In the latest volume of Teaching Media Quarterly, Assistant Professor of Media & Society Rebecca Burditt examines the narrative structures of reality television and offers a series of lesson plans for fellow educators to help students make sense of the ways the shows are created and consumed.
In “Reality TV, Genre Theory, and Shaping the Real,” Burditt outlines an approach to teaching shows like The Bachelorette, What Would You Do and The Real World, highlighting “how and why reality TV reproduces Hollywood tropes … It encourages students to recognize that the pleasure contemporary audiences glean from reality TV comes, in part, from the application of genre film’s storytelling techniques and dominant ideologies to scenarios involving unscripted non-actors.”
Ultimately, the lessons are designed to engage students in probing “one of reality TV’s central paradoxes: that the [reality show] is valued for its authenticity, and yet the ‘realness’ that it offers is only seductive because it gives us the comforts, joys and closure that real life cannot,” Burditt writes.
Burditt, who joined the HWS faculty in 2014, teaches courses on global film, media theory and commercial culture. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and B.A. from Williams College.