Maisy Swords

Date of Award


First Advisor

Dien Vo

Second Advisor

Chris Coggins


The thesis is a theoretical overview of the genre of Reality Television. Using social and political theory that does not deal directly with the genre to draw original conclusions outside of pre-existing scholarly thought, the thesis proposes a method of understanding Reality TV that foregrounds the genre as a cultural phenomenon and cinematic trend. The thesis confronts the dismissal of the genre as being faked or trashy, identifying which tropes are associated with these criticisms and examining the ways the programs are constructed. Using the question of locating the meaning of the real in the context of Reality TV and drawing from the political theory of Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord and Frederic Jameson among others, the thesis analyses the elements of Reality TV that reflect the social structures of society, and then uses a cinematic analysis to pinpoint how this process occurs within the television text. Finally, the thesis interrogates the dynamic between subject and spectator that Reality TV fosters, in order to define how consumption of the genre effects the spectators perception of themselves and reality.

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