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Four stories that break down the reality of reality TV

Four stories that break down the reality of reality TV
Sonja Morgan, Ramona Singer, and Bethenny Frankel in a season 8 episode of The Real Housewives of New York City. (Photo by Ivan Apfel/Bravo)

For your weekend reading pleasure, here are four recommendations for recent stories, all of which explore various aspects of reality television’s production and impact.

  1. How natural are nature documentaries? Chasing down honesty in BBC’s The Hunt by Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge
    Using the new BBC America nature documentaries series The Hunt for specific examples, this piece breaks down how nonfiction entertainment bends the truth, from cutting together unrelated animals and pretending they’re a family to using zoo footage interspersed with wildlife footage. As Lopatto writes, “Narrative itself is a lie — whether it’s in documentary film, journalism, or any other medium that concerns itself with facts.”
  2. For Christian Siriano, Inclusivity Isn’t a Buzzword—It’s a Lifeline by Justine Harman, Elle.
    This profile of the Project Runway winner explores how “he’s chosen to favor real-world transparency over fashion fiction.” But it also reveals how his success on television still hurts him in the industry. As Nicolette Mason says, “I think there is definitely a little bit of reality television stigma, and the idea of people who are given this kind of ‘industry darling’ label are people who have gotten the stamp of approval from the industry from the onset. It does start off as a different narrative,” she says, “and I think it’s one that can be kind of threatening to the fashion establishment.”
  3. The Hills Cast Spills the Secrets of the Show You’ve Always Wanted to Know by Claire Stern, InStyle.
    There are more behind-the-scenes details here than there were in MTV’s Lauren Conrad love letter, though it still isn’t exactly the tell-all that the headline promises. But we learn things such as how producers had the cast stand, stare, and not talk to get shots of the cast supposedly glaring at each other, or Kelly Cutrone admitting that “producers would chime in with suggestions for the plot.” Series creator Adam DiVello calls the show “scheduled reality,” which is the most generous description imaginable.
  4. How ‘Real’ Are Reality Show Wardrobes? by Fawnia Soo Hoo, Fashionista.
    A fascinating story that breaks down the origin of the clothing on a few reality shows. It explains why The Real Housewives provide their own clothes and how The Bachelorette‘s star gets “up to 134 outfits” crafted by a stylist who does fittings that can last 28 hours. The story does not, however, address how Survivor cast members have their outfits selected for them by producers to match their character.

Have you recently read a great article or watched a fascinating video? Please send your tips and suggestions!

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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