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Giving Gender and Class a Reality Check (2013)

Introduction

In this research paper I examine reality shows, specifically documentary-based ones. My focus is on how women from different social classes are represented in terms of family dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and their roles as wives and mothers. I pay particular attention to two reality series in which the ‘plots’ come from placing women in different socioeconomic situations: Wife Swap and Trading Spouses. My thesis is that more often than not, television has a skewed version of gender as well as class, and it is often difficult to separate the two issues. It seems especially now, reality programs focus more and more on these aspects than anything.

According to U.K. professor Helen Ingham in “The Portrayal of Women on Television,” “While television can be said to reflect the changing roles of women, it seems to portray them in a light of approval or disapproval, positive or negative according to the roles that patriarchy favors: the housewife is favored, whilst the woman in power is often shown to be the villain. More importantly, women are often represented as not being as intelligent as men, and having to rely on them. It is also shown that a woman is either intelligent or beautiful; but rarely both” (Ingham 5). It would appear that gender and class are misrepresented in the case of both upper class and lower class wives and mothers on candid reality series.

My literature review consists of research on ideology and what role it plays in the representation of gender and class in media, the portrayal of upper-class and working class women on fictional television, and how they are represented on reality television. I also have research on the appeal reality television has for viewers. Thus far, my research finds that reality shows and the media in general have an individualistic and conservative view on both social class and gender, misrepresenting both groups. My methodology consists of a textual analysis of two candid reality shows, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I will be analyzing how the women are represented in these shows and the reasons why they might be portrayed in such ways. In my research, I found that while these programs fulfill most of the assumptions made in my literature review, they also subvert these expectations in some ways as summarized in my conclusion.

 Literature Review

Ideology is a very important factor in how gender and class are portrayed in the media because it determines what messages are being sent to viewers about these groups. In Media and Communication Research Methods, Claude Mueller defines ideologies as “integrated belief systems which provide explanations for political reality and establish the collective goals of a class or group” (Mueller qtd in Berger 72). Or rather, they establish the collective goals of a dominant class or group, which is mainly to reproduce their social and economic power. An example of a dominant ideology would be how most Americans believe capitalism is the best and most efficient economic system in the world, even though many wouldn’t be able to explain why that’s so.

Marxist critics would argue that the ruling class, which would include the wealthiest and most powerful Americans, reinforces the ideology of capitalism as the best system by using the media to help shape the consciousness of the lower classes. There is also the popular ideology in the United States that Arthur Asa Berger refers to as “the self-made man and woman (Berger 75),” also known as individualism. This belief downplays the significance of social, economic, and political matters in favor of willpower and personal resolution. This means if an individual does not succeed in an endeavor, that person only has his or herself to blame regardless of the racial, class, and gender differences which limit the social position that the individual is able to obtain (Berger 75).

According to Marxist Antonio Gramsci, the dominance of certain class values comes about by the dominant class presenting itself as the group best able to fulfill the interests and needs of other classes. In this way the dominant class rules by consent instead of coercion, and their values must be constantly renegotiated and re-established in order to win over the subordinate classes. Gramsci defines this concept as hegemony. The main difference between the concepts of ideology and hegemony is being that hegemony argues that the dominant must be imposed constantly instead of being established once and for all.

According to Media Studies: Texts, Institutions, and Audiences,

“the impetus of the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s

has been assimilated into the mainstream via what has been

labeled ‘popular feminism,’ as it became clear that, as society

changed, it was no longer in the interests of the ruling class

completely to marginalize women’s experiences. However, it

was also not in its interests to accommodate and legitimize

radical ideas alongside popular feminism. As a result, ‘watered

down’ and ‘sanitized’ versions of feminism can be found in the

pages of popular women’s magazines such as Marie Claire and

Cosmopolitan.” (Taylor 33)

The woman’s movement could not be completely ignored because of the momentum it was gaining, but feminists still had to settle with a negotiated version of it. Nevertheless, this indicates how ideologies can change with the times.

One way certain ideologies come to be seen as “common sense” are through media representations of social groups. Media Studies defines representation as the practice of placing different signs (words and images) together in order to make complex and abstract concepts such as love, or social groups like the working class, into something intelligible and meaningful (Taylor and Willis 39). Representations are ideological in the sense that choices are made to represent a person or object in a certain way in order to say something about the thing or person being represented. There are always a number of different possible representations for any one concept, and there is never a singular way to represent anything. However, the way these concepts are represented provides indications of how power relations are organized in any society.

For some feminists, representations that portray women as readily “available” for the sexual advances of men “testify to the power mechanisms of patriarchy which pervade our culture. Similar arguments have been mounted about other social groups which hold less social power in society than others” (Taylor 40). A very common form of representation is the stereotype, which is the selection and construction of undeveloped, generalized signs that categorize social groups or individual members of a social group, such as particular races or the disabled, in limited ways. Stereotypes rely on common assumptions and broad similarities about people that are meant to represent the values, attitudes, behavior, and background of the group in question, though they usually don’t.

“The process of stereotyping renders each member of these groups ‘all the same;’ so all Germans become disciplined and arrogant, all visually impaired people have super-senses of touch and hearing, all transsexuals are gay and all Jews are wealthy and have large noses.” Examples of stereotypes like these show relations of domination and subordination because these groups have been so narrowly defined, not by themselves, but by those who hold greater degrees of social power. The repetition of stereotypes serves to perpetuate these ideas about people until they have entered the ideological realm of “common sense” (Taylor 41).

To counter this notion, Media Studies refers to an essay by Tessa Perkins called “Re-thinking Stereotypes,” arguing that the subordinate groups are not the only ones being stereotyped. Those who hold more social power are also subjected to representations of themselves that have been decided by other people. Perkins also argues that there are stereotypes of all structurally central groups: classes, races, gender, and age. Since everyone belongs to these groups, anyone can be stereotyped. She claims that stereotyping the dominant serves two ideological purposes: to give meaning to the subordinate and to maintain the socialization of both powerful and oppressed groups.

For example, if a worker stereotypes his employer as an “upper class twit,” he imagines himself to have some power over his boss, however minor. This makes his place as a subordinate seem more appealing while still serving the interests of the powerful in the sense that their positions of power are not threatened (Taylor 43). In other words, representing the rich as stupid makes the lower class position look better by comparison. It can also be argued that not all stereotypes are false, and some may even have a grain of truth to them. Martin Barker, the author of Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics points out that a good deal of media representation is criticized for showing women in the home providing services to men, even though many do so in real life. Erasing the apparently offensive stereotype would just be ignoring the question of why this group is socially positioned like this in the first place (Barker qtd in Taylor 44).

