CFP: Reality Television: Fairy Tale or Feminist Nightmare? (12/1/03; journal issue)

full name / name of organization: 
Sujata Moorti
contact email: 

Thanks for alerting me to this issue. Here it is:

CFP: Reality Television: Fairy Tale or Feminist Nightmare?
Feminist Media Studies 4(1) Criticism and Commentary Section

Deadline: December 1, 2003
Length: 1,000-1,500 words (5-6 pages typed, double-spaced)

?Big Brother,? ?Survivor,? ?Temptation Island,? ?Joe Millionaire,? ?For
Love or Money,? ?Pop Idol,? ?The Bachelor,? ?Fear Factor,? ?Married by
America,? ?

?Reality? shows have exploded on television screens around the world. The
latest ?hot commodity? dominating television programming these shows have
captured astonishing viewer ratings. While a decade ago MTV?s Real World
inaugurated this genre of programming ? accentuating a voyeuristic gaze
among audiences and an exhibitionistic streak among participants ? in the
last two years it has moved from being a fad to become a staple on
television lineups. US television, for instance, has focused on creating
ever more (apparently) unscripted ?human experiment? type shows, at the
expense of other genres such as the prime time serial. Journalistic
accounts indicate that audiences are either riveted by what their
supporters describe as compelling insights into the human condition, or
find them boring and unattractive. Given the voyeuristic impulse of this
genre and the vastly divergent responses it evokes, we seek to use the
criticism and commentary section to highlight gender as a crucial variable
in this phenomenon.
The economics of ?reality television? production ? cheap telly - might
explain why programmers rely on them to capture the ?ideal? youth audience.
But what accounts for their popularity with viewers? Among the many
questions which are thrown up by the preponderance of ?housemate? shows
such as Big Brother and Survivor, as well as the more traditional dating
shows, are: do these shows reflect changing social mores, especially of
relationships between women and men who meet as strangers? When a nation of
viewers selects the ideal mate for a contestant, what does this practice
signify? Does the prevalence of these shows alter modern conceptions of
heterosexual romance, and do viewer preferences reinforce or challenge
traditional stereotypes about the ideals of femininity and masculinity? Why
do the embarrassment and humiliation that are an important part of the
format of such shows enthrall audiences and are there gendered dimensions
to this phenomenon? One producer asserts that the shows appeal to a
?female-oriented audience and the females want to see the romance.? Is the
ubiquity of this genre on prime-time schedules an industry acknowledgement,
albeit tacitly, of the significance of the female viewer or are women being
cynically targeted for what they are worth to the advertisers? Does the
popularity of Queer Eye for a Straight Guy herald a new openness to gay
male identity or does it recapitulate gay stereotypes packaged in a new
format? Television programming?s ability to cross national and cultural
borders has long been acknowledged by scholars. What sense then can we
make of the international popularity of this brand of programming? Does
the makeover mania that is a running thread in these shows alert us to new
transnational practices of body regulation? Overall, does this genre of
programming herald new conceptions of public and private spheres?
We are seeking short papers which address any aspect of gender and reality
television, along the lines of our interests identified above but other
foci will also be warmly embraced. We are interested in exploring the forms
of cultural citizenship these programs enable and the specific modalities
through which the shows recode civic and social rituals. We also invite
essays that explore how this particular form of documentary, the
fly-on-the-wall gaze, has rewritten televisual representational practices.
Through a focus on gender we want to render visible what these modern
fables connote about contemporary society and gender roles.

The deadline for this call is December 1, 2003 ? please submit your
contributions by email attachment to both of us. The following website
contains the style guideline for Feminist Media Studies:

If you would like to discuss submitting a contribution to this volume,
please email us at:

We look forward to receiving your essays. Please pass on this CFP to
anyone you think might be interested in contributing. As always, please
feel free to submit book or film reviews which you think would be of
interest to the FMS readership.

Sujata Moorti
Associate Professor
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529


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Received on Thu Oct 02 2003 - 01:53:13 EDT