GEND 2056 – March

Scroll down for webnotes from earlier in the month

March 29 2016
Survivor

Key concepts: race as social construct / racial formations; essentialism; postracial; colourblind; race cognizant / anti-racist; whiteness as unmarked; minorities as representing “their group” (Ragan Fox addresses this issue as well) and the privilege of being seen as an individual; model minorities

A note on language and racial categories: American and Canadian norms

As an initial observation, which “races” are already written out of existence within the Survivor framework?

As you’ll see when we watch the opening sequences, in dividing up the teams by race, there is an ambivalence about how “race” is understood, especially when it is used interchangeably with the word “ethnicity.”

Race as social construct / racial formations: Contemporary genetic research has done much to discredit these early notions of biologically distinct races, and as it turns out there is more genetic similarity between “races” than there is within them. Our genetic diversity is pretty evenly distributed over the entire species.

As historian Barbara Fields wrote in 1990: “Anyone who continues to believe in race as a physical attribute of individuals, despite the now commonplace disclaimers of biologists and geneticists, might as well also believe that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy are real, and that the earth stands still while the sun moves” (53, Grewal and Caplan).

This is not to say that “races” do not exist in any sense. Race is very real in a social sense and the belief in races still has a huge impact on the ways in which we are able to live our lives. Race has become a social fact, with all-too-real consequences for the distribution of wealth, prestige, and opportunity.

Another phrase that is commonly used to refer to race as a social construct is “racial formations.” This language captures how ideas about race and about specific races have changed dramatically over time, continue to change to this day, and will continue to change in the future.

A note on using “race” and “ethnicity” interchangeably.

Drew posits that racialized people are often represented as having a recognizable and “shared ethnicity” even when they originate from very diverse countries or communities, or when their families have been in the US for decades or forever.

Drew signals another important aspect of representing race when she says that understandings of race may be essentialist—meaning that racial differences are imagined to be biologically based, inborn or innate (different words, same meanings).

Her title reads, “Pretending to be post-racial.” What does it mean to “pretend to be postracial”?

Postracial signals the belief that “we have moved beyond race and that race no longer structures our thinking or our actions” (Esposito, 2009, 522-533). As Hasinoff writes, such an approach denies “the political importance of race” and “conceives of racism as a problem of individual opinions and not economic structures” (328).

As an example of such thinking, Drew quotes Survivor’s executive producer who “insisted that he ‘knew people would never judge each other by skin color’ (Carter 2006, 2)” (327).

Postracial discourse is a newer incarnation of the notion of the “colour-blind society” which similarly asserts that “we no longer see color [and] that the color of one’s skin will not determine [a person’s] life chances” (Esposito, 2009, 522). Colour-blind and postracial thinking silence any acknowledgement of racial privilege or injustice.

Drew claims that 89 percent of the “colour-blind” comments on Survivor were made by people of color. She claims that “[b]y presenting racial minorities as the champions of the insignificance of race, Survivor offered proof positive of a postracial society, in which even the racially oppressed hail the insignificance of a racialized stratification system” (338). Whether this is through editing, or they specifically cast non-white people who have internalized the colour-blind discourse, or whether these racialized contestants believed that it might be strategic to espouse this belief, we don’t know. But, Drew is arguing that “colour-blind” or postracial claims—when espoused by anyone—serve to “mask or cloak the reality of racism today, diminishing or downplaying its significance” (Esposito, 2009).

It’s important to note that recognizing race or racial categories is not in-and-of-itself a bad thing. Recognizing or acknowledging race is not synonymous with being racist. We need to recognize racial categories if we want to understand how race operates through individuals and institutions. We need to talk about race if we ever want to talk about racial privileges or injustices.

In contrast, a race-cognizant or anti-racist approach tends to actively recognize power, privilege and domination relating to race. There is a willingness to acknowledge racism and racial privilege, and to see race as structuring society, while working actively toward a more equitable system.

The authors have already referred to “inferential racism” (Kraszewski) or “new racism” (Drew), some even call it “laissez-faire racism,” to denote more “subtle” or informal forms of oppression that have emerged. We see the effects of racism in society even though very few people would ever claim to be racist. As a result, scholars are looking today at how racism has been “updated” and “disappeared.”

By combining postracial thinking (“we are past race and it no longer effects our lives”) with a belief in a meritocracy (“success is based on hard work and not privilege”) it becomes easy to blame marginalized people for any failure to achieve and for privileged people to see their successes as well-earned and deserved.

In true panopticon style, the belief that we live in a meritocracy may promote guilt and self-blame in all people because it encourages us to believe that our successes and failures are largely a matter of personal responsibility instead of the result of systemic oppression or privilege.

Arguably, the belief in a meritocracy tends to keep us inwardly focused—constantly trying to improve ourselves—or laterally focused on each other, rather than thinking more broadly about how society continues to be structured by race, class and sex no matter how hard we work on ourselves. We become distracted away from systemic issues and focus more on individual successes and failures. Comments? Questions?

Let’s watch the start of Survivor 13 and think through some of the claims made about race and ethnicity:

I believe that the contestants are specifically being asked by the production crew (off camera) what they think about the “tribes” being divided by race:

Ozzy: “My first thought when I saw the tribes were split right along racial lines was, ‘Oh god, this is gonna be hard.’ Because, I feel like, as a people who have the same ethnicity maybe we’ll kind of clash on things.”

Sundra: “I could care less about divisions by ethnicity. When it comes to surviving, it’s a human effort.”

Yul: “I honestly was stunned. I mean this is crazy. I mean on one hand I think this is a great opportunity because I think it’s wonderful that there’s more minorities. At the same time I’m a little bit worried that it might play to caricatures and stereotypes. So, I don’t know, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Yul’s comments mirror Drew’s when she writes, “This absence of people of color in media representations is well documented and … they are either invisible, or reduced to narrow and limiting roles. When people of color are present in predominantly white series in prime time, there is usually a slot for one, which leads to heavy tokenization and reduction of communities of color to a monolith. In this way, one member of the minority group comes to symbolically represent the entire racial group … Tokenization tends to flatten the differences within communities of color and produces an image of the group as monolithic and without a diversity of experiences and views (Riggs 1995; Smith 2008)” (330).

As we will see, it is only the non-White “tribe” members who ever speak about how their race is represented or about how they or their non-white team members need to represent their race positively.

Drew and Kraszewski (who wrote about The Real World) both note that white people are generally not seen as “representing their race.”

