Religion and Reality TV : Faith in Late Capitalism book cover
1st Edition

Religion and Reality TV
Faith in Late Capitalism

ISBN 9781138681286
Published April 18, 2018 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

Why is reality television flourishing in today's expanding media market? Religion and Reality TV: Faith in Late Capitalism argues that the reality genre offers answers to many of life's urgent questions: Why am I important? What gives my life meaning? How do I present my best self to the world? Case studies address these questions by examining religious representations through late capitalist lenses, including the maintenance of the self, the commodification of the sacred, and the performance of authenticity. The book's fourteen essays explore why religious themes proliferate in reality TV, audiences' fascination with "lived religion," and the economics that make religion and reality TV a successful pairing. Chapters also consider the role of race, gender, and religion in the production and reception of programming.

Religion and Reality TV provides a framework for understanding the intersection of celebrity, media attention, beliefs, and values. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of religion and media studies, communication, American studies, and popular culture.

Table of Contents


Part I: Maintenance of the Self

  1. Flaunting Christian Patriarchy in the 21st Century: Todd Chrisley’s Straight Guy with the Queer Eye
  2. Diane Winston

  3. Making Over Body and Soul: Gender, Selfhood, and Parables of Spiritual Neoliberalism on Makeover TV
  4. Brenda R. Weber

  5. Black Female Sexual Agency and Racialized Holy Sex in Black Christian Reality TV Shows
  6. Monique Moultrie


    Part II: The Performance of Authenticity

  7. This is Just an Incredible God Thing: Monetized Domesticity in Bottom-up Media
  8. Katherine Madden

  9. ‘The Renovation Starts Now!’: Rite of Passage on Reality Television
  10. Erica Andrus

  11. When the most popular format reaches the most atypical country: Reality TV and Religion in Israel
  12. Yoel Cohen and Amir Hetsroni

  13. All-American Cancellation: Spectacle and Neoliberal Performativity in All-American Muslim
  14. Melinda Q. Brennan


    Part III: Niche Markets

  15. Sister Wives: The Protestantization of Mormon Polygamy
  16. Myev Rees

  17. Paranormal Reality Television: audience engagement with mediums and spirit communication
  18. Annette Hill

  19. Conjuring Spirits in a Neoliberal Era: Ghost Reality Television, Third Wave Spiritual Warfare, and Haunting Pasts
  20. Sean McCloud 

  21. Amish Reality and Reality TV Amishness: Agonism in the Cultural Marketplace
  22. Stewart Hoover

    Part IV: Commodification of the Sacred

  23. The Invisible Hand in Downey and Burnett
  24. Sharon Lauricella

  25. The Search for a Young Imam Begins Now: Imam Muda and Civilizational Islam in Malaysia
  26. Andrea Stanton

  27. Preachers of Oxygen: Franchising Faith on Reality TV

Mara Einstein



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Mara Einstein has worked as an executive at NBC, MTV Networks, and at major advertising agencies. She is Professor of Media Studies at Queens College, CUNY, USA and Director of the Masters program in Media and Social Justice.

Katherine Madden teaches media studies at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, California, USA.

Diane Winston holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USA.


Religion and Reality TV: Faith in Late Capitalism provides a valuable constellation of case studies in the increasingly popular place of religion in the contemporary TV landscape. The collection's insightful analysis of how religion, spirituality, and identity have been monetized within the generic and format expectations of reality TV make the book useful for classes focusing on television studies and/or religion. This collection's particular attention to specific religious traditions and identities, as well as more generalized spirituality, provide multiple approaches to faith within reality TV. Charlotte E. Howell, Boston University, USA

The essays are uniformly strong and compelling, reflecting a range of methodological commitments and disciplinary training. They are all written in a manner to engage non-specialists. The volume as a whole will prove a valuable resource for teachers and scholars in the fields of religion and media, religion and pop culture, and religion and visual culture. For scholars and students new to these fields or looking for a way to engage this undeniable substratum of our shared reality, I commend reading and assigning individual essays in this volume as a way to join the conversation. Kathryn Reklis, Fordham University, USA