Several other misleading assumptions about the nature of stereotypes pointed out in “Re-thinking Stereotypes” are that stereotypes are pejorative concepts, about groups with whom we have little to no social contact, always about minority groups, are simple, do not change, and are not structurally reinforced (Perkins 135). The author proves that stereotypes are actually much more complex than we realize as demonstrated by the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype, where there is more being implied than hair color and intelligence. ‘Dumb blonde’ also refers immediately to a woman’s sex, which in turn refers to her status in society, her relationships with men, and her inability to behave or think rationally (Perkins 136). Perkins believes that in trying to broaden the definition of a stereotype, there is a risk that it will become indistinguishable from a role, which is defined as “ a set of expectations and obligations to act in certain ways in certain settings” (Perkins 138).

When a child learns the appropriate behavior for his or her status in society, or role expectations, he or she is also being taught that different groups behave differently. Each group has different rights and duties and some groups deserve more respect than others. By learning how to recognize people as members of groups, the definition of oneself and others is absolutely essential to the ideological effectiveness of stereotypes (Perkins 139). Ideologically, the most significant and common feature of the stereotypes of groups such as gender and class relates to their mental abilities. In both of these cases, the oppressed groups are characterized as innately less intelligent than the dominant group (Perkins 144). In this way, the lower-class citizen’s status in life is blamed on their perceived lack of intelligence and skills rather than any unfairness in the socio-economic system.

British Culture Studies: An Introduction by Graeme Turner discusses the ideological role of visual communication, specifically television. In the production of a T.V. show, the goal of its creators usually is to represent the world as they see it and to convince the viewer who to hate, who to root for, and what messages they should gain from that program (Turner 75). In the case of reality television, editors can put together a handful of scenes out of hundreds of hours of footage to tell the story they want.

“So TV drama producers will use ominous music to warn us of a

threat and to fix its meaning as a threat. The use of specific

representational codes tells us immediately how to view a

character; in mainstream cinema, for instance, we immediately

know who the villain is by the way in which they are represented

to us – color, camera angles, the use of cutaways and so on.

Representational codes are made to ‘work’ towards the preferred

meaning” (Turner 75).

Signs can be defined as symbols, letters, words, sounds, and so on that generate meaning, and the meanings of these signs usually depend on the culture in which they are used. A popular example of representational codes being used for a character is how Darth Vader is presented in Star Wars. Upon his introduction, Darth Vader enters with looming theme music, wearing his signature black costume. From these codes alone, the audience knows right away he is the story’s villain. In American culture especially, watching television is a social ritual, “overriding individual distinctions, in which our culture engages in order to communicate with its collective self” (Fiske qtd in Turner 83). So rather than communicate with one viewer at a time, television communicates with collective audiences as a whole, serving both dominant and alternative audiences needs by appearing as the voice of a culture which they can each identify with while producing and reproducing the culture’s dominant myths and ideologies (Turner 83). In this way television can serve a hegemonic function by making certain ideologies easily accessible and relatable to a wider audience.

Turner also discusses “the reality effect,” which is the way ideology makes itself inconspicuous in media messages so they appear to be natural and spontaneous presentations of “reality.” (Turner 172) Through this method, the viewer can absorb an ideology a program is trying to enforce without even knowing it. The reality effect could apply to any genre of television, but perhaps especially to reality T.V. Turner also discusses the argument that popular television is playfully resistant to ideological control, either by offending or subverting the values of a culture. “Television is a ‘semiotic democracy’ that recognizes the rights of consumers to make what sense they will of the pleasures on offer and rewards them through a process of ‘empowerment’” (Fiske qtd in Turner 186). In other words, it’s up to viewers to determine what T.V. shows are good or bad and what they are trying to say, giving them a sense of power over the media. However, pleasure itself can be seen as hegemonic, along with the impulse to recognize the importance of the pleasures from popular culture as those produced by ritual or spectacle (Turner 186). In the context of popular television, the need for entertainment is valuable to our culture and serves the hegemonic interests of the masses by distracting them from everyday problems.

The concept of television as a semiotic democracy is further explored in John Fiske and John Hartley’s book, Reading Television. Fiske and Hartley explain that, much like how the metabolism system transforms what we eat into material that can be absorbed for nutrition, culturally learnt codes and conventions transforms external entertainment into actual communication, where the message is received, decoded, understood, and responded to. We have little consciousness of or control over both how we process these messages and how we process food (Fiske 69).

The three functions that allow television to have this kind of effect on its audience are individualism, abstraction, and functionalism. Individualism is the assumption that presupposes a one-on-one relationship between mass communicator and the individual viewer, thus regarding each television viewer as having certain psychological needs that the television screen attempts to gratify. Abstraction assumes that an individual’s psychological needs are much the same no matter what society he or she belongs to, ignoring division of labor, class oppositions, and various subcultures (Fiske 71). Functionalism also assumes viewers use television to gratify their psychological needs, but in a more or less conscious and active way in a sense that they turn to mass media with certain expectations. The notion of functionalism is based on the “uses and gratifications” theory (Fiske 72).

According to this theory, the five basic needs that are fulfilled by the mass media are cognitive needs, affective needs, personal integrative needs, social integrative needs, and tension-release needs. Cognitive needs refer to the acquiring of information, knowledge, and understanding, such as what we would get from the news. Affective needs refer to the need for emotional and aesthetic experience, such as friendship and seeing beautiful things, respectively. Personal integrative needs are the desire for self-confidence, stability, status, and reassurance. Social integrative needs are those that strengthen contacts with family and friends, and tension-release needs is the need for escape and diversion (Fiske 73). These seem to indicate that people are psychologically dependent on mass media, specifically television, enabling them to fully participate in society.

In “Work, Family, and Social Class in Television Images of Women: Prime-time Television and the Construction of Postfeminism,” authors Andrea Press and Terry Strathman analyze how representations of women from different social classes don’t always reflect changes in society or viewers’ desire for more “realistic” portrayals. According to the article, popular television narratives minimize the problems of contemporary American women as they try to adapt to rapidly changing social realities and expectations.

