Reacting to Reality Television: Performance, Audience and Value, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Reacting to Reality Television

Performance, Audience and Value, 1st Edition

By Beverley Skeggs, Helen Wood


250 pages

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The unremitting explosion of reality television across the schedules has become a sustainable global phenomenon generating considerable popular and political fervour.

The zeal with which television executives seize on the easily replicated formats is matched equally by the eagerness of audiences to offer themselves up as television participants for others to watch and criticise. But how do we react to so many people breaking down, fronting up, tearing apart, dominating, empathising, humiliating, and seemingly laying bare their raw emotion for our entertainment? Do we feel sad when others are sad? Or are we relieved by the knowledge that our circumstances might be better? As reality television extends into the experiences of the everyday, it makes dramatic and often shocking the mundane aspects of our intimate relations, inviting us as viewers into a volatile arena of mediated morality.

This book addresses the impact of this endless opening out of intimacy as an entertainment trend that erodes the traditional boundaries between spectator and performer demanding new tools for capturing television’s relationships with audiences. Rather than asking how the reality television genre is interpreted as ‘text’ or representation the authors investigate the politics of viewer encounters as interventions, evocations, and more generally mediated social relations.

The authors show how different reactions can involve viewers in tournaments of value, as women viewers empathise and struggle to validate their own lives. The authors use these detailed responses to challenge theories of the self, governmentality and ideology.

A must read for both students and researchers in audience studies, television studies and media and communication studies.


'…Skeggs and Wood's offer a remarkably rich interrogation of the significance of reality-based media in one closely observed context….a book of unusual methodological richness.' Nick Couldry, International Journal of Communication

Table of Contents

Introduction: Reacting to Reality Television 1. From Representation to Intervention 2. Public Intimacy, Performance and the Value of Personhood 3. Textual Intimacies 4. Reacting to Reality Television: Methodology 5. Affect and Ambiguity, Not Governmentality 6. From Affect to Authority: The Making of the Moral Person 7. The Productive Person: Recognizing Labour and Value 8. Conclusion: Intimacy, Ideology, Value and Politics


About the Authors

Helen Wood is Reader in Media and Communication, in the Department of Media, Film and Journalism at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

Beverley Skeggs is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She held the Kerstin Hesselgren Professor in Gender Studies at Stockholm University and is an Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies for the Social Sciences, UK. She has worked in the areas of Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies as well as Sociology.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies