Posted byat 15th November, 2010
One night this past summer, my friend Elisa saw something that shocked her. She told me she was at a bar when two women got into an argument and began yelling at each other as if they were children. The way the conflict ended? One woman threw her drink at the other woman.
“Can you believe that?” Elisa exclaimed. “I don’t think those women would have acted like that if it weren’t for reality TV. People are seeing this stuff on TV and thinking that’s an appropriate way to act!”
Over the last few years, I’ve had several conversations with friends about how damaging reality TV can be, but I lacked the information to make a strong case against it. That’s why I’m so excited about Jennifer L. Pozner’s new book Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV. Pozner spent hours upon hours watching and transcribing shows like The Bachelor, America’s Next Top Model, Flavor of Love, and Wife Swap to identify the media messages found in these popular, widely-watched programs.
Pozner is a well-respected media critic and members of the Woodhull community may already be familiar with Pozner’s organization Women in Media and News, a non-profit she founded in 2001. I met Pozner through Woodhull six years ago when she was on a panel for a Woodhull event, so I wanted to let Woodhull women know more about her work and her new book.
In the introduction of Reality Bites Back, Pozner writes about the need for the book: “Too often what passes for discussion about reality TV is limited to ‘Wow, that bitch was crazy!’ or ‘Should this dater/singer/model be eliminated?’ We need a deeper debate in this country about the meaning and implications of reality TV’s backlash against women’s rights and social progress.”
To help promote the book, Pozner launched a series of webisodes where she plays the role of “Dr. Jenn” and counsels reality TV characters back to real life. Actors portray characters like “The Desperate Bachelorette” and “The Angry Black Woman,” and Dr. Jenn de-programs them through rehab therapy sessions.
I’m posting the trailer for the webisodes here, and the seven videos can be found on the Reality Bites Back blog.
I hope Pozner’s book will fuel many discussions about how reality TV is negatively impacting our culture. And hopefully, in the future, none of us will ever have to witness grown women behaving like some tired stereotype, the way Elisa did that night at the bar. After all, drinks are for drinking, not throwing.