“The National Commission on Working Women reported that current

television portrayals of women fail to represent the pressures of

balancing work with family, finding child care, and stretching family

budgets. The study notes that on television, all single mothers are

middle-class (or wealthier) and almost half of all families are at least

upper middle-class; there are no poor families. In reality, 69% of all

homes headed by women are poor, and the annual median income

                         for a family with two working parents in 1990 was just

over $30,000” (Press 1).

 These findings from The National Commission on Working Women imply that poor women and their families are severely under represented on television, and the struggles facing working class women in America are largely ignored. Popular television often reflects a desire to simplify the ideological confusion and contradiction within our society; what are the right values and which are not? Some argue that television provides us with fantasy level solutions to pressing social problems, particularly those relating to families and the economic instability of private lives. Other commentators stress how television misrepresents common social and personal problems, including representations of lives systematically distorted to reflect cultural ideologies (Press 2). This means that television will skew certain aspects of society in order to portray the image they want.

In early television, women were rarely independent individuals. Their only importance was in their relations to men, and they were pictured almost exclusively in domestic settings. They rarely ventured into the male dominated world of work and were often depicted in close connection with one another. These qualities of women are illustrated in the famous middle-class sitcom I Love Lucy with Lucy and Ethel. Yet they also subverted those positions in their rebellion against the expectations of their husbands, Ricky and Fred, and in Lucy’s attempts to escape her role as a housewife to enter show business. However, in the failure of these attempts, Lucy is humbled and “domesticated,” argue Press and Strathman. In this way, I Love Lucy both rejects and maintains dominant patriarchy.

The article also discusses shows during the second-wave feminist movement of the sixties and seventies like The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which there was more focus on a woman’s individual success in the workplace, though feminism itself was largely ignored so as not to refute the patriarchal system (Press 5). Social problems like financial hardship and single parent responsibilities were also minimized. Though the title character of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was single and actively looking for a husband, the search did not dominate her actions. In the 1980’s, television showed women back in the home, only now they had a work identity, however superficial, alongside their family role. Ironically, women’s collective resistance on television is less prominent than on pre-feminism shows (Press 6). This means that women on T.V. are shown less in unity against the patriarchal ideology, leaving the female character to solve a problem she may have with a male authority figure on her own.

Postfeminism is the term the authors use to describe family shows after the decline of the feminist movement, which embodies the ideology that traditional family life can coexist peacefully with a stereotypically feminist woman. They use the example of Roseanne, in which the dull, repetitive, demeaning aspects of a working class job are diminished by an idealized family life. When Roseanne is forced to work overtime, the husband and kids all pitch in to help. “As feminists have recently noted, most working-class women do not experience similar utopian family situations. The majority of working-class women work a ‘double-shift’ of duties, with relatively little help from their husbands” (Press 8).

The “double-shift” of duties refers to the expectation of working mothers to come home and work a “second shift” as a housewife who cooks, cleans, and interacts with the kids. On The Cosby Show, a 1980’s sitcom that depicts an upper-middle-class family, the mother Clair Huxtable also works a “double shift,” even though she is shown at work much less often than at home. Despite being a successful lawyer at a prestigious law firm, she is usually seen at home preoccupied with family tasks and has no apparent trouble making time for both work and family. Press and Strathman conclude that the media still holds the traditional nuclear family as the societal ideal, and by ignoring the issues that affect real working- women, television glorifies a status quo that is oppressive for women (Press 9).

As the next two articles show, misrepresentations of working-class and upper-class women don’t stop at fictional TV programs. Candid reality shows enforce similar if not quite identical ideologies. The first scholarly article I analyze is “Domesticating Politics: The Representation of Wives and Mothers in American Reality Television” by Jim Brancato. This article explores four reality series that involve family interactions and deal with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds trading places and points of view: Wife Swap, Supernanny, Trading Spouses, and Nanny 911.

The author discusses how the different participants are depicted and argues that these shows simplify American socioeconomic troubles and contemporary political issues while reinforcing a historically conservative definition of women’s roles as wives and mothers. According to Brancato, the message that the audience is supposed to obtain from these “spouse swapping” shows is that whatever problems the woman in a particular episode has is only an attitudinal problem. He means that if a woman just works harder or looks at things differently, marriage and motherhood can be restored to their mythic purity. To further examine this notion, the author analyzes the basic narrative structure, premises, and ideological assumptions employed by each show (Brancato 1).

All of these shows expose a backstage view of family life by allowing cameras to capture everyday family interactions that appear spontaneous and unscripted. Brancato argues that these types of interactions are closer to a scripted drama than a documentary in that the participant’s experiences always leads to self-reflection and change for the families, as well as a different perspective on their own values and beliefs. The entertainment value that comes from programs such as Wife Swap is that these are “real” women exchanging “real” lives, encouraging viewers to measure themselves, often favorably, against the standards of the participants (Brancato 2).

An example of women from different classes exchanging lives is the Joseph/Gibbons wife exchange of Trading Spouses. In these two episodes Octavia Joseph, a working class, African-American woman from Harlem with four children who worries about saving enough money for their college education, trades places with Lynne Gibbons, an upper-class white woman from Massachusetts who spends money on suntans and manicures. The obvious class difference is revealed through the anxieties of the mothers in that both are initially uncomfortable in their new surroundings (Brancato 2). As in nearly every episode, this episode is about family values rather than class or race inequality, because neither of these issues is explicitly touched on by the show itself while family values are emphasized. The premise is always that modern home life is so unmanageable that it requires extraordinary outside help to solve domestic dilemmas, while never explaining the structural reasons for these conflicts such as race, class, and gender (Brancato 3).

Another example from Trading Spouses features Colleen Wopperer, an overweight, working class unemployed mother with bad teeth raising two unhappy kids in Louisiana who swaps lives with Ingrid Dancy, an attractive but stern mother from Colorado who owns her own business. At the end of their final episode, Colleen gets a job and Ingrid gets a tattoo, signifying their respective transformations. Examples such as this one reveal deep social anxieties about family life in today’s economy based on how the wives interact with their swapped families. Typically these spouse-swapping shows only discuss the children of each family for a short period of time. Further, it’s always the mothers instead of the fathers who switch places and who are specifically chosen to create as much conflict as possible. Each wife who participates on the show gets to choose how the other family will spend the $50,000 they earn, which is usually used for the kids education or a vacation, but never for hiring domestic help (Brancato 3). This implies that families need not change their spending habits or priorities in order to accommodate working wives and mothers.