This reminded me of Ragan Fox’s article because he makes a similar point about being the “gay guy” on Big Brother. He writes about his “roommate” Hayden saying to him, “Ragan, you are an awesome representative of the gay community.”

Fox similarly makes the point that for minority groups, the one is seen as representing the whole, while one of the privileges of dominance is that you are not likely to be seen as representing your group. No one is likely to say, “Hayden, you are an awesome representative of the heterosexual community” because all he has done, as Fox explains, is eat, sleep and play a game.

Additionally, Fox says, “I, unlike Hayden, have to serve as an exemplar of a historically marginalized group and play a game known for lying and backstabbing” (205). He has to lie, backstab and be a “pillar of his community.” This observation resonates with the non-White people on Survivor. They have to backstab, lie, manipulate and be “positive” role models for “their community.”

Parvati: “Different ethnic groups, I mean, is that kosher? I don’t know, but it’s a cool social experiment, I think.”

In this introduction to the season, we already see competing and contradictory claims about race and ethnicity.

We’re going to keep watching as the “tribes” set up and try to understand Drew’s assertion that “the season exposed how the ‘old’ problems of racism—and of racial representations in television—still reveal themselves in the post–civil rights era” (327). She suggests that “[d]espite creating a social experiment to demonstrate how insignificant race is, every racial group was represented in ways that are consistent with dominant racial ideology in the United States and with the prevailing representations in television” (334).

Drew argues that the series reproduces commonly held beliefs that reflect American tropes of racism:

  1. “Latinos as hard-working and animal-like” (335)

Drew writes, “Since four of the five Latino competitors were eliminated during the first third of the season, the diversity within the Latino community, in terms of ethnicity, culture, class, generation, and other axes of identity, was not adequately represented. However, the one remaining Latino survived the entire season and captured a great deal of essentialist and dehumanizing attention from the host and fellow competitors. He was described early in the season as a ‘picture out of jungle book and Mogley climbing the tree.’ The cameras showed at least one shot each week of him climbing up a tree with bare hands or single-handedly accomplishing a task that likely required several people” (335).

  1. “Asian Americans as ‘Model Minorities’ and ‘Perpetual Foreigners’” (336)

What does it mean to refer to Asian-Americans as “model minorities”?

Historically, model minorities have been pitted against other minorities: “They are succeeding, so you can too / so why aren’t you?” Model minorities may also be held up as examples for why affirmative action programs, for example, are unnecessary. The “model minority” designation can be a strategy for pitting minority groups against each other and as Drew explains, this notion can also hide the actual challenges that Asian-Americans or Asian-Canadians, for that matter, face in their everyday lives as racialized people.

Drew writes, “Racial representations in prime time also promote a conflation of race with ethnicity, in which every Latino person is assumed to be Mexican, or any Asian American is assumed to be Chinese. By creating a diverse cast, with 75 percent people of color, the season avoided both invisibility and tokenization and presented the diversity of experiences within racial groups” (330-331).

Drew explains, “Upon their racial grouping, Asian American tribe members were not initially shown discussing the racial segregation of the teams. Instead, their focus was largely on the one team member: an elder and immigrant from Vietnam. (He was also the producers’ focus, receiving more camera time than any other competitor, despite being on the island for only six weeks.) Survivor fetishized Asian identity by highlighting his behaviors, while giving very little airtime to the other four Asian Americans who seemed to do only ‘American’ things” (336).

A note on racialized masculinities in contrast to unmarked white masculinities

  1. “Black Culture: Keepin’ It Real” (334)

Drew observes that “African Americans’ comfort with one another was shown as being a comfort with an essentialized blackness. Right away, four of the five tribe members made reference to their group as ‘family’ and often to being ‘the black community,’ even calling themselves ‘blood.’ The tribe was shown deploying what they essentialized as ‘black humor’ and laughing a great deal with one another, from cracking jokes about ‘having a dream,’ to building their shelter on the island and referring to it as ‘low-income housing,’ to commenting on one another’s inability to swim” (334-335).

Drew places such representation into a larger context of audience reception when she writes, “The consumption of reality TV as ‘real’ is confirmed by Larson (2006), who argues in her analysis of The Apprentice (NBC, 2004–), viewers are more likely to accept the ‘bad black’ stereotype, as embodied by Omarosa, because she was a ‘real person’ in ‘real situations’ than they are to accept the same stereotype in film, television, and other media not purporting to be ‘reality.’ However, as critical media analysis suggests, ‘reality’ television is as heavily produced as scripted ‘fictional television,’ and its products are ultimately subject to the same rules and logics of the producers and parent company (Andrejevic and Colby 2006)” (330).

  1. “Making Whiteness Invisible and Normal” (336)

Drew commends Survivor: “By producing a season with explicitly racialized tribes, Survivor also defied the significant and normalized practice in prime-time television of making whiteness invisible. Through constructing a ‘white’ tribe and calling attention to whiteness as an identity, a worldview, and a set of cultural norms, the program named the reality that white is not simply the universal, neutral, or default state of being. Competitors and the viewing audience alike were forced to grapple with the ‘reality’ that white is not simply ‘unraced’ but that the group itself has ‘tribal’ affinity and racialized ways of seeing, experiencing, and articulating life” (342).

Drew explains how postracial assertions disappear in the final “tribal council:” “One the most pronounced characteristics of ‘postracial’ logic is that it is explicitly self-contradictory. This was evident in the concluding episode of the season when the final three competitors (all people of color) pleaded their case for victory by using an explicit racial reasoning. They were presented as playing on racial loyalties and requested that racial reasoning be one of the considerations of the voting jury. Although the Asian American female finalist was shown to say very little (reproducing her silence and invisibility throughout the season), both men of color centered their pleas around the ‘lack of positive representation of minorities on TV’ and ‘wanting to represent in a way that disproves those stereotypes’” (339).

Finally, Drew writes: “Whether it is the contestants who vote, the judges who eliminate, or the bachelors who select their mates, the rationale provided in reality television is often a racially codified (white) discourse that explains people of color’s value (whether to keep or eliminate) in explicitly nonracial terms. So while people of color make up the smallest percentage of contestants in reality programming, they are often the first eliminated, though this gets explained as simply not ‘fitting in,’ not being a ‘team player,’ or making others ‘uncomfortable.’… In this way, the program’s contestants bring racialized worldviews from their lives outside of the competition into this socially constructed life on the island; thus, they do not start from scratch. Television creators and producers have also been socialized into the dominant ideologies of their society and reproduce them subconsciously in their construction of television” (331).

