In Episode 7 of the “Wider Angle” podcast, the guest was Danielle J. Lindemann, sociologist and author of the book “True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us.”
In 2017, among the top 400 shows to air on U.S. television, 188 were reality TV. Lindemann explains in the podcast how this genre emerged as well as different historical factors that made it take off and become widely popular.
“From the cost-benefit analysis, it really benefits the networks,” says Lindemann, because these shows are not expensive and don’t take much time to make. But despite its popularity, there is still a “hierarchy of acceptance” within reality TV, and this form of entertainment is still “often ridiculed.”
Lindemann says she wrote this book not as a critique of reality TV but as “a love letter to sociology.” She asserts that we need to take reality TV seriously as a cultural object, because of what it can tell us about our families, friend groups, or how we think of subjects as different as fashion and sports and immigration. “Nearly every aspect of life is touched on in reality TV in this kind of magnified form,” says Lindemann. So, it can be a compelling means of teaching us about different inequalities that exist in our culture or social norms about gender, race, class and sexuality.
Lindemann also elaborates on why watching reality TV is not a passive experience, because in some ways it makes the viewers interlocked and committed to this kind of program through a multi-platform engagement.
In the podcast, Lindemann underlines, “Reality TV still trafficks in these archetypes and by seeing these archetypes thrown together, we can really start to understand in a really magnified way the kind of pull of our personal socialization in shaping who we become as individuals.”
Listen or watch the conversation to learn why regardless of what we may think of reality shows, they are a powerful force in contemporary culture, including politics. It is available wherever you get your podcasts, and you can watch the conversation on New Lines magazine’s YouTube channel here.
“Wider Angle” is produced and hosted by Riada Asimovic Akyol.