GEND 2056 Syllabus

Reality TV and the Politics of Difference

Tuesdays 3:30-6:20  

How did reality TV come to dominate television programming in the 21st century? What kinds of citizens are viewers encouraged to become through this genre? How are social differences represented within these programs? In this course students will be introduced to contemporary television studies and encouraged to examine the productive imprint of neoliberalism on reality TV, including: the political economy of production; techniques of the self and surveillance; and the representation of social differences including gender, race, class and sexuality. In addition, students will learn a variety of skills for interpreting television media.

Instructor: Dr. Wendy Peters
Office: A310 (above the small cafeteria)
Phone: 474-3450 ext. 4889
Winter 2016 office hours: Tuesdays 2:30-3:20 – or by appointment

Texts: The required readings are available online as Nipissing University Library e-books and e-journals. Weekly readings are required and should be completed before class. All materials including images, television series and film screenings are considered testable material. For the first time ever, I am including some exceptional student essays from previous years as required reading. It is my hope that these will give you some sense of what your final paper might look like.

Marking scheme
Attendance & participation 15%
Take-home midterm 25% – Due: February 23 2016
Research essay 30% – Due: April 5 2016
Final Take-home Test 30% – Due: April 19 2016 at noon

Late penalties will be applied in this class. No assignment will be accepted after the due date without prior permission from the instructor. Extensions will be considered only in advance of the deadline and under truly exceptional circumstances. All assignments must be submitted at the beginning of class or they will be considered late. Any assignments submitted after the beginning of class will be penalized 10% per day, for up to 5 days, after which time assignments will not be accepted. Only the final take-home test will be accepted by email.

All term work must be submitted by: April 19, 2016, except with written permission of the Dean of Arts and Science.

Students with a range of learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability / health consideration that may require accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Office as soon as possible. The Disability Services staff are available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals and arrange appropriate accommodations. The sooner you let us know your needs the quicker we can assist you in achieving your learning goals in this course.

Students are permitted to use laptop computers only for taking notes from the lectures. Playing games, surfing the internet, checking e-mail, instant messaging, watching videos or listening to music are not permitted during class time. If you are disrupting other students with this kind of laptop activity, you will be asked to turn off your laptop.

January 19 2016
Welcome and Introduction

January 26 2016
Political Economy: The emergence and economics of reality TV

Laurie Ouellette and Susan Murray (2009). Introduction. In Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture 2nd edition. New York: NYU Press: 1-13 (read up to the heading “Genre.”). Read as an e-book in the library:

Ted Magder (2009). Television 2.0: The Business of American Television in Transition. In Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture 2nd edition. New York: NYU Press: 141-164. Read in the same e-book as above:

February 2 2016
Guilty Pleasures: Audiences watching “bad” TV

Charles Allan McCoy and Roscoe C. Scarborough (2014). Watching “Bad” television: Ironic consumption, camp, and guilty pleasures. Poetics 47: 41-59. Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

February 9 2016
The Real World and Big Brother: Casting and narrative construction

The take-home midterm will be distributed at the end of class today.
Click here for pdf of midterm: Reality TV Midterm 2016

Jon Kraszewski (2009). Country hicks and urban cliques: Mediating Race, Reality, and Liberalism on MTV’s The Real World. In Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture 2nd edition. New York: NYU Press: 205-222. Read as an e-book in the library:

Ragan Fox (2013). “You are not allowed to talk about production”: Narratization on (and off) the set of CBS’s Big Brother. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 30 (3): 189-208. Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

February 16 2016 – Reading Week

February 23 2016
Judge Judy: Neoliberalism and becoming “good citizens”


Laurie Oullette (2009). “Take Responsibility for Yourself:” Judge Judy and the Neoliberal citizen. In Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture 2nd edition. New York: NYU Press: 223-242. Read as an e-book in the library:

March 1 2016
The Biggest Loser and What not to Wear

Katherine Sender and Margaret Sullivan (2008). Epidemics of will, failures of self-esteem: Responding to fat bodies in The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 22, (4): 573–584. DOI: 10.1080/10304310802190046 Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

Anonymous student paper (2015). Thirty Minutes to Self-Esteem: Love, Lust or Run. PDF here: Love, Lust or Run

In class screening: Brand New You (53 minutes) PN1995.9.B42.B73 2014

March 8 2016
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

Katherine Sender (2006). Queens for a Day: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the Neoliberal Project. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23(2): 131-151. DOI: 10.1080/07393180600714505 Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

Kayla Kosiak (2015). Creating a Neoliberal Millionaire. Student paper. PDF here: Millionaire Matchmaker