March 22 2016
America’s Next Top Model

I’m back! To deal with the missed class, I am willing to drop any of the upcoming three readings: McMurria; Drew; or Draper. My suggestion is that we drop McMurria. Although this article is excellent, fascinating and I love it, I think that the other two articles will make for a nice ending for the course. Drew’s article on Survivor will continue many of the themes that we have already discussed and Draper’s analysis of the representation of Adam Lambert on American Idol gives us issues that are completely unique so far in this class. Your thoughts?

Research essay 30%  Due April 5 2016
Students will be asked to choose a reality TV program and create an original critical textual analysis that draws extensively on the course readings (minimum of three) and incorporates one academic journal article (not from the course readings). In addition to the required textual analysis, you may research the series’ audience, ratings, history, production, marketing and scheduling. The essay should be a minimum of 6 pages and a maximum of 7 pages. This minimum and maximum do not include the bibliography or a title page (optional). Please use a recognized style: APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago.

I have also created a new page to help you in the essay writing process: Click here. 

Key concepts: flexible capitalism (con’t); flexibility of workers under neoliberalism, especially young women; overcoming hardship through flexibility; marketing racial ambiguity / flexibility; privileging Standard American English; post-race discourse; speech and language coded with race and class; neoliberalism (yes!)

Flexibility comes up in many different ways in Hasinoff’s analysis. I want to cover:

  1. review of flexible capitalism
  2. flexibility of workers under neoliberalism, especially young women
  3. overcoming hardship through flexibility
  4. marketing racial ambiguity (detour into ethnic, All-American, and other coded ways of implicitly marking race)
  5. conforming to Standard American English (SAE)

Last week we talked about “flexible capitalism.” What does that refer to?

Under neoliberalism, government trade regulations have been loosened or removed and corporations are now in a better position to do what?

On the other side of this, in what ways does the contemporary worker need to be flexible to the needs of the market?

Hasinoff characterizes “the increasing demand for flexible, part-time, non-unionized, and low-paid labor, especially performed by women” as elements of neoliberalism (328-329). Why might it be that labour performed by women is increasing?

Hasinoff is especially interested in the representation of young women as workers. She writes, “Rhetorics of neoliberalism become particularly visible in representations of young women, who are produced as ideal neoliberal laborers because of their presumed work ethic, flexibility, and willingness to reinvent themselves for the labor market. Anita Harris argues, ‘‘[young women] have become a focus for the construction of an ideal late modern subject who is self-making, resilient, and flexible’’ (2004, p. 6)—this ideal citizen, the ‘can-do girl’ who is successful and career-oriented, is held up as an attainable norm for all young women, while the failed subject, the ‘at-risk girl,’ is depicted as a victim of ‘poor choices, insufficient effort, irresponsible families, bad neighbourhoods, and lazy communities’ (2004, p. 9)” (329).

Based on what you already know about neoliberalism how is the “can-do girl” represented as a good neoliberal citizen and how is the “at-risk girl” depicted as a bad neoliberal citizen?

Hasinoff focuses largely on the narrative of Danielle and I want to briefly introduce her to you before going into the examples of “flexibility.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7GocpqqGpQ

Hasinoff sees the challenges on ANTM as mirroring the flexibility that young workers are expected to show in the contemporary workforce. The contestants are expected to be able to be able to model under any conditions:


Literal and figurative: precarious labour and flexible workers

Top Model instructs the models that only in suffering though absurd modeling challenges—akin to how absurdly difficult it is to succeed in the neoliberal labor market—can they hope to win. A model neoliberal citizen must not only succeed at hanging upside down or crawling though mud, she must do so with a smile and with complete faith that the competition (and neoliberal capitalism) is fair” (339).

A more recent example from ANTM was when one of the regular cast members on ANTM—Yu Tsai—kept referring to a model from Toronto, Chantelle, as “Panda.”

“Danielle’s ‘sympathetic back story’ (Kim, 2004) is that she grew up with a single mother suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, and she makes vague but repeated references to her life of ‘hard knocks’” (332).

Similarly Keith Carlos, the winner of cycle 21 (up to 3:00 minute mark):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzxeRYkZ_Fs

How does overcoming hardship conform to neoliberalism and The American Dream?

In the case of Danielle, the winner of cycle 6, “Top Model proves that for the winner, racial, class, and regional background are not structural constraints but are merely the source of an unmarketable accent that she can overcome with hard work (332). Once again, how does this observation connect to neoliberalism?

Another form of flexibility that Hasinoff discusses is the marketing of racial ambiguity.

“Angharad Valdivia explains that ambiguous representations of racial difference are especially sought-after in commercial media. She points out, ‘Indeed, if the representation is brown but not too brown it has the potential of appealing to all, because it could be a tanned white, everything in between, and a light black’ (2005a, p. 313)” (330).

Hasinoff provides specific examples from ANTM of how the contestants pitch their racial ambiguity as a selling featureShe writes“Latina model Leslie uses her race as a selling point in an initial interview with the judges, as she explains, ‘I could bring a lot of diversity, a lot of versatility, because I can pass for Latina, I can pass for Asian, I can pass for black’ (1). Jade and Leslie are able to embrace their ambiguous racialization and construct it as a particularly valuable commodity for the modeling industry and as content for the show” (335).

Hasinoff explains that “the special commercial appeal of the ‘ambiguity’ of mixed-race women—which, in some contexts, is most marketable if it can refer to racial difference in general but to no race in particular—encourages the creation of a ‘neutral’ brownness that allows race to be superficially visible but politically invisible” (330-331).

“The new commercial appeal of mixed-race models can facilitate the continuing erasure of darker female bodies, as marketable lighter-skinned mixed race women can be positioned to stand in for all racial differences (Beltran, 2005; Valdivia, 2005a)” (330).

Another example that Hasinoff provides is of white Brooke, cycle 6 episode 7: Brooke / “LaBrooke”

Hasinoff argues that under neoliberalism even “racial ambiguity” is depicted as a form of flexibility that models can use to market and sell themselves.

I want to take a detour here to talk about how the language that we use often flags and masks ideas about race and class.

Hasinoff writes, “On Top Model, the beauty and attractiveness of the women of color—or even the white models who can appear ‘ethnic’—is often described in reference to their racialization, their exotic look, or their urban vibe, while whiteness is simply described as ‘classic’ and ‘American’” (334).

