‘Captive Audience’: Put your shame aside and embrace reality TV

Captive Audience: On Love and Reality TV

By Bradley Babendir | Washington Post

No genre endures more disparagement than reality television. Detractors claim it’s empty, stupid, even corrosive to society. This point of view is so pervasive that Lucas Mann begins “Captive Audience,” his new book about reality television, with a confession: “The genre means a lot to us, to me. I’ve never expressed that sentiment with even a gesture toward sincerity, because it’s embarrassing. But I think I mean it. Sincerely. At least for now I do.”

Despite this conditional admission, “Captive Audience” is a multifaceted defense, part scholarship, part memoir. Mann mobilizes the work of critics such as Roland Barthes to add academic rigor to his project, and he interviews TV editors and producers. Whether you adore or abhor reality television, you’ll come away from “Captive Audience” with a rich sense of what it is, how it is made and what it means.

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Among the most interesting findings revealed by the experts is that for fans of reality TV, “neither voyeurism nor fantasy were chief motivations. … The main sensation was that of time passing imperceptibly, and the genre was most popular among those lacking in social interaction, hoping to find some background companionship as the time passed.” Mann follows up this research with anecdotal confirmation from his own experience. When he’s alone, reality television is there with him.

Captive Audience: On Love and Reality TV VintageMore important, it is also there when Mann is not alone. The beating heart of his book is an examination of reality TV’s role in Mann’s relationship with his wife. It is their shared obsession, and he recounts conversations, arguments and quiet moments that are born from it. Stranger still, he presents this in an epistolary form, writing not about her, but to her. It’s jarring at first, and then it’s surprisingly endearing.

The reality star who most interests Mann and his wife is NeNe Leakes on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Introducing herself on the show, Leakes said, “If you just ask anybody about me, pssh, NeNe, she’s real fun.” Mann then zooms in on the dissonance between her generic expensive kitchen and her exuberant personal style. This tension, Mann explains, is what makes her “voraciously watchable.”

Later in the book, he takes a step back and considers the process by which “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and Leakes in particular made their way into his life. Andy Cohen is the steward of the “Housewives” franchise, and Mann expresses distaste for the way Cohen has staked his claim over Leakes and her talents. Then he admits his hypocrisy: He and his wife are a “straight white couple setting aside our Tuesday nights to giggle along to a gay white man’s self-proclaimed fantasy of black femininity, still finding joy in the way we parrot lines back to each other in voices that are not our own, all too happy …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

By Bradley Babendir | Washington Post

No genre endures more disparagement than reality television. Detractors claim it’s empty, stupid, even corrosive to society. This point of view is so pervasive that Lucas Mann begins “Captive Audience,” his new book about reality television, with a confession: “The genre means a lot to us, to me. I’ve never expressed that sentiment with even a gesture toward sincerity, because it’s embarrassing. But I think I mean it. Sincerely. At least for now I do.”

Despite this conditional admission, “Captive Audience” is a multifaceted defense, part scholarship, part memoir. Mann mobilizes the work of critics such as Roland Barthes to add academic rigor to his project, and he interviews TV editors and producers. Whether you adore or abhor reality television, you’ll come away from “Captive Audience” with a rich sense of what it is, how it is made and what it means.

Start your day with the news you need from the Bay Area and beyond.
Sign up for our new Morning Report weekday newsletter.

Among the most interesting findings revealed by the experts is that for fans of reality TV, “neither voyeurism nor fantasy were chief motivations. … The main sensation was that of time passing imperceptibly, and the genre was most popular among those lacking in social interaction, hoping to find some background companionship as the time passed.” Mann follows up this research with anecdotal confirmation from his own experience. When he’s alone, reality television is there with him.

Captive Audience: On Love and Reality TV VintageMore important, it is also there when Mann is not alone. The beating heart of his book is an examination of reality TV’s role in Mann’s relationship with his wife. It is their shared obsession, and he recounts conversations, arguments and quiet moments that are born from it. Stranger still, he presents this in an epistolary form, writing not about her, but to her. It’s jarring at first, and then it’s surprisingly endearing.

The reality star who most interests Mann and his wife is NeNe Leakes on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Introducing herself on the show, Leakes said, “If you just ask anybody about me, pssh, NeNe, she’s real fun.” Mann then zooms in on the dissonance between her generic expensive kitchen and her exuberant personal style. This tension, Mann explains, is what makes her “voraciously watchable.”

Later in the book, he takes a step back and considers the process by which

Source:: Usa news site – Culture

      

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