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CRIT-GEOG-FORUM  June 2005

CRIT-GEOG-FORUM June 2005

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Subject:

Re: 'reality tv', power relations and 'reality'

From:

"Maxey L." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Maxey L.

Date:

Fri, 17 Jun 2005 12:54:06 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (220 lines)

Thanks for your prompting Nick, and the other's who have responded so far.
Parvati Raghuram, for example, has sent an excellent piece on Big Brother! I
have no fixed ideas/'answers', rather lots of further questions/ideas! To
respond to Hillary's points first:

Reality TV shows like Wifeswap certainly DO involve power relationships!
However, are these simple/binary, or complex, shifting and negotiated? For
example, there are the various histories (patriarchal, religious, etc) and
power implications of the very term 'wife'..., yet our episode was called
'Emily and Joanna' and wasn't the focus was very much on the women? Yes and
no, perhaps!? 

I felt, and I'd be interested to hear others' views, that Emily did far
better than I, for example, in translating critical/liberatory views e.g. on
parenting, reducing consumption, etc to the TV format. This links to you
question Nick : 'Do you think that you were successful in modelling an
attractive 'alternative' lifestyle?' I certainly don't think I have a 'model
life' which others should follow! But I recognise it is very 'different' to
the way many people live in the Minority World and we thought it would be
valuable to have this 'difference' seen. Such 'alternatives' are often
invisible. What do other's think was this na´ve? Counter-productive. We have
had very positive feedback from a range of people, from anonymous 'fan mail'
to people in the street. Yet some of this has felt rather superficial, did
we simply make ourselves spectacle? The main 'answer' I've found from this
so far is people 'get' from the show what they 'bring to it' in many
respects...

Both women were very strong and intelligent, more 'empowered' than the men
in the show in many respects, though still working within wider patriarchal
social frameworks.

There were also highly complex (and interesting) power relationships going
on between the 'crew' and the 'swappers' - from the 'young', rather poorly
paid, highly competent, intelligent and motivated support crew, technicians
and researchers (all women bar 1) to the programme director, who was also a
woman and very sympathetic to Emily's and my views (she started garden
composting  and stopped eating factory farmed meat during the 2 month
process in which she got to know us and 'wooed' us/persuaded us to do the
show, for example!). Yet the programme director reported to the series
director and HE had the final say. And the programme director had to balance
her own beliefs/ideals with the imperative to produce 'sexy tv'.

It was certainly much harder for Emily, my partner, to leave 'our space' -
both the physically familiar, and also the emotionally, culturally, familiar
and supportive spaces of our home, family and friends/community than it was
for me. The support I had during the filming was crucial and it was
emotionally far tougher for Emily. Joanna also suffered from this, being
away from her family and familiarities.

In terms of longer term personal changes, that was one of the motivations
for us, exposing ourselves to a different way of life/set of beliefs and
practices seemed a healthy, if challenging thing to do. But what really
changed for us and others? That is something I'd love to look into and could
certainly be broadened out to other shows to see the various ways in which
such shows bring about change on different levels (or not)...

As is often the case the most hidden 'other' were the 'children'. Our show
was largely about different parenting frameworks/styles/epistemologies, yet
where were the kids in this? We worked on the whole thing as a family,
agreeing to the idea together, yet this was not the norm. The kids would
often have NO say in this huge process! I was adamant that if at any point
Rowan or Sage were NOT happy/or wanted to stop we would call the whole thing
off (Emily, being more realistic felt once it was being filmed that would be
difficult!). The hardest point for me was four days in, having barley slept
for three days and seeing Rowan challenged by certain aspects of the process
and I was unsure of my judgement, was I making an inappropriate choice for
Rowan by carrying on with the show? 

That was the day they filmed Rowan having a 'tantrum' (horrible adultist
term!) and I was shocked that the film crew, people we'd come to know and
trust carried on filming when Rowan was clearly so upset! I felt at that
point that I had compromised too much. (I'd been under pressure to 'let
Joanna parent in her way' and where there was a communication breakdown I
forced myself NOT to intervene/interpret as I had on previous occasions and
that led to Rowan feeling such a strong sense of injustice.)