Hasinoff observes that “[w]hile models of color are praised for their exotic look, blonde-haired white models are referred to as ‘all-American’” (333).

What is generally meant if a model is said to look “All-American” or like the “girl-next-door”?

What are the implications of suggesting that this look is “All American”?

What does it mean to say that whiteness is unmarked?

What does it mean to say that someone or something is “ghetto”?

How are these words (ethnic, All American, girl-next-door, ghetto) messengers of race and class?

How are they also messengers of judgment?

Hasinoff writes, “In purportedly training contestants for success in the modeling industry, Top Model teaches them how to present a ‘blank canvas’ for clients that is in fact a performance that reflects elements of unmarked upper class whiteness demonstrated by speech, posture, attitude, personal grooming, and style. This ‘blank canvas’ demands that models of color embrace the superficial elements of their racialization while erasing any markers of class disadvantage, such as a working class rural Southern accent” (338).

This brings us to the final point on flexibility, conforming to Standard American English (SAE).

As Hasinoff writes, “The Standard American English (SAE) accent, known as the ‘Midwestern’’or ‘newscaster’ accent, is often constructed as the unmarked category of speech against which other US English dialects are judged as incorrect or inappropriate (Lippi-Green, 1997; Baugh, 2000; Filmer, 2003). While indeed many white Americans do not speak SAE, and many African Americans do speak SAE, the accent is a privileged invisible norm that is articulated to whiteness and to middle- and upper-class status” (336).

As Hasinoff writes, “Danielle’s struggle to change her accent is represented on the show and in mainstream news media in ways that negate political and structural meanings and erase race and class prejudice from the discussion. In most of the representations of Danielle changing her accent, the significance of such a shift is understood through the neoliberal trope of self-improvement—it is depicted as one of a number of essentially equivalent obstacles for her to overcome… Instead of acknowledging the racism and classism behind the assumption that Danielle needs to speak SAE to succeed, Top Model insists that the problem is a personal issue and that her accent is easily fixable” (336).

“The judges refer to Danielle critically as ‘country’ (9) and ‘ghetto’ (11)—the former referring to her as a rural Southerner and the latter as an impoverished inner-city black urban resident. Presumably the main point in the superficially conflicting labels country and ghetto is their mutual opposition to white and middle class and the impossibility of successfully marketing any trope of African American identity explicitly associated with poverty” (338).

Hasinoff gives examples of how the other Black women on cycle 6 speak and they have no problem when “mixed-race New Yorker Jade speaks with poor grammar and often makes up words such as ‘‘dwelve,’’ ‘‘withhandle,’’ ‘‘releasement,’’ and ‘‘considerating,’’ (10) none of the judges ever mention that it is a problem” (338).

She writes, “The problem with Danielle’s accent is not that it marks her simply as ‘Southern’ or ‘African American,’ since some African and African American accents are acceptable, such as Nenna’s and Furonda’s, and some Southern accents, such as Kathy’s, are still considered ‘All-American,’ but that it indicates a particular regional racialized class position that the judges deem unmarketable” (339).

“While Top Model is unable to conceive of profiting from a model with an African American rural working class Southern identity, the show eagerly promotes the narrative of the transformation of such a model into an urban, edgy, hip hop glam woman, which is a more recognizable trope of African American feminine beauty” (338).

Once again, hardship and disadvantage are presented as “something that can be overcome through hard work” (324). Danielle needs to be “flexible” enough to completely change the way that she speaks.

As Hasinoff sums it up, “Danielle’s win demonstrates the neoliberal principles of the structural irrelevance of race, the importance of individual responsibility, the necessity for workers to become flexible to the demands of the market, and the need to continually undertake projects of individual self-improvement to attempt to succeed within the constraints of the system” (326).

SIDEBAR ON THE TERM RACIALIZED: Definition of racialization from the Ontario Human Rights Commission: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/racial-discrimination-race-and-racism-fact-sheet

“Race” is a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), but like racial discrimination, it is not specifically defined. The Commission has explained “race” as socially constructed differences among people based on characteristics such as accent or manner of speech, name, clothing, diet, beliefs and practices, leisure preferences, places of origin and so forth. The process of social construction of race is called racialization: “the process by which societies construct races as real, different and unequal in ways that matter to economic, political and social life.”

Recognizing that race is a social construct, the Commission describes people as “racialized person” or “racialized group” instead of the more outdated and inaccurate terms “racial minority”, “visible minority”, “person of colour” or “non-White”.

Since “races” are now thought to socially constructed categories rather than biological / genetic realities, scholars increasingly use the language of “racialization” to identify race as a “social process.”

March 15 2016

TEAM 2056: I AM VERY SICK. CLASS CANCELLED. WE WILL RESUME NEXT WEEK WITH HASINOFF AND ANTM. WILL DROP OFF MIDTERMS AND CHECK EMAIL JUST AS SOON AS I AM MOBILE AGAIN.

March 8 2016
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

IWW2016

Remember IWW events! Lots of great talks, films and performances: http://www.nipissingu.ca/departments/external-relations/Pages/International-Womens-Week.aspx

Midterms not yet marked: I will mark intensively on Thursday and will email those students whose midterms are marked and ready for pick up at my my office on Friday. The rest will be ready by Monday. I will hang them in a bag off of my office door (A310) for pick-up. If you don’t pick up your paper, I will bring them all to class next week.

key concepts: differences between makeover TV that features men and women; camp; race and representation; “men act and women appear”; flexible capitalism; neoliberalism; technologies of the self; panopticon

Recap from last week. Give a general overview and address some of the points that I did not cover.

Last week Sender and Sullivan wrote about the makeover genre within reality TV. Within this makeover niche, there are some key elements that keep coming up:

surveillance;
reality TV as pedagogical (instructional / the “how to” of teaching);
“working on oneself” in terms of appearance (external) and the self (internal);
individual change, not social change;
neoliberalism;
privatization rather than public services / public money;
conspicuous consumption;
self-sufficiency; and
self-discipline / self-regulation.

The video last week talked about “the emotional labour of the participants.” 

“BEFORE” feelings: fear, insecurity, shame, anger at being criticized, feelings of failure, frustration and anxiety about appearance

“AFTER” feelings: celebration, gratitude, appreciation, happiness, relief

The video from last week says that their “emotional labour” hooks us. We feel for and with these people. We celebrate these emotional transformations where people become their “true self.” The emotional narrative tells us that through the makeover the authentic self is revealed.

