Gender Roles in Reality Television

“Reality” television is a genre that is known mainly for being mostly unscripted and, more importantly for this blog, a relatively unknown cast. For competition shows like Survivor, the challenge falls on the casting director to create a compelling cast to get the viewers to watch. This generally means that potential cast members will fit into one of a decently small number of predetermined archetypes. The first link above shows research into specific roles that contestants fill, down to how well they tend to perform. What is interesting about this list, and the reason it relates to this class, is that they directly separated the roles between men and women. Some roles are remarkably similar save for gender, like Seduce and Destroy and Siren, while others like “Oh No You Didn’t” are roles limited to just one gender (and sometimes race too, but that’s another topic).

This provides an interesting dynamic when looking at the show. “Mommy Dearest” is an archetype that appears on most seasons, but is always a woman-exclusive role. Several other women’s roles often center around beauty. In contrast, when looking across the male roles, you see remarks about athleticism and “intensity” much more often than in women’s roles. It speaks volumes about how casting believes we view “reality”, that these archetypes represent “reality” best.


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