March 15 2016
America’s Next Top Model

Amy Adele Hasinoff (2008). Fashioning Race for the Free Market on America’s Next Top Model. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 25(3): 324-343. DOI: 10.1080/15295030802192012 Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

Nicole Robitaille (2015). “Everyone’s Replaceable”: Teaching Children to be Working Individuals in Dance Moms. Student paper. PDF here: Dance moms

March 22 2016
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

John McMurria (2008). Desperate Citizens and Good Samaritans: Neoliberalism and Makeover Reality TV. Television & New Media, 9(4): 305-332. DOI: 10.1177/1527476408315115 Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

Charles Roberts (2015). God Qualities: Entrepreneurial Reality TV and the Reinforcement of Neoliberal Principles for Control by the Dominant Western Culture. Student paper. PDF here: Dragons Den

March 29 2016

Emily M. Drew (2011). Pretending to Be ”Postracial”: The Spectacularization of Race in Reality. Television & New Media, 12(4): 326-346. DOI: 10.1177/1527476410385474
Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

April 5 2016
American Idol, paratexts and Adam Lambert


Jimmy Draper (2012). Idol Speculation: Queer Identity and a Media-Imposed Lens of Detection. Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, 10(3): 201-216. DOI: 10.1080/15405702.2012.68293.
Read online through Nipissing Library’s e-journals:

April 12 2016
Work on your take-home test —
due on or before Tuesday April 19 2016 at noon


Attendance & participation 15%
Attendance will be taken in class each week. Late entries, as well as early exits, are disruptive, and often result in the missing of important information. Participation includes, but is not limited to, contributing one’s own insights or ideas to class. It also entails respectful listening and a commitment to involving others in the learning process. You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the day’s readings. Verbal participation in class should be relevant and connected to the readings for the week.

As per the Nipissing University attendance policy students whose absences exceed 20% of the total number of classes will be excluded from writing the exam: “Punctual and regular attendance is essential for the successful completion of a course. When absenteeism exceeds 20%, the student may be excluded from writing the final examination. If an instructor would like to exclude a student from writing a final examination, the Dean and the student must be notified in writing at least two weeks prior to the exam. Students who wish to appeal this decision may appeal to the Dean” (Accessed on December 31, 2014 at

Take-home midterm 25%  Due February 23 2016
The take-home midterm will be distributed in class on February 9 2016. It will be a combination of short answer and essay based on the readings prior to Reading Week.

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.

Take home test 30% Due by or before April 19 2016 at noon
The final exam will focus on materials covered after Reading Week. The final take home test will be a combination of short answer and essay questions.

Important notes for written assignments
– On the title page please include your name and always keep a copy of your paper in print or computer file.
– All assignments must be double-spaced, in 12 point font (not a fancy font please), with1 inch margins and page numbers.
– Remember to provide a title, preferably one that highlights your thesis or central concerns.
– Avoid lengthy, overly general introduction; state your intentions concisely and engagingly.
– Each paragraph is to be a unit of thought and should develop an idea.
– Provide transition between topics. Your essay should have continuity; it should “hang together.”
– Support or illustrate your assertions; be as specific and precise as possible.
– Quoted materials (see “plagiarism” below) belong in quotation marks and a page number should be supplied. See syllabus for APA references for readings in the course reader. Use a style guide for references and be consistent. Ideas or passages that are paraphrased (written in your own words) also need to be referenced.
– Avoid over-use of quoted materials. Passages that are quoted need to be contextualized and require comments that directly forward your own argument.
– You may use the word “I” in your work for this class, but your claims must be supported by peer-reviewed academic citations.
– Proofread to avoid errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Academic Integrity
Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are serious offences. It is your responsibility to be familiar with Nipissing’s policies on academic dishonesty:

Any instances of students plagiarizing or cheating will be dealt with according to this policy.

 Statement of what grades mean

80-100% indicates EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE: comprehensive in-depth knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course, fluency in communicating that knowledge and independence in applying material and principles.

70-79% indicates GOOD PERFORMANCE: thorough understanding of the breadth of materials and principles treated in the course and ability to apply and communicate that understanding effectively.

60-69% indicates SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE: basic understanding of the breadth of principles and material treated in the course and an ability to apply and communicate that understanding competently.

50-59% indicates MINIMALLY COMPETENT PERFORMANCE: adequate understanding of most principles and materials treated in the course, but with significant weakness in some areas and in the ability to apply and communicate that understanding.

0- 49% indicates FAILURE: inadequate or fragmentary knowledge of the principles and materials treated in the course or a failure to complete the work required in the course”

Faculty handbook, “Final Grades:”