As a counterpoint, Foucault’s theory of power says that there is no real or authentic self. He says that these people have simply moved from one socially constructed idea about themselves (they are bad / ugly / worthless) to another socially constructed idea about themselves that feels better. Foucault might say that there is no authentic or true self revealed, but simply a new citizen who conforms more to the state’s ideal of a good citizen and they are emotionally rewarded for becoming a more docile and self-sufficient citizen. What do you think about this idea that this is not a transformation into a “better” and more “true” self, but a transformation where the individual is emotionally rewarded for conforming to state ideals?

Postmodern self – no performance of self is real or authentic, just different discourses and forms of regulation

Modernist self – consistent, enduring, coherent and ahistorical self

This week the focus of the article is on makeovers for heterosexual men. This is quite unusual because we typically see women in the makeover genre, unless the makeover is a competition, as we discussed last week.

In the West there has tended to be greater emphasis put on what women / girls look like, whereas men / boys have tended to be judged more on what they do. In terms of representations it has been observed that “men act and women appear” (John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1972).

As the article for last week argued, makeover series focused on women tend to talk a lot about self-esteem (essentially whether you feel good or bad about yourself), whereas makeover shows that incorporate men tend to have a slightly different approach. For example, The Biggest Loser incorporates masculinity by focusing on competition, hard work and being productive.

Clips from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5dZ4QG7dW0

Discussion of masculinity, “grooming,” expanding markets and cultivating insecurities

Food and wine – Does this ever appear on the women’s makeover series? Where do we see the food and wine skills being put to use in the examples shown in the article? 

Culture – What does Sender say about this role?

The signpost at the intersection of straight and gay is also revealing. Sasha Torres is quoted in the reading as observing that “It is as crucial that the Fab Five are gay men as that they are gay men’’ (Torres, 2005, p. 96)” (141). Any thoughts on that claim? Agree? Disagree? 

Where did we first encounter the concept of “camp” in the readings?

Sender characterizes the Fab 5’s performances as “campy.” What is she referring to? What does she think is campy about the Fab 5?

“The Fab Five often present themselves as playful and childlike, disrupting domestic order, trying on clothes, and playing with kids’ toys. Camp distinguishes the straight guys’ … from the Fab Five’s joyous playfulness. As Sontag (1966) writes, ‘Camp is playful, anti-serious. More precisely, Camp involves a new, more complex relation to ‘the serious.’ One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious’ (p. 288)” (147).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV4pCQkbRbE

Sender sees camp as a move against neoliberalism. While the show clearly teaches these straight men and the viewers how to be a good neoliberal subject through getting married, having secure employment and “bettering yourself” through buying stuff, she says that the campiness with which this information is delivered runs counter to the neoliberal injunction to “grow up, be a man, get a wife, be an orderly professional.”

“Richard Dyer defines camp less as a property of people, objects, or texts, than as a ‘way of looking at things’ (Dyer, 2002, p. 52). Nothing in the straight guys’ homes is protected from camp deconstruction: Kyan dons chintz curtains as a robe and turban to offer ‘mystic’ advice on poker night; Carson takes pink feathers from a fly fisherman to decorate a tiara. Camp lifts the lid off bourgeois respectability, airing the dirty laundry. As John Verdi feeds his girlfriend chocolate sauce from his finger, Carson comments, ‘In our community that’s frowned upon, when you have a big brown wad. … Get rid of that’” (147).

What are the alleged “shortcomings” of “the straight guy” as represented on Queer Eye?

“The program suggests that after seeing themselves through borrowed queer eyes, these reformed heterosexuals will have had just enough training in romantic, female-friendly, hygienic living to function effectively in the straight world” (135).

“Much of the Fab Five’s task involves identifying the makeover candidate’s domestic shortcomings. The candidates’ apartments are so messy or dirty that they are too embarrassed to invite dates over. The Fab Five gleefully point out ‘DNA’ on the sheets, pull pornography from under the couch, observe bathtub grime thick enough to write a name in. When Thom declares, ‘This is all the culture you have in your home, right here,’ he is referring to mold on a shower curtain. The candidates’ limitations are also manifested in their appearance. Their clothes are scruffy, cheap, ill-fitting, or old-fashioned; their skin needs cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing; they have back hair, nose hair, and monobrows. Moreover, their romantic skills need buffing up. One straight guy is blamed for the ‘monogamy decline’ after three years of living with his girlfriend; another hasn’t remembered his wife’s birthday in years” (140).

How can a person be “too ethnic”?

Sender says that these changes to his image have everything to do with what the viewer is likely to buy and what they are not likely to buy: “The anxiety about being ‘too ethnic’ or ‘too Jamaican’ does not extend to food, however. Ted teaches Rob to make a spicy Caribbean fish stew to lubricate the first meeting between his beloved godmother and his new girlfriend. The show’s disavowal of Rob’s ‘ethnic’ tastes in decor and dress, compared with its ready adoption of Caribbean cuisine, makes sense within the show’s two rationales: to sell tastes and things to audiences, and to remake the candidate into a more ‘presentable’ straight guy. Whereas the audience may enjoy experimenting with ‘ethnic’ food as a fleeting pleasure, and can thus be sold the fish stew recipe, they are less likely to adopt Rob’s distinctively Afrocentric style in dress and decor” (139).

Sender ties these changes back into neoliberalism and making good “citizen-subjects”: “The de-racing of the men of color in the show—making Jamaican American Rob Monroe ‘less ethnic,’ Puerto Rican Philly Rojas ‘less hip hop’—may be a response to the even more precarious labor conditions faced by Black and Latino men than by white, lower-middle-class men. In a labor economy where the unemployment rate for African Americans is more than double the rate for Caucasians, racial signifiers may be dangerously associated with not ‘fitting’ in the workplace. If white men have to grow up and take responsibility in order to be both employable and good marriage material, men of color must additionally temper their ethnic style” (146).

What is needed to “fix” the “straight guy” participants on the show?

Do you think that Queer Eye for the Straight Girl features a group of lesbians making over a straight girl? Why or why not?

Put this series into a historical context. Since when are gay men thought to be “experts” who can help straight men?

According to Sender why is there is a cultural association between gay men, wealth and concern with appearances?

Since when are straight men thought to be in need of help?

She writes, “McGee (2005) considers the recent growth of the self-help industry as a governmental technology that helps subjects adjust to the new conditions of flexible capitalism. ‘Changing economic circumstances—declining real wages and increased uncertainty about employment stability and opportunities—created a context in which constant self-improvement is suggested as the only reliable insurance against economic insecurity’’ (p. 136).

