Happily ever after and the battle of the races: a critical and cultural approach to reality television - the Bachelorette vs. the ultimate merger

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University of Alabama Libraries

The pervasiveness of reality television (RTV) can be observed by the sheer number of television shows that feature unscripted situations by non-actors thrust into seemingly "real" life situations. They range from shows like The Swan that promise to makeover an "ugly duckling into a beautiful swan," to The Amazing Race where participants use feats of athleticism and strategy to win cash prizes, to "catfights" and hyper-masculine displays of manhood or hyper-feminine displays of womanhood on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette to prove one's ability to attract the heterosexual "love" of the eligible bachelor or bachelorette. RTV has become a place in which stereotypes are reinforced, antiquated gender roles are resurrected, and violators who dare to step outside of the clearly defined White, heterosexual, American box are punished. Reminiscent of American canonical narratives of love, coded messages of position and place are interwoven throughout the storylines in competitive dating RTV programs which could contribute to legitimizing a particularly framed perspective of racialized and gendered behavior and expectations. Through the analysis of six episodes of each of the RTV shows, The Bachelorette and The Ultimate Merger, and juxtaposing them, this study uncovers how competitive dating reality programs explain the current state of culture and gender performance within U.S. society, including how certain racial performances are privileged.

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