The families Supernanny and Nanny 911 are somewhat similar to those in Wife Swap and Trading Spouses in that there is a chaotic environment in which little communication occurs between the husband and wife. Brancato uses an example from an episode of Supernanny that featured upper-middle class couple Scott and Jennifer trying to raise four children. Like all episodes, stay-at-home mom Jennifer cannot control the children and requires Supernanny Jo Frost’s intervention. The nannies on both these shows are prim, British, and white, revealing a middle-class fantasy described as “Julie Andrews Syndrome” by the author, a reference to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music (Brancato 5).

In all four shows, any conflict is resolvable with enough effort, will, and rationalized order. They enforce the conservative outlook that once authority and rules with consistent rewards and punishments are established, desired behavior will follow regardless of the family’s socioeconomic conditions. If there is bad behavior, it must be the mother’s fault, and it falls on her to stabilize the family, again portraying a hegemonic view that the root cause of a problem is individual rather than social. Brancato concludes that if this ideology of individualism is challenged, there could be more accurate representations of socioeconomic conditions on reality television (Brancato 6).

Kristy Fairclough, author of “Women’s Work? Wife Swap and the Reality Problem,” has an even more cynical take on gender and class representation on reality shows. Fairclough notes that in recent years there has been a growth in reality programs that focus on heterosexual relationships and marriage. In her article, examples like Joe Millionaire, Mr. Right, The Bachelor, and Wife Swap are called “car crash” shows, suggesting that as horrible as these shows are, you can’t stop watching them. There are numerous issues for feminism here, as the female participants on these shows are either portrayed as commodities (implying that they have no personalities or goals of their own), desperate individuals obsessed with marriage, or measured only by their success in the domestic sphere (Fairclough 1). Clearly, these are, at best, very limited representations of women.

Instead of making progress in terms of the representation of women in visual media, the author claims that shows like Wife Swap undo the progress that has been made by “harking back to an outdated and conservative representation of wives and mothers.” For example, the female participants are often represented as pushy, domineering, and stupid, no matter their social status or class issues. Usually an episode of Wife Swap concludes with the wives attacking each other’s lifestyles while furiously defending their own as their husbands look on innocently. Season one even had Kate, a housewife with six children, say about her more career-oriented counterpart Tracey, “for a woman to fail as a housewife is ridiculous,” suggesting that women should be natural homemakers by virtue of their gender. Any reference to their careers is either inconsistent or limited, putting more emphasis on their domestic roles (Fairclough 2).

Overt class warfare is also present within reality television, including Dinner Party Inspectors, Holiday Showdown, and Take My Mother-In-Law, which use class as a source of conflict. According to Fairclough, the premise of these shows is an arrogant one that invites the viewer to delight in sneering at the working class in a way that hasn’t been acceptable since the 1950’s. Likewise in Wife Swap, the middle class families are positioned as educating the raucous working class about social etiquette, while the working class often shows more warmth and emotion to their children than their more affluent counterparts (Fairclough 3). This gives the impression that working class people are more down-to-earth than upper class people, and that they know ‘what’s really important’ in life.

In an assessment conducted by Steven Reiss and James Wiltz in “Why People Watch Reality TV,” two-hundred and thirty-nine adults were asked to rate themselves on each of the sixteen basic motives from the Reiss profile and to rate how much they watched various reality T.V. shows (Reiss 1). Reiss’s theory of sixteen basic desires, also called sensitivity theory, states that people pay attention to stimuli that are relevant to their most basic motives. For example, a person motivated by a strong desire for social interaction often looks for opportunities to socialize, at a party for example, while a person with a weak desire for social interaction will look to avoid such opportunities. Basic motivation influences what people pay attention to and what actions they take. According to Reiss and Wiltz, identifying the most basic motives of humans may lead to insight into why reality T.V. appeals to so many people (Reiss 2). The sixteen basic desires listed are power, idealism, tranquility, independence, status, vengeance, social contact, honor, physical exercise, family, eating, saving, romance, order, acceptance, and curiosity (Reiss 4). The discussion of the article only focuses on several of these motives, however.

When applying sensitivity theory to watching television, people with a strong desire for social contact should be especially interested in shows that have groups, fun, and friendship (Reiss 8). One of the results from the study is that the participants who watched reality T.V. had a stronger motive for status than those who didn’t. The more reality shows a person liked, the more that person valued attention, their reputation, and impressing people. The participants who watched reality shows also placed more value on vengeance, which means they have a desire to pick a fight and get even, and therefore are drawn to shows with interpersonal conflict. Those who watched two or more reality shows tended to be more motivated by social interaction, less motivated by honor, which is the desire to obey a traditional moral code, and more concerned with order, which is the desire for ritual and organization (Reiss 11).

Their results indicate that status is the main motivational force that drives interest in reality television, and that people who are motivated by status have an above-average need to feel self-important. Therefore, one possibility is that viewers feel they are more important than the ordinary people presented, regardless of whether the storyline is realistic or not. They can also fantasize about gaining celebrity status from being on television by watching people like themselves. The fact that reality television is widely watched and often a topic of discussion would indicate why social people are more likely to watch it than nonsocial people. These findings also suggest that reality TV viewers are less concerned with honor because they might not really care about the ethics of a show as long as they are entertained. On the other hand, people who like order may like reality shows specifically because of the rules the participants have to follow (Reiss 12).

 Methodology

The research methodology used in this discussion is a textual analysis of two episodes from two American reality series: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I chose these programs because they seem to be among the most popular candid reality series that star women from the lower class and upper class, respectively. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a spin-off of Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC, which features child pageant participant Alana Thompson, also known as Honey Boo Boo, along with her mother June Shannon, father Mike Thompson and her three older sisters Lauryn, Anna, and Jessica. The show is mostly filmed in and around the family’s hometown in rural McIntyre, Georgia. In contrast, The Real Housewives of New Jersey is a show on the Bravo Network, which follows the lives of five women in and around several upscale communities in northern New Jersey. The housewives on the 2009-2010 season, which I will be looking at, are Teresa Giudice, Caroline Manzo, Jacqueline Laurita, Dina Manzo, and Danielle Staub.