Example: garment work

“As flexible capitalism put pressure on men’s employment and wages, more women were both free to and obliged to enter the workforce.” There is now greater competition for all jobs. These factors are said to have produced a ‘‘‘crisis in masculinity’ precipitated by new employment conditions (p. 38)” and necessary changes within the home to accommodate dual income families (136). 

“Many Queer Eye episodes acknowledge the threat of newly independent women to the candidates’ romantic marketability” (141). I might rephrase this… it’s not that there is a real threat, but rather that the financial imperative to marry has perhaps shifted.

‘‘With social welfare programs all but dismantled, and with lifelong marriage and lifelong professions increasingly anachronistic, it is no longer sufficient to be married or employed; rather it is imperative that one remains marriagable and employable’’ (McGee, 2005, p. 12)” (136). What does this mean?

After the “make-better” what are the “straight guys” supposedly better at?  

Sender writes, “While focusing on the labor of working for reality television … most critics have not addressed how makeover shows, especially, serve the labor economy beyond the television environment. Queer Eye trains participants to be better workers, endorsing ‘the spread of self-fashioning as a requirement of personal and professional achievement through the US middle-class labor force’ (Miller, 2005, p. 112). Many episodes involve direct interventions in the candidates’ professional lives. Philly Rojas, for example, has been in the same position at his graphic design company for four years, and his colleagues won’t show clients around the office because they think he looks unprofessional. Kyan observes, ‘It sounds like he’s not taking his professional life very seriously.’ The Fab Five get to work: Carson aims for a ‘dressed up hip hop [look] so you still look cool … but also so you are sophisticated at work so people give you credit.’ Ted teaches Philly the finer points of selecting wine and recommending dishes, not for pleasure but for professional development: ‘A great deal of business in American culture is done over dinner tables, and I think this should be part of your bag of tricks.’ These efforts are rewarded at a dinner party, where Philly’s boss enthuses, ‘I think the sky’s the limit as far as your career [goes]—I think you see it. I’m glad you are focused; it’s great to see you confident.’ What is at stake here, then, is not Philly’s competence as a graphic designer, which is never in question, but his self-presentation as someone who ‘takes his professional life seriously’” (bolding added, 145).

Sender writes, “Queer Eye’s emphasis on heterosexual romance is not independent of neoliberalism’s requirement to reshape the male labor force, but inherent to it. Coupled relationships privatize ‘the costs of social reproduction, along with the care of human dependency needs, through personal responsibility exercised in the family and civil society—thus shifting costs from state agencies to individuals and households’ (Duggan, 2003, p. 14). Insofar as flexible capitalism has helped destabilize the nuclear family in the past thirty years, its survival simultaneously depends upon the family as a form of privatized welfare in the post-welfare era” (146). This is in keeping with what the other authors have been arguing.  

Sender notes an irony about a bunch of gay Americans training up straight guys to propose to their girlfriends and be “better” husbands. What is the irony?

Let’s watch a clip from Queer Eye and then talk about consumption, surveillance and shame. I want you to pay attention to the different levels of surveillance, as well as how the “straight guy” feels when he is not self-regulating in the way that they are training him to be. While some of these episodes are fun and heart-warming, this one is truly hard to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idkUfR2VpFs

As we will see, “The candidates’ domestic and romantic shortcomings are diagnosed as largely a result of inadequate consumption. This leads to endless product placement sequences in which the hosts teach the usually baffled candidate not only what to buy, but how to use this dazzling array of new products” (140).

Queer Eye uses [gay men] in a renewed attempt to solve the ‘problem’ of the male consumer, a problem that has plagued advertisers and media producers at least since the debut of Esquire magazine in 1933 (Breazeale, 1994). With few exceptions–classically, electronics, cars, tools, and pornography–white, heterosexual men have proven hard to train as consumers, especially of ‘intimate’ goods usually associated with women” (133).

“This subject is the ideal makeover candidate, since he provides the rationale for a television show whose content is almost entirely concerned with how to consume more products, in a genre that relies on product placement to sell goods to viewers. But underlying this training in consumption is a more fundamental project: reworking straight guys into more effectively self-monitoring citizens” (141).

Sender writes this: “In another episode, perhaps one of the most painful of the first season, Alan Corey needs a makeover because he’s pathologically cheap: he buys his clothes at thrift stores and retrieves furniture from the street on trash day. The Fab Five make him over with products compatible with his thrifty sensibility. The one luxury is a beautiful vintage cocktail set. Left to prepare for the arrival of his parents, his girlfriend, and her parents, Alan is a disaster: panicking and bathed in sweat, the simple prosciutto and parmesan canapes Ted taught him to make seem impossibly complicated. The climax comes when he knocks the cocktail set to the floor, precipitating a self-hating diatribe as he sweeps up the glass: ‘That was the coolest thing in the world. … That’s why I don’t buy nice things. ‘Alan, don’t buy nice things. You will break them.’ The root of Alan’s cheapness is revealed: not a pragmatic thriftiness but a critical parental voice that tells him he does not deserve nice things. This is one of the few episodes that the hosts considered a failure, given Alan’s inability to recalibrate his low self-esteem” (144).

I question whether this is a “parental” voice, but I think this scene is very revealing.

Sender writes, “Queer Eye’s dominant technology for producing this real, mature self is surveillance, a fundamental characteristic of reality TV. Technological developments in camera and audio equipment allow the hosts, producers, and audiences to observe the makeover candidate’s most intimate gestures. But reality television also fosters an internalized mode of surveillance: Queer Eye exhorts participants to adopt the gaze of educators, trainers, and other experts.”

Sender writes, “Liberalism here is not a ‘doctrine or a practice of government’ (liberalism versus conservatism) but critique of government itself in order to govern less, to govern ‘at a distance’ (Barry, Osborne, & Rose, 1996, p. 8). This involves shifts from authoritarian government to individual responsibility; from injunction to expert advice; and from centralized government to quasi-governmental agencies and media, including television, as sources of information, evaluation, and reproach” (135).

“How does the neoliberal state, with its commitment to ‘govern society at a distance’ (Barry et al., 1996, p. 14), succeed in binding subjects to its fundamental cause—the willing participation of citizens in the generation of capital? Miller (1993) identifies ‘technologies of the self’ as a range of strategies by which subjects can be governed at a distance, since these strategies ‘are applied by individuals [to themselves]…’” (135).

