24/7. Viewers feel that they are shown everything that is happening, that the housemates cannot escape their observation. Indeed, Big Brother follows the pattern of cinema vérité: the presence of the camera is supposed to make people behave in a way that is truer to their nature, to reveal their true-selves. [...]
[...] But in fact, gamedocs are “social processes” through which social norms and behaviours are promoted, an ideology is naturalized (Couldry, 2004). They “take real individuals and submit them to surveillance, analysis, and selective display as means to entertainment and enhanced audience participation” (Couldry p. 72). This process of surveillance at the core of reality TV is the condition to create adhesion to the dominant ideology, to create social order. Indeed, the housemates are under the surveillance of the audiences but also under their own. They know they are being observed and judged so they become their own supervisor. [...]
[...] The myth that reality TV presents social reality is embodied in several rituals. “Ordinariness” particularly, broadcasting banal, everyday routines through a continuous monitoring, works as a confirmation of this myth. Indeed, ordinary, mundane actions carry the idea that what the viewers are watching is “the reality that would exist without the media being there” (Couldry p. 288). Ordinariness helps them relate to the people in the show, they behave similarly. It gives a sense of authenticity and group membership. Viewers identify to the housemates. [...]
[...] Ouellette (Eds.), Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture (pp. 57-74). New York: NYU Press. Dayan, D., & Katz, E. (1992). Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [...]
[...] Thus, reality TV is particularly useful to ideology because, as an element of governmentality, it forces people to maintain the social order and teaches them to supervise themselves. Reality TV programs hide, broadcast, and naturalize ideology. Works cited: Couldry, N. (2002). Playing for Celebrity: Big Brother as Ritual Event. Television & New Media, 283-293. Couldry, N. (2004). Teaching Us to Fake It: Ritualized Norms of Television's ‘Reality' Games. In S. Murray & L. [...]
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