The two episodes I’m going to analyze from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is Episode One of Season One entitled “This is My Crazy Family” in which we are introduced to Alana’s family as they try to win the annual Redneck Games, and Episode Two of Season One “Gonna Be a Glitz Pig,” in which Alana gets a pet pig and she and her sister “Pumpkin,” also known as Lauryn take an etiquette class. The episodes I’m going to analyze from The Real Housewives of New Jersey is Episode One from Season One entitled, “Thicker Than Water,” in which we first meet the housewives and Episode Two from Season One, “Mama Knows Best,” where Danielle and Dina get in a fight and Jacqueline’s daughter is failing her junior year of high school.

I chose the first two episodes from each series because the audience gets their first impression of these people from the pilot, and the second episode of both shows focus more on the mothers’ relationships with their children. In the textual analysis, I examine formal narrative elements such as camera shots, music, sound effects, clothing, plot, and settings, along with how the cast members interact with each other and how they resolve their conflicts. Most importantly, I’ll consider how these shows represent women from different social classes compared to the arguments covered in my literature review.

In particular, I will examine what stereotypes the women and girls from each show may embody or subvert, like the upper class twit stereotype for The Real Housewives of New Jersey for example, which perpetuates rich people as stupid and have little to contribute to society, and the redneck stereotype for Honey Boo Boo, which perpetuates the idea that all working class southerners are loud, trashy, and ignorant. It is also important to analyze how representing the cast members this way might serve the interests of the socially powerful, more specifically men and the upper class, as discussed in Media Studies.

Tessa Perkins argues that the most significant ideological feature of stereotyping any group relates to their mental abilities, so I will determine if the participants on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are characterized as innately less intelligent than the participants on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or vice versa, based on how the shows present them. Is June Shannon shown to be more warm and affectionate to her daughters than the Real Housewives do to their children as Fairclough indicates in “Wife Swap and the Reality Problem?” How these actions relate to class is also important. Since both “Domesticating Politics” and Communication Research Methods puts special emphasis on individualism, which is the idea that all problems are individual regardless of gender or class. I’m also looking at how these shows might support or go against this ideology. For example, if the episodes as a whole focus more on domestic life and interpersonal conflicts, or on gender and class issues.

Discussion

To examine exactly how The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo represent the upper and lower classes, the first thing to look at are the representational codes used by each program. One very important factor in defining class in these shows is the use of non-diegetic music. The Real Housewives of New Jersey use music one would hear in a ballroom with violins, cellos, and a piano, indicating that this show is indeed about an upper-class lifestyle. For Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, country music using a guitar and banjo indicates that not only is the family the show is centered on working class, but also Southern. The music motifs seem to be the recurring overall theme for each show.

The camera shots that are used to transition from scene to scene also give the viewer a good idea of how each of these shows define class. Before going to another location, The Real Housewives of New Jersey will cut to shots of the New Jersey Turnpike, chandeliers, expensive cars, and mansions. These shots are meant to establish where the scene takes place and what nice things the wealthy cast members have to show how seemingly glamorous it is for them to be upper class. The scene transitions in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo have the opposite effect, establishing where the scene takes place while cutting to road kill, stray dogs, piled up junk cars, an old factory, and a train going by the Thompson house. These camera shots show that Alana, also known as Honey Boo Boo, the six-year-old pageant participant the show is about, and her family live in a small, run-down town in the Deep South. It’s clearly not meant to be the ideal standard of living, especially compared to the upscale neighborhoods The Real Housewives live in.

Another element to both these shows and generally a common feature in reality television are the confessional scenes. This is where the camera is set up in an isolated location and the show’s participants appear individually to speak candidly about the other participants and about what’s going on in the scenes being shown. In many cases, these interviews can be spliced into regular footage at any point with manipulative editing and may be used several episodes away from when they actually took place. The confessions on The Real Housewives of New Jersey usually take place in their homes, more specifically in s living room, dining room, or kitchen setting, emphasizing their roles in the domestic sphere. The confessions on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo take place either in a living room setting or outdoors, appearing more rustic. It’s also important to note that the housewives always wear make up and have their hair styled in their confessional scenes while June and her daughters never do, suggesting they don’t care what people think of them by not putting very much effort into how they look, which can be seen as a positive thing.

In both shows it’s mostly the mothers and daughters who talk to the camera, because they’re the ones given the most focus, implying the fathers’ opinions don’t matter as much, mostly likely to both play to the majority female viewers, and in June Shannon’s case to better establish her as head of the household. When the father in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo does get interviewed, the setting is what appears to be a garage, a place the female family members are never seen. Some of these aspects are quite similar to how gender is discussed in the articles, “Domesticating Politics” and “Women’s Work,” regarding how little focus fathers get and the emphasis put on women’s domestic lives. The confessions also factor into the series’ reliance on ironic contrast, which means if someone makes a boastful assertion while talking to the camera, it is immediately contradicted in the very next shot. For example, when Teresa states that she’s “so not a stage mom,” she is shown coaching her young daughter in a routine. These contradictions can play into the show participants’ mental abilities, which are a common feature of stereotypes of gender and class because the lower class is often portrayed as less intelligent than the upper class, according to Tessa Perkins (Perkins 144).

To determine if and how the women in one show are characterized as innately less intelligent than in the other, first I looked at behaviors, actions, and dialogue that might prove their intelligence or lack thereof. For The Real Housewives of New Jersey, there is both knowledge and lack of knowledge regarding what to do and how to behave in social situations depending on the individual housewife. In episode one of Real Housewives, “Thicker than Water,” Danielle plans to go on a blind date with a man with the screen name “Goochi model,” without knowing his real name and their only conversations having been phone sex. Since this obviously isn’t a smart idea, Jacqueline and Teresa voice their concerns about Danielle’s plans, saying the man sounds like a “psycho.” So Jacqueline has the idea to follow Danielle to the restaurant to make sure he isn’t dangerous. Jacqueline also shows some intelligence regarding social situations in episode two, “Mama Knows Best.” She comments that Danielle is very new to the group, so she tries to give her advice on how to get along better with Dina because they “fought too early,” telling her not to come on too strong. Teresa does not share the same tact, made obvious by her reasoning for having her own house built instead of living in someone else’s “That’s gross” which suggests some ignorance on her part to how most people actually live.