Sender argues, “While Queer Eye’s project is ostensibly to improve basic life skills—how to shop, cook, dress, make a woman feel loved—the show simultaneously appeals to an ethics of self-transformation that is bound up with the production of an adult, responsible, worker-citizen. The show promotes technologies of the self with which candidates can engineer better, more fulfilling lives, including ‘responsibilization’ (Burchell, 1996, p. 29) and the internalization of surveillance. Like other makeover shows, Queer Eye embodies the neoliberal imperative to cultivate an autonomously calibrating self within a framework that privileges consumer choice over other modes of citizenship” (142).

Next week, Danielle and ANTM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7GocpqqGpQ 

March 1 2016
The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear

IWW2016

In partnership with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives, NUPerspective Campaign, Department of Fine and Performing Arts, Near North Mobile Media Lab, North Bay Film and Whitewater Gallery, the Department of Gender Equality and Social Justice will be hosting the following events in honour of International Women’s Week and Indigenous Week: http://www.nipissingu.ca/departments/external-relations/Pages/International-Womens-Week.aspx

We hope that you will attend these events!

Key concepts: holding individuals responsible for systemic issues; theories of power (con’t); neoliberalism (con’t); self esteem and the “true” / “authentic” self as forms of regulation (Foucault); state assistance vs. privatizing expenses to citizens or companies; surveillance and the panopticon of makeover TV; The American Dream (con’t); meritocracy; pedagogy; heterosexist

ALSO: Your papers are not yet marked.

Sender and Sullivan surveyed and interviewed fans of The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear, as well as a control group of people who were not fans, but were shown one episode of either series. This is audience reception research because they hear from actual viewers.
Social sciences

They also do some textual analysis when they pull out quotes and examples from each series to support their claims.
Humanities

To be clear, these authors are not anti-fat even though they adopt language that I think can certainly sound that way. Rather they are critical of the idea that body fat is always a sign of laziness, low self-esteem, etc. They are critical of the ways in which body fat is presented exclusively as a problem to be masked and hidden on What Not to Wear and an individualized problem to solved on The Biggest Loser. They are critical of some of the ways in which body fat and people who are often designated as “fat” are depicted on these shows. They are interested in what these shows project onto bodies.

In academia, “Fat Studies” is an area of research and people are reclaiming the use of the word “fat.” See for example:

“Fat Studies is an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary field of study that confronts and critiques cultural constraints against notions of “fatness” and “the fat body”; explores fat bodies as they live in, are shaped by, and remake the world; and creates paradigms for the development of fat acceptance or celebration within mass culture.  Fat Studies uses body size as the starting part for a wide-ranging theorization and explication of how societies and cultures, past and present, have conceptualized all bodies and the political/cultural meanings ascribed to every body.  Fat Studies reminds us that all bodies are inscribed with the fears and hopes of the particular culture they reside in, and these emotions often are mislabeled as objective “facts” of health and biology.  More importantly, perhaps, Fat Studies insists on the recognition that fat identity can be as fundamental and world-shaping as other identity constructs analyzed within the academy and represented in media.” From http://pcaaca.org/fat-studies/

Also, http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ufts20/current

Your thoughts on the article and / or the first student essay?

To my mind, The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear seem like very different kinds of TV shows. They don’t necessarily seem comparable. According to Sender and Sullivan what do these two series have in common? Why group them together in one analysis?

Sender and Sullivan suggest that both series guide the viewer to see body fat as something to be managed through wardrobe or through extreme weight loss: “…on makeover shows, as elsewhere on television, there can be neither an unapologetic nor an unexplained self-presentation as fat… the shows’ framing of fat [is] as a problem to be changed or disguised” (579).

This is much more subtle on What Not to Wear:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMQnV4HzmRI

On these shows, the contestants are told that their lives will be changed and improved post-makeover. How are the lives going to be better on Biggest Loser?

And What Not to Wear?

“Many regular viewers of both The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear framed the candidates’ need to lose weight in the terms offered by each show: most explicitly, as a crisis of health impacting the whole family in The Biggest Loser, or in terms of professional mobility and self esteem in What Not to Wear (579).

Both series emphasize consumption as integral to “getting better.” Capitalism and neoliberalism are bolstered as spending money is represented as integral to “making good choices.” Two brief examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMMCyFXchUk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OCXBjw7etU

Good consumption is key to “success,” whether that is eating “well” or looking “good.”

Love, Lust or Run before and after:

What are some of the critiques of these shows levelled by some of the viewers?

According to Sender and Sullivan how are these two series different?

How do Sender and Sullivan tie this observation to the greater prevalence of male viewers of, and participants on, The Biggest Loser?

Sender and Sullivan write: “In general, however, The Biggest Loser is somewhat more oriented towards addressing epidemics of will: male as well as female contestants work hard to overcome the effects of laziness and become more productive. On the other hand, What Not to Wear is more concerned with addressing self esteem: mostly female candidates need to care for the self in order to improve their confidence and consume more effectively” (581-582).

How does surveillance operate in makeover shows?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1-VlS5FQ_0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3kqfk1dUDc

On reality TV, participants trade their privacy for surveillance and access to $5,000 worth of clothing that they can’t afford, a home, a modelling contract, and so on.

Sender and Sullivan are most critical of what they see as audiences’ agreement that “epidemics of the will and failures of self-esteem are seen as both the cause and the outcome of the problems that makeover shows must address” (573).

Where health scholars, doctors, and health research often remind countries—including Canada—that they can fight obesity by fighting poverty, especially child poverty, television again overlooks systemic issues and holds individuals solely responsible for something that is also a widespread social issue.

Not an academic source, but it offers a brief overview of how such debates play out in the media: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/poor-and-fat-the-link-between-poverty-and-obesity-in-canadian-children-1.972762

Decreased access to sports and rec facilities might produce a lack of self esteem, rather than low self esteem producing a lack of interest in sports or exercise.

As with the pattern of representing racism on The Real World, or poverty on Judge Judy, individuals are held responsible for issues that are also societal in nature.

Rather than advocating for fighting poverty which is a difficult and complex problem that would likely require taxation and the involvement / intervention of the government—reality television focuses on changing the individual and blaming them.

“By focusing on being obese as a problem of the inner self, where diet and weight loss are matters of self-discipline and choice, these reality shows efface the broader contexts for weight gain, including the link between obesity and poverty (Davis et al. 2005)” (582).

