The Importance of Being Ordinary: Celebrity in the Age of Reality TV
ABSTRACT: Reality programming has altered the landscape of American television over the past decade, ushering in new industrial labor practices, new narrative/textual codes, a heightened interdependence of broadcast and digital platforms and more intimate, “ordinary” forms of celebrity. This lecture focuses on the category of celebrity generated within the reality television context, which derives its claims to “the real” by highlighting the emotional expressiveness of so-called ordinary people and branding this expressiveness as a signifier of genre as a whole. I tease out the cultural politics of this emergent category both in terms of its performance demands and in terms of the broader social forces in which these performances are embedded. Along the way I grapple with the following questions: What is the relation between “real” and “ordinary” celebrity? How does the rise of ordinary celebrity alter traditional class and cultural hierarchies? What structural/ institutional supports exist to cultivate the intimate emotional/affective displays on which reality TV depends? Why are people interested in, and hailed by, the prospect of achieving ordinary celebrity? Is it a form of cultural power or distinction? If so, what kind, and for whom?
Laura Grindstaff is Professor of Sociology at UC Davis and a faculty affiliate in Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, and Performance Studies. Her research and teaching focus primarily on American popular culture and its role in reproducing gender, race, and class inequality. She has authored or co-authored papers in Social Problems, Annual Review of Sociology, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Text & Performance Quarterly, and Cultural Critique, among other journals. Her ethnographic studies of media include the award-winning The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows (University of Chicago Press) and a series of essays on reality programming as a form “self-service” television. Grindstaff has also published widely on the topic of gender, sport, and cheerleading. She is co-editor of the Handbook of Cultural Sociology (Routledge).
November 5, 2015
Location: Minor 125
co-sponsored with Media Studies
reception to follow