Any intelligence demonstrated in the family on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, on the other hand, is based more on common sense. In episode one, “This is My Crazy Family,” June tells the girls not to put the cheeseballs back in the container when they fall on the floor, knowing that eating something off a carpet isn’t a good idea. When they go to the annual Redneck Games, June comments that the women “of voluptuous size” need to wear more clothes and pays attention to the sign that clearly warns of bacteria infested waters. In episode two, “Gonna Be a Glitz Pig,” June signs up Alana and her sister for etiquette classes because she comments they could use them. The lack of intelligence comes in regarding basic biology and what is socially acceptable. While June comments that the family could lose some weight, she also says that farting twelve to fifteen times a day means they’re healthy. In episode two, Pumpkin asks the etiquette teacher if it’s okay to fart at the table, and Honey Boo Boo says you shouldn’t pick your nose as she does it anyway, another ironic contrast, though she is at least aware of the fact. As Fairclough noted in “Women’s Work?” the upper-class women on The Real Housewives are shown to have an overall better understanding of how to act in public than the “raucous working class” family of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (Fairclough 3).

However, behaviors and dialogue can only tell us so much about how intelligent the reality cast is depicted. The best indicator of any perceived lack of intelligence is the use of subtitles in each program because if the dialogue comes with subtitles to read, the producers assume the people on T.V. are unintelligible to the audience. In the first episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, subtitles are used in two scenes, and in episode two they’re used in eight scenes. In these episodes the subtitles are used when the cast members are far away, in a crowded place with music, if their voices are muffled somehow, or if small children are speaking. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, on the other hand, uses subtitles in at least thirteen scenes per episode for no apparent reason. There is an implication here that without subtitles, most people wouldn’t be able to understand the family’s thick Southern accents because the family may not be speaking in the ‘correct’ way.

When examining how gender is portrayed in reality television, it can be nearly impossible not to discuss motherhood, as the articles on representation of women in the media from my literature review all discuss how motherhood is represented. Both The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo have a fairly conservative view on motherhood in that Alana’s mother and nearly all of the New Jersey housewives are stay-at-home moms, filmed almost entirely in domestic settings and/or with their children. It can also be considered a privileged view of motherhood since they can all afford to do so. The New Jersey housewives in particular are depicted in close connection with one another, especially considering that two of the cast members, Dina and Caroline Manzo, are sisters and Jacqueline Laurita is their sister-in-law. All of this is very similar to Press and Strathman’s description of how women were depicted in early television, as almost exclusively in a domestic setting. Most of them rarely ventured into the male dominated world of work and were often depicted in close connection with one another, whether they were close friends or family members (Press 3).

To compare the portrayal of mothers from both shows, I paid specific attention to the ways they show affection and concern to their children through their behaviors, actions, and dialogue, along with how class might be a factor in their parenting. For example, Dina acknowledges that she spoiled her daughter Lexi in that she relies on Dina too much, but now she’s going to fix that. Dina notes that Lexi doesn’t even know how to make her own bed, to which Lexi replies, “Because you never taught me!” to which Dina responds that she has to start helping out. In this scene Dina is cooking for them in the kitchen and Lexi is sitting at the table, neither of them making eye contact with each other throughout the conversation. Jacqueline has a similar conversation with her teenage daughter, Ashley, noting that it’s hard to keep her grounded in the affluent town they live in. This implies that the more money one has, the harder it is to learn what’s ‘really important’ in life.

When Jacqueline asks Ashley to clean up her closet and make her bed, Ashley asks her mother to braid her hair, seemingly ignoring what Jacqueline has just told her. Ashley describes her relationship with her mother as “like best friends,” and they “fight like friends too,” suggesting her mother doesn’t have much parental authority over her. In the same episode, Danielle tells Teresa and Jacqueline that she and her daughters “had no choice but to become like best friends” after her divorce. Later in the episode, Dina plays tennis with her daughter at the country club to “burn off calories” for her nephew’s graduation. As they start their game, Dina asks Lexi rhetorically, “How much am I paying for your lessons?” Lexi claims she’s not trying to win, where Dina replies, “Try! I want to see what I’ve been paying for.” While she does encourage her daughter to put effort into what she’s doing, them playing tennis is also to make sure the lessons were well spent. They go back and forth like this and seem to be having a good time until Dina gets tired after they played for what may have been hours. In her confessional scene, Lexi says the best thing about living with her mom is that she’s like her sister, in that they fight like sisters and she can wear her clothes, which the viewers can see from their banter and matching white tennis outfits. Most of the things the housewives do with and for their children involves a great deal of money, such as Teresa taking her three young daughters shopping at least two days a week, one of her main concerns being that her daughters are “fabulous.” In the second episode, Jacqueline throws her young son C.J. a huge carnival-themed birthday party with circus performers, blow-up houses, farm animals, face painting, games, and party favors.

Unlike the mother-daughter relationships on Real Housewives, Alana Thompson herself describes the mother from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo as “the boss of the family,” meaning she has the most authority in the household. As Alana says this during the introduction of the pilot, the camera tilts up from June’s feet to her head to present her as a ‘large’ both literally and figuratively in that she plays an important role in the household. The affection shown by June to her daughters is more verbal, most notably at Alana’s practice pageant in the first episode. Before it’s Alana’s turn to go up on stage, June wishes Alana good luck and reminds her to pay attention. After Alana’s performance, the camera focuses on June as she claps and gives Alana a high five, telling her “good job!” After finding out Honey Boo Boo didn’t place, June has a confessional scene where she says “In my book, she’s always a winner” and will always be supportive of Alana, “win or lose.”

In another instance of June’s encouragement of her daughters is when Alana’s sister Jessica makes it known that she wants to lose weight so she can fit in better at school. Jessica asks ‘Mama,’ “If I lose weight, will you lose weight with me?” After pausing for a moment, June replies “For support for you, I’ll do it.” She even gets the rest of the girls involved since they are all overweight. She will also help Alana practice and get ready for her pageants similar to how Teresa from The Real Housewives of New Jersey coach her daughter Gia with her dance rehearsals. There are also the everyday tasks to consider in how affection is shown, like how June gets Alana up in the morning. In the first episode specifically, there is a sequence with June waking Alana up and playfully picking her up and tossing her on the bed. These physical and verbal signs of affection can serve as a function of having less money, along with showing June as a more ‘sincere’ mother. In the two instances June does buy something for Alana, it’s buying junk food at the weekly auction in the first episode, and Alana gets a teacup pig to cheer her up in the second episode after her pageant loss from the pilot because June and the father know it’s a pet she has always wanted. Overall, June’s verbal and physical affection can make her come off as the more ‘sincere’ mother than the New Jersey housewives.