In relation to the theories of power from last week, these reality TV series arguably suggest that people who have “too much” body fat, or “bad” teeth, or wear inexpensive clothing, do so because they make bad decisions.

Connect / contrast with Marxist theory of power

Connect / contrast with Liberal theory of power

The authors we have been reading suggest that rather than tackling complex social issues and advocating for state-spending to address social problems, reality television tends to offer simple individual solutions that usually involve private spending rather than public spending. This is in keeping with everything we have learned so far about neoliberalism (individualizing focus rather than a focus on systemic issues, spend any money except the state’s money, buy consumer goods and help capitalism expand). The authors suggest that television tends to frame social justice issues as individual problems with individual solutions.

Sender and Sullivan write, “Audiences read the crisis of the obese body in The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear within two primary frames: in The Biggest Loser being fat is both proof of and produces laziness, a lack of willpower; in What Not to Wear the badly dressed fat body is both the cause and the effect of a failure of self-esteem” (580). The authors are critical of how these shows present body fat solely in terms of interior failures of the individual. 

“On What Not to Wear, especially, being obese is framed as both the cause and the effect of candidates’ low self-esteem: their large, badly dressed bodies reveal broken hearts and self-sacrifice. The show’s emphasis on self-improvement through ‘good’ forms of consumption is couched as an obligation for women to care for the self, so no one else has to” (581). Again, like the Judge Judy article, these authors are arguing that What Not to Wear encourages women toward complete self-sufficiency that falls in line with neo-liberalism.

“[T]he chance of upward mobility that these shows promise necessitates that their lower middle and working-class candidates trade their privacy for the benefits of the televised gym, personal trainers, special diets, or a $5000 credit card they could never otherwise afford” (582).

As we discussed in the last class, consumption is emphasized and whose money is spent?

These researchers suggest that on television it is not the state or public services that help to make “better” citizens.

Self-sufficiency is emphasized again and again on these shows as a marker of self-respect and self-esteem.

I want to go over a few terms or phrases that will come up in the film:

The American Dream: What is it?

When a talking head in the film says that the United States is conceptualized as “a class free meritocracy” where “you rise and fall based on effort,” what does this mean?

meritocracy: “government or the holding of power by persons selected competitively according to merit” (OED); this belief is reflective of the liberal theory of power and antithetical to the Marxist theory of power (and its derivatives)

Which theory of power best reflects the American Dream?

schadenfreude: “the malicious enjoyment of another’s misfortunes” (comes up in the reading and the film) (OED)

pedagogy: teaching; the “how to” of teaching (makeover shows are often referred to as pedagogical by scholars)

reflexive: “focused on or concerning oneself” (OED)

heterosexist: “The assumption that all people are heterosexual; prejudice and discrimination against persons who are LGBT based on the assumption that heterosexuality is the only ‘normal’ sexual orientation and therefore preferable; Systemic display of homophobia in societal institutions, laws, and policies by excluding the needs, concerns, and life experiences of persons who are LGBT.”

The term heterosexist gets used in the film. The speaker uses the term to refer to the ways makeover series repeat the assumption that all men desire feminine women who are attractive in conventional Western terms. This is arguably a heterosexist assumption in the sense that not all men desire women. Further, we need to draw an intellectual boundary between what television shows tell us that “men” desire and, in turn, instruct male viewers on what they should want, and actual men who live and the world and have much more diverse desires and interests. What television tells us that “men want” is never to be confused with the actual desires of men who live in the world.

In a paper you would write, “The Swan presumes and informs viewers that heterosexual men prefer women with long straight blonde hair, large breasts…” and not “The women on The Swan are made over to look like every man’s dream…” Work hard to avoid confusing televisual ideas about men and women with ideas about actual men and women. Thankfully real people are way more interesting and have much more diverse tastes than television allows.

Also, people of color comprised approximately 39% of the US population in 2013.

Watch: Sender, K. (Producer & Director). (2014). Brand New You: Makeover Television and the American Dream [Film]. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation. 53 minutes.

How might makeovers reflect the American Dream?

On What Not to Wear what does it mean to “dress for the job you want”?

What might be the limits of the notion that you should “dress for the job you want”? Or the idea that shopping and self-esteem will solve the problems of life?

According to the article and the video, how are people of colour represented in these makeover series?

“Further, when race is mentioned at all, it is reduced in What Not to Wear to technical issues of how to enhance darker skin and curly hair. In The Biggest Loser, black communities’ assumed acceptance of obesity is framed as a communal lack of will and self-esteem, a heritage that black contestant Shannon must radically dissociate herself from. Here, fat is not only evidence of Shannon’s inner dysfunction but also a cultural dysfunction too” (582).

And on plastic surgery shows?

The video talks about “the emotional labour of the participants.”

What are the “before” feelings on makeover shows?

What are the “after” feelings on makeover shows?

As a counterpoint, Foucault’s theory of power asserts that there is no authentic or true self to be revealed. What we are seeing is simply a subject who conforms more closely to the state’s ideal of a good citizen and they are emotionally rewarded for becoming a more docile and self-sufficient citizen. What do you think about this idea that this is not a transformation into a “better” and more “true” self, but a transformation where the individual is emotionally rewarded for conforming to state ideals?

Postmodern self – no performance of self is real or authentic, just different discourses and forms of regulation

Modernist self – consistent, enduring, coherent and ahistorical self

I think the video makes an intriguing observation that plastic surgery shows “feel” different to viewers because there appears to be little to no work or inner transformation. What do you think about that claim?

How can we read makeover shows as a code that tells us what and who matters?

Sender and Sullivan provide a review of some of the material we’ve covered so far: “Communication scholars have also taken to task reality shows that promote what Foucault calls ‘governmentality’: instilling in participants and audiences a willing acquiescence to surveillance and self-monitoring (Andrejevic 2004), and doing the work of governmental agencies, including the courts, in encouraging audiences to focus on issues of personal responsibility and self-discipline (Ouellette 2004; see also Ouellette and Hay in this present issue of Continuum). Lifestyle television, in particular, has been criticized for enforcing bourgeois tastes, especially in the United Kingdom (Palmer 2004), and extolling the benefits of consumption. As Roberts (2007) summarizes, ‘Lifestyle television transforms consumption into a form of citizenship, a duty that we are all, as responsible citizens, required to perform for the general good’ (228). Through stigma, shame, and financial reward, candidates are induced ‘to become fully participant, consuming subjects in the neoliberal economy’ (228)” (574).

Next week, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy