Home About Feed Archives Contact

Books: Reality Bites Back

April 9, 2011 | Advertising,Books,Ethics,Feminism,Jennifer Pozner,Journalism,Media,Media literacy,MTV,Television,Women

She had me at, “I call bullshit” (on p. 14 of the Introduction.)

“She” is Jennifer Pozner, and the book is Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV. This is actually the last book I read last year. Yes. I’m that far behind. So let me get to it.

Pozner set out to explain our “social beliefs” and how networks, advertisers and media owners exploit them for profit through reality television — and what we can do about it. I must say, she did a mighty fine job.

She drags reality television, kicking and screaming, out into the light of day and shows it for what it is. I can’t help but think of this page of photographs of women arrested for prostitution.*

On the surface, reality television looks all sparkly and pretty and maybe even a little princess-y. (That’s my nod to Peggy Orenstein. More on her book in a later post.) Or, at the very least, clean and presentable. It’s all the soft lighting, candles and makeup. (Well, until we get to Jersey Shore.) In the harsh sunlight, though, reality television looks more like the last picture on each row of photos (their eighth arrest) than the first.

Pozner doesn’t admonish anyone for watching reality television. Instead, she wants to educate everyone about media literacy, critical thinking and healthy skepticism.

She covers everything from “twisted fairy tales,” in which humiliation is the flip side of “happily ever after,” to supermodel shows, eating disorders and battered self-esteem.

She mentions a red-carpet moment at the 2009 Emmys, where Ryan Seacrest told Jenna Fischer, “Congratulations on being a size 0,” as if that were a laudatory achievement — disappearing into nothing. (Now I know why it bothered me so much how Seacrest fawned all over Jennifer Hudson this year, after she showed up everywhere thinner than ever, thanks to a contract she signed with a weight-loss company.)

Pozner only mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer a couple of times in the book, but I knew she was a fan, believing Buffy to be a strong, positive female character. A feminist, even. Wow, I thought. I’ve never had the slightest interest in watching that show. I was far enough removed from high school that a cast of high-school students had little appeal. (OK. So that doesn’t explain why I enjoy Glee now, although there is a tiny Joss Whedon thread there, I suppose.) Besides, I cut my eye teeth on Stephen King. I figured I’d had enough ghoulishness to last a lifetime.

But the topic kept popping up, and I started to wonder, should I at least watch one episode.

Nah. Why should I? I don’t need to waste my time on that. (*cough*)

Apparently, my possessed dvr had other ideas. (Yeah, I think I’ll start calling it Christine now.) I sat down one night in my comfy chair, checked my list of recorded shows and chose RuPaul’s Drag Race. (OK. Now you know. RuPaul is my guilty-pleasure TV.) There were several episodes, so I thought I’d settle in and catch up. Guess what came on? Buffy. I swear. On every single RuPaul show. Somebody thought I should watch some Buffy, so I did. And I could see what Pozner was saying.

She also covers everything else — from embedded advertising to unapologetic misogyny, racism and violence. She watched hundreds of hours of reality television … so I don’t have to. She went behind the scenes to explain how things work and whose interests drive reality television. Guess what. It’s not your interests. She ends with a section of media literacy and a ton of great resources.

It really is a must-read.

“If we care about independent thought, artistic integrity, and cultural diversity, we must demand that programming improve, not accept its erosion with a yawn.” (p. 295)

Amen.

*This is a copy of page 246 in Carolyn B. Maloney‘s book Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting Any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters, which I wrote about a while ago. It was originally published by Prism magazine in 2007, and Maloney said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.
Posted by Becky @ 9:53 am | Comments  

Music: Choo Choo

January 31, 2010 | Music

I <3 Twitter. Don’t you? It is SO full of awesome. And, OMG, the music. I follow some of my favorite musicians on Twitter, and I’ve found some great music I probably never would have found otherwise. The Snake Charmers? Hello. Rock!

I’ve followed Choo Choo, a band from Switzerland, for a while (@choochootheband). I finally ordered their CD, and it arrived the other day, so I listened to it. Oh, what fun. They describe their sound as 1960s teenage beat and Indie pop. And, yeah, I hear the 1980s resurgence of the 1960s in there. They remind me just a touch of Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS are way more hillbilly, but something is similar, especially the frantic drums) with a dash of The Finnsters, who could do a mean Steppin’ Stone back in the day. They’re working on a new album right now, and I think it’s due out later this year. Go, Choo Choo!

(Speaking about SCOTS, did I ever tell you about them, Skipper’s and Stephen King? Eh, another day, then.)

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 3 Comments  

Books: 2009 in review

January 18, 2010 | 2009,Books,Stephen King,Stieg Larsson

Here’s what I read in 2009.

I made a list of Iowa books and authors.
I also participated in a SHE WRITES call to action.

Books I haven’t read yet but should.

Any other suggestions?

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 10 Comments  


  • Elsewhere


  • View Becky Gjendem's profile on LinkedIn

    Follow BeckyDMBR on Twitter


    Somebody likes me