As for embodying stereotypes, the Honey Boo Boo show and Alana herself makes it very clear that, “Yes, we are rednecks.” This is made all the more evident when Honey Boo Boo and her family attends the annual Redneck Games, an event that started in 1996 as a fun way to raise money for charity. Atlanta was going to host the Olympics and a lot of jokes were being made about a bunch of rednecks hosting the Olympics, so a group of volunteers made a schedule for a Redneck Games event to satirize the stereotype the media held about them, which shows some intelligence and self-awareness on their part. The games for this event, as seen on the show, include the mud pit belly flop, a wet t-shirt contest, and bobbing for pig’s feet. By belching, sneezing and farting whenever possible while shouting things like “Redneckognize!” Alana and her family “unapologetically represent a certain vision of rural America…Is it insulting and coast-centric to watch a show that makes fun of poor Southerners? Or is it insulting and coast-centric to assume that a show about poor Southerners is making fun of them?” (Weiss 1). The family in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo seems to be perfectly aware they are behaving like stereotypical rednecks and aren’t too concerned with being seen in a positive or negative light as long as they’re being themselves. In the pilot episode, June even states, “Our family is crazy. You like us or you don’t like us. We just don’t care.”

Journalist Joanna Weiss goes on to say, “Yes, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo has a mocking tone. It also has subtitles that are widely seen as a sign of condescension — though executive producer Tom Rogan told me that producers truly couldn’t understand the family’s thick Southern accents. But Honey Boo Boo pokes fun at working-class Southerners the way Keeping Up With the Kardashians pokes fun of over-privileged Angelenos: gently, and with their full consent” (Weiss 2). The assumption here is that whatever messages Honey Boo Boo might be sending about class are not actually meant to be taken seriously, and that the producers’ intent is not always what the viewers absorb from a program. This can be seen as an example of a “semiotic democracy,” as explained by Graeme Turner of British Cultural Studies, that recognizes the rights of consumers to make what sense they will of the television shows their watching and what messages they get from it.

According to “Can’t Help But Go Gaga over Boo Boo” by Adrian Chamberlain, the hillbilly figure in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo “allows middle-class white people to offload the venality and sin of the nation onto some other constituency, people who live somewhere–anywhere–else. The hillbilly’s backwardness highlights the progress more upstanding Americans in the cities or the suburbs have made” (Chamberlain 2). In other words, this show gives its more affluent audience a sense of superiority, which directly relates to Reiss’s theory of sixteen basic desires, which is the theory that people pay attention to stimuli that are most relevant to their most basic motives, in that status was the main motivational force people had for watching reality television (Reiss 12). However, there could be other motives from the sixteen besides status that makes The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo appealing to viewers. For example, vengeance could be a motive for people who watch Real Housewives for the interpersonal conflicts among the cast members, especially violent conflicts. Most importantly, viewers who watch both shows might also have a strong desire for family, considering that Here Comes Honey Boo Boo mainly focuses on Alana and her family, and all of the Real Housewives are mothers who are frequently shown with their children and relatives.

However, the stereotypes concerning The Real Housewives of New Jersey don’t have as much to do with gender or class as much as the ladies’ Italian-American background, that is, their ethnicity. They are frequently compared to the fictional Carmela Soprano from the HBO drama The Sopranos, as in The Washington Post article “Housewives Function Best on Dysfunction,” in which the author describes the show a bit like “The Sopranos on estrogen, with alpha housewife Caroline Manzo extolling the virtues of street smarts over a college education and noting that her family ‘is as thick as thieves’” (Givhan 1). There may be an underlying assumption here that because these women are rich and Italian that they must be connected to the mob in some way, classifying them as “all the same,” as Tessa Perkins would argue in her definition of stereotypes (Taylor 41). It’s also noted that the Brownstone, a catering hall owned by the Manzos, was actually featured in The Sopranos.

The sense of superiority that less affluent audiences can absorb from The Real Housewives of New Jersey is how out of touch they seem to be about what life is really like and the petty spats they get into, usually shown by making statements in their interviews that are immediately contradicted and saying things to the camera they probably wouldn’t say to each others’ faces. One notable example is how Dina Manzo says people have this idea that she’s “some kind of gold digger” while being shown trying on diamonds, and has threatened to “kick [Danielle’s] ass.” The main source of the conflict between Danielle and Dina in episode two of Real Housewives comes from the two women allegedly spreading rumors about each other.

“With The Real Housewives we are reminded that we can still be astonished by rudeness and incivility. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Our jaws can still drop over the little things: the snide comments, the social climbing, the disingenuous behavior, the inability to say ‘No, thank you, I have enough”’ (Givhan 2). Even though the show itself seems to glorify materialism, the message here is that money can’t buy manners. Alternatively, the message could also be that if you have money you don’t need manners. The latter undermines class because, though their upper class lifestyles can make them seem more elegant on the surface, they can be just as ‘common’ as the family on Honey Boo Boo, if not more so. In this instance, ethnicity trumps class in how the housewives are represented. This was especially prevalent in the opening of the pilot episode where the infamous scene from a different episode of the five cast members loudly arguing with each other at a dinner party ending with Teresa calling Danielle a “prostitution whore” and flipping the table over is intertwined with shots of the New Jersey turnpike and mansions to serve as a preview of things to come for the rest of the season.

One housewife in particular, Danielle Staub, has some of the qualities found in the wives described in “Women’s Work? Wife Swap and the Reality Problem.” For example, she’s pushy in that she “comes on too strong” as described by the other women and will show up at get-togethers she hasn’t been invited to, such as Dina and her friends’ “girls night out” (Fairclough 2). It’s also important to note that her main ‘plot’ in both the first and second episodes revolves around her somewhat desperately looking for a husband, preferably a rich one, since she is the only housewife who is not currently married (Fairclough 1). In the first episode she goes on a blind date with the questionable man she met online, and in the second episode she dates a twenty-six year old when Danielle was forty-six years old a this point. The very first time Danielle is introduced, she comes out of the house in a skimpy bikini, presenting her as readily “available” for men (Taylor 40).

However, Dina has somewhat of a work identity in her charity, Project Ladybug, which helps terminally ill children and with which Dina’s work life is given about as much focus as her home life. Dina subverts the “upper class twit” stereotype in that she can organize events and disproves the assumption that she has nothing to contribute to society through her charitable organization. The housewife that possibly subverts this stereotype and the Italian-American stereotype the most is Jacqueline, who is described by the other housewives as having a big heart and always seeing the good in people, while cutting to shots of her bringing out cupcakes and greeting people at her son’s party. More often than not she will figure out ways to avoid potential conflict instead of making it. Jacqueline is portrayed in a sympathetic light, perhaps more so than the other housewives, such as in her struggles to conceive another child and trying to keep the peace between Dina and Danielle in both episodes.