However, Rowan and Sage, like many kids are highly resilient and they assure
me they enjoyed the process and Rowan laughed at that painful (for me!)
scene, enjoying the fact that, for once, she got to lose her temper and
shout inappropriately, rather than Sage!

What has bee the overall long-term impact on us as a family? Really hard to
say and too much to cover here in anything but a superficial way! It has
strengthened us in some ways - as is often the case when a group of people
go through a challenging experience together and survive! Perhaps one thing
worth mentioning is that in the bigger picture of our lives it wasn't that
big or significant, just another adventure amongst many. Isn't there a
strong tendency within the media to present itself as so important? In
'reality' perhaps it isn't such a big deal?....

I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks! Larch














-----Original Message-----
From: A forum for critical and radical geographers
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Nick Solly Megoran
Sent: 15 June 2005 10:13
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: 'reality tv', power relations and 'reality'

Dear Larch,

That's a remarkable coincidence - the only full episode of a single reality 
show I have seen was the 'wife-swap' when you were on it! It was actually 
that that prompted my question. I was away for a couple of years when Big 
Brother kicked off and so never really followed it.

How would you comment on Hilary's pertinent question about long-term 
effects on relationships  especially yours with your children, if that is 
not too personal a question. And what about your partner's impact on the 
consumerist household - she certainly had an impact on her new 'husband', 
but do you know if that made it difficult for his wife on her return? Do 
you think that you were successful in modelling an attractive 'alternative' 
lifestyle?


Nick


--On 14 June 2005 21:10 +0100 "Maxey L." <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Re power relations, negotiations of identities and formations of judgement
> among participants...I agree!
>
> It seems to me there are lots of issues which could usefully be brought
> out/investigated here! E.g. the ways in which 'reality shows' have
> 'shifted reality' in various respects and on different scales, from the
> 'life shifting' impacts on participants, through the construction of
> spaces and places within the shows themselves to wider cultural shifts to
> which they contribute.
>
> I was foolish enough to participate in 'Wife Swap' last year! My partner
> and I were mainly motivated by the idea that we could use the show as a
> vehicle to get various alternative/radical ideas and perspectives aired on
> mainstream TV. (Indeed, the crew encouraged and in many ways supported us
> in this!)
>
> This whole process and the recent list discussion has raised 100's of
> questions for me which I would love to follow-up. Through doing the show I
> have various contacts which could be fruitful starting-points in
> researching this area further.
>
> I'd love to hear from anyone interested in thinking/talking some of the
> issues/ideas through further and even putting a grant proposal together on
> this!
>
> In anticipation, Larch.
>
> Dr.Larch Juckes Maxey
>
> Departmet of Geography
> University of Wales Swansea
> Singleton Park,
> Swansea SA2 8PP
>
> Adran Dearyddieath
> Prifysgol Cymru Abertawe
> Parc Singleton,
> Abertawe SA2 8PP
>
> 01792 513348
> [log in to unmask]
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: A forum for critical and radical geographers
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Peak Lai
> Sent: 14 June 2005 10:46
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Afro-Germans Protest African Village in the ZOO]
>
> <<Reality TV, in the UK context at least, generally involves British
> people  interacting with other British people. That being so, what
> ethical  questions are raised by the power relations which its scenarios
> construct?  Does it have any value in understanding the social world?>>
>
> Although they might be all British, there remains significant divisions of
> class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, factors which the producers surely
> consider and exploit in selecting participants. The power relations,
> negotiations of identities and formations of judgement among participants
> and by viewers (TV audiences as well as the writers, editos and readers of
> tabloids) are different from in an 'African Village', but there is still a
> form of fetishism involved (albeit on rather different levels).
>
> Karen
>
>
> --------------------------------------------------------
> Karen P.Y. Lai
> PhD researcher
> School of Geography
> The University of Nottingham
> University Park
> Nottingham NG7 2RD
> United Kingdom
>
> Office: +44 (0)115 9515738
> Fax: +44 (0)115 9515249
> Email: [log in to unmask]
>
>
> This message has been checked for viruses but the contents of an
> attachment may still contain software viruses, which could damage your
> computer system: you are advised to perform your own checks. Email
> communications with the University of Nottingham may be monitored as
> permitted by UK legislation.

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