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.


Exceptionalism and the American Dream

As many other posters before me have noted, American Exceptionalism is the idea that Americans are superior to other nations overall. This idea is one of the core principles behind a similar concept in the American Dream. It postulates that anyone can come to America and become successful,

My text for this post is a song by the band Switchfoot titled “American Dream”. In brief the lyrics of the song criticize the typical view of the American Dream, suggesting that Americans’ priorities are out of order. Of particular note is how the song focuses on the American Dream for members of the corporate “machine”, which puts the focus on American Exceptionalism nearly as much, albeit on a more individual scale.

With references to luxury cars and the phrase “red, white, blue, and green” representing the colors of the american flag plus money, the idea that America is better than everyone else leads to the idea that if I am an American, I will make more money and can afford more material things. This is best exemplified in the line “When success is equated with excess”, which suggests that one can only be successful when they have more than the people around them, or in other words, are exceptional.