This introduction to the special issue “Project Reality TV” interrogates, while also playing with, some of TV's forms and conventions, particularly those of the “preshow special” and the interview format. Borrowing from this format, it explores key issues around the appeal of reality television and the reasons for approaching it from a scholarly perspective, particularly that of feminist media studies. This version of the studio Q&A format, honed into a sub-genre by reality TV itself, is designed to elicit not only interest but knowledge—in this case, regarding what we see as some of the most significant questions facing studies of reality television, especially the specific studies dealing with health, housewives, “hot bodies,” and “hoochie mamas” that are included in “Project Reality TV.”
Lynne Joyrich is professor of modern culture and media at Brown University. She is the author of Re-viewing Reception: Television, Gender, and Postmodern Culture (Indiana University Press, 1996) and of articles on film, television, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies that have appeared in such journals as Critical Inquiry, Cinema Journal, differences, Discourse, Transformative Works and Cultures, and Journal of Visual Culture and in such books as Private Screenings (University of Minnesota Press, 1992); Modernity and Mass Culture (Indiana University Press, 1991); Logics of Television (Indiana University Press, 1990); Inventing Film Studies (Duke University Press, 2008); New Media, Old Media (Routledge, 2005); Queer TV (Routledge, 2009); and Mad Men, Mad World (Duke University Press, 2013). She has been a member of the Camera Obscura editorial collective since 1996.
Misha Kavka teaches media, film, and television at the University of Auckland. She is the author of two books on reality television, Reality Television, Affect, and Intimacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and Reality TV (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), and coeditor, with Jennifer Lawn and Mary Paul, of Gothic NZ: The Darker Side of Kiwi Culture (Otago University Press, 2006) and, with Elisabeth Bronfen, of Feminist Consequences: Theory for the New Century (Columbia University Press, 2001). She has published widely on screen cultures, gender and sexuality studies, and affect theory and currently serves on the editorial board of MEDIANZ as well as the advisory board of Celebrity Studies.
Brenda R. Weber is professor of gender studies and film and media studies at Indiana University. Her books include Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity (Duke University Press, 2009); Women and Literary Celebrity in the Nineteenth Century: The Transatlantic Production of Fame and Gender (Ashgate, 2012); and Reality Gendervision: Sexuality and Gender on Transatlantic Reality Television (Duke University Press, 2014). She is presently working on a monograph titled Latter-Day Screens: Gender, Modernity, and Mediated Mormonism to be published with Duke University Press.