I had first assumed The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo would focus more on social and interpersonal conflicts rather than gender and socioeconomic issues. However, these programs instead show some understanding of socioeconomics through interpersonal conflict. On Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, June will comment on how Alana’s pageants are very expensive and will find ways to save as much money as she can, such as cutting coupons for example. In the second episode the family goes to a weekly cheap auction that sells food and household goods to save money, where June states that she doesn’t care if a package of food is expired or fell off a truck as long as it’s cheap. It’s obvious from the scenes inside the house that the family buys things in bulk to save money considering the racks of toilet paper, shampoo, food, and detergent in each room.

Since the pilot for The Real Housewives was filmed in 2009, there are comments made by Jacqueline and Teresa about the recession. Jacqueline states that she’s grateful to have the life that she has considering how bad the economy is, and Teresa states that because the economy is crashing, she always pays cash. Jacqueline and Dina also discuss their lives before they married their rich husbands and their experiences adjusting to the upper class lifestyle. Before Dina married her husband, she was divorced and claims she “had nothing” and was living in her sister Caroline’s spare bedroom with her daughter. Dina recounts that when she first moved in with her sister, “a lot of the women weren’t too welcoming.” When she started dating her husband, however, these same women wanted to know who she was because they saw her driving a Ferrari.

Jacqueline, a self-proclaimed “Vegas girl,” recalls a couple of upper-class women being shocked that she doesn’t play tennis, and generally not “blending in” too well with the upscale town at first. To her it seemed that all people ever talked about were “cars and money.” From both Dina and Jacqueline’s accounts, the upper class, especially the women, is represented as snobby and superficial, and both housewives having trouble fitting in. This can make these two women seem more relatable to the average person, specifically to lower class, in comparison. The message here may be that lower class and upper class women might not be as different as one would think.

  Conclusion

As stated in my introduction, my topic is on how women from different social classes are represented on candid reality television. My thesis states that reality programs often take on a conservative view of gender and class, misrepresenting both. In my literature review I covered how ideology shapes the perceptions of both dominant and subordinate classes, media representations of social groups, stereotypes, the hegemonic role of television in our culture, and portrayals of women from different social classes in fictional television. Concerning portrayals of upper class and lower class women from reality series, I researched textual analyses of the shows Wife Swap and Trading Spouses, along with an assessment on why people watch reality T.V.

The specific theories I used to analyze my thesis were the ideology of individualism, Perkins’ theory that oppressed groups are characterized as innately less intelligent than dominant groups, Fiske’s theory of television as a “semiotic democracy” that resists ideological control recognizing the rights of consumers to make what sense they will of the pleasures on offer, and Reiss’s theory of sixteen basic desires in humans. There is also an assertion from some scholars that reality shows portray women as desperate individuals obsessed with marriage or measured only by their success in the domestic sphere. Regarding class, American socioeconomic problems are ignored in favor of family values and interpersonal conflicts. There is also the assumption that working class parents show more affection towards their children while upper class families have better social etiquette.

For my methodology, I chose to do a textual analysis of two episodes from two American reality series: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. In both of these shows the representational codes, such as music and camera shots, clearly indicate they are about lower class and upper class lifestyles respectively, while the confessional scenes emphasize the women’s domestic lives and mostly ignore the fathers, similar to the findings in my literature review. As expected, June was more warm and affectionate towards her children than the housewives were to theirs, the housewives were implied to be more intelligent than the Thompson family through use of subtitles, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo enforces the redneck stereotype. However, I was surprised to find that the stereotypes Real Housewives employs have more to do with ethnicity than gender or class, considering my thesis only focuses on the latter two. I have also found that these shows show American socioeconomics through interpersonal conflicts rather than ignore them entirely and may have an appeal to viewers’ desire for family as well as status.

These findings have both confirmed and refuted my thesis that gender and class is misrepresented in reality television. From doing this project, I have learned not to take everything at face value and to consider why social groups might be portrayed in certain ways in the media. If I had done anything differently, it would be to look more into the behind the scenes aspects of these programs and what the producers’ intentions for viewers are. If I were to continue my research on this topic, I would either study episodes from later seasons of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or study two more programs that focus on gender and social class, such as My Super Sweet Sixteen and Teen Mom.

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 Works Cited

Berger, Arthur Asa. Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000. Print.

Brancato, Jim. “Domesticating Politics: The Representation of Wives and Mothers in American Reality Television.” Center for the Study of Film and History 37.2 (2007): 49-56. Proquest. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.

Chamberlain, Adrian. “Can’t help but go gaga over Boo Boo.” Times — Colonist. 30 August 2012: D. 3. Print.

Fairclough, Kristy. “Women’s work? Wife Swap and the Reality Problem.” Feminist Media Studies 4:3 (2004): 344-347. Proquest. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.

Fiske, John and John Hartley. Reading Television. London: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Givhan, Robin. “Housewives Function Best on Dysfunction.” The Washington Post. 12 April 2009. E. 1. Print.

Ingham, Helen. “The Portrayal of Women on Television.” Aberystwyth University. TV & Radio. November 1995. Web.

Perkins, Tessa. “Re-thinking Stereotypes.” In Michele Barrett, Philip Corrigan, Annette

Kuhn and Janet Wolff (eds), Ideology and Cultural Production. London: Croom Helm, 1979. Print.

Press, Andrea and Terry Strathman. “Work, Family, and Social Class in Television Images of Women: Prime-time Television and the Construction of Postfeminism.” Women and Language 16.2 (1993): 7. Proquest. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.

Reiss, Steven and James Wiltz. “Why People Watch Reality TV.” Media Psychology 6 (2004): 363-378. EBSCOhost. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Taylor, Lisa and Andrew Willis. Media Studies: Texts, Institutions, and Audiences. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999. Print.

Turner, Graeme. British Cultural Studies: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Weiss, Joanna. “Honey Boo Boo and the real America: How ‘Honey Boo Boo’–viewed without the implicit classism–can bridge a national divide.” Boston Globe. 18 Sept 2012. A. 13. Print.



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