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Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  598 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Nearly every night on every major network, “unscripted” (but carefully crafted) “reality” TV shows routinely glorify retrograde stereotypes that most people would assume got left behind 35 years ago. In Reality Bites Back, media critic Jennifer L. Pozner aims a critical, analytical lens at a trend most people dismiss as harmless fluff. She deconstructs reality TV’s twisted ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Seal Press (first published November 30th 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,413)
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Sarra
I've been going back and forth on my rating for this. 3 feels too low, 4 is a bit too high. I guess it's really a 3.5, which is, of course, not an option here. When I started reading, I thought it would easily be a 4 or even a 5, because I'm a feminist & I'm studying media literacy, so I am already on the same side Ms. Pozner is. But a few things didn't sit well with me.

1) "The Poor": The author uses this phrase repeatedly. However, this is no more useful or acceptable - which is to say, not
...more
Rebecca
I've never been a particular fan of "reality" TV (Project Runway excepted), but I wasn't a particular detractor either. Mostly I just had an "It's not really my thing." attitude. I knew that it wasn't entirely "reality" as in a lot of cases people were chosed by producers for specific reasons (because they're "characters" to begin with, for example) and the the programs were heavily edited in order to create narratives, and hightlight themes that really may not have been particularly important t ...more
Chris
I'm not much of a reality tv fan. I watched Deadliest Catch for awhile, and somewhat lost interst this year. Other than that, I've watched various Gorden Ramsey things (I like the British ones much more), but even those I've cooled to - the overuse of the word bitch to describe women, the fact that every black women seems to take most of the hate from those in the group, the fact that you are suppose to undermine people to win a job where you need to lead and support people. The fact that the wo ...more
Alex
I should first point out that I am an avid reality television watchers. While I understand that the label "unscripted" doesn't necessarily apply to the full degree, I cannot help be suckered in even as I don't believe an ounce of the content. That being said, Pozner really brings the manipulation of reality television to light in a way that is eye opening. There is a lot of important material in this book that even that savviest television viewer might not be aware of.

The reason I did not give
...more
Cinnamon
I have never been a reality television fan (Project Runway and a few episodes of cooking reality shows aside). I've never seen an episode of The Bachelor, have never seen anyone get voted off the island, etc. Partly because I knew how choreographed these shows were and how edited they must be to prove the producers point. I saw the drama created by producers during the first Real World and figured it only got worse from there. So I avoided them, which means I'm left out of a lot of conversations ...more
Sheerley Zinori
Reality tv= sexist, racist, classist, etc. I get it. 300 pages of snark doesn't cover up the fact that her point was made 299 pages ago. I didn't disagree with what she was saying. I just felt that the cultural impact of reality tv encompasses more than sexism, racism and the like.
Alex Templeton
Initially, I wasn't all that interested in reading this book, as I felt as if it would be a retread of many concepts I had read before. I am glad I changed my mind, as this book has entered the category of library books I will eventually go out and buy my own copies of because I have found them so good. This was an excellent and deeply horrifying look at how reality TV is working to reinforce harmful messages about women, minorities, and the poor. Pozner gives example after example after example ...more
Jennie
If reality television is a disaster, Jennifer Pozner (founder of Women In Media & News) is its forensic investigator: making sense out of seemingly harmless shows like American Idol, The Bachelor, America’s Next Top Model, Flavor of Love, and others. With stellar, absorbing insight, she teases apart the decade-long history of reality television, examining its impact on our culture, its toxic messages, and how and why it has come to dominate the airwaves. Startlingly progressive, Pozner leave ...more
Elizabeth
I don’t often disclose that I can occasionally be found watching reality television. I first started watching Tool Academy because of this withering critique of it in Bitch Magazine, but somehow I stayed a loyal fan through all three seasons. And while I knew there was something disquieting about the show’s sexual politics and the cartoonish way race relations were portrayed I didn’t give it much more thought than a few eye rolls. I didn’t expect a sophisticated or egalitarian view or sex, gende ...more
Bradley Bowen
I have to say, Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer L. Pozner is one of my favorite new books! If you are a fan of reality television, a student of social sciences, or a person concerned about the toxic effects that the media has on our society, you definitely need to read it right away.

In Reality Bites Back, Pozner exposes the often racist and sexist messages being sold by the media and advertising conglomerates who control so much of what we see, hear, p
...more
Jess
This really is one of the most engaging books I have read on media literacy and deconstructing what we are watching. Pozner consistently makes great points, and is able to cite other research to strengthen her own findings. Her deconstruction of reality shows such as the bachelor, real housewives, America's next top model and more consistently has the reader questioning what they are watching and what they are being sold. For me - someone who was already hyper aware of the misogyny and pervasive ...more
cat
2011 Book 106/100

After seeing the new documentary MissRepresentation, which featured author Jennifer Pozner discussing the ways that reality television contributes to and cements the sexism, racism, and classism of our culture, I put her new book on hold at the library. I waited as they processed the first copy, and then got to read a shiny new copy of Reality Bites Back : The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV over the last few weeks. This book took me much longer to read as each chapter
...more
Jesse
This book is a great intro to women's studies genre book. Well written and compelling from that perspective. Definitely reads academic and pretty beauty myth basic.

As I was reading it I kept thinking the book would be so much better if she explored more of how people watched and viewed reality tv instead of the basic facts about what was happening and why it was sexist, racist,classist. Most of my friends watching reality tv are well aware of these points and the fun is in the reading and dialog
...more
Kristina Klausser
As a regular reality tv viewer I figured this might be a good read. While I was aware of many of the things (product placement, the contradictory treatment of the women on ANTM, the issues with SAG and reality tv, etc) but I learned a lot from this book. I stopped watching some reality shows (America's Next Top Model, the Bachelor, American Idol, basically any dating show, etc) because of some of the things discussed in the book.

Overall, a great guide on things to keep in mind when watching real
...more
RD Morgan
I wanted to like this book. I really, really wanted to like this book. But alas! I did not. I could not. I couldn't finish it.

I wasn't a fan of Pozner's sense of humor -- it was a tad too snarky for me, and this, in turn, caused me to distrust her narrative.
Steven Evatt
The antidotes about issues with different reality programs were generally good. However, the book seemed a bit scatter brained in organization. Pozner contradicted herself multiple times saying something was bad on one show, to only then claim it was also bad when on a different show they did the exact opposite. She was looking for reasons to interject liberal social angst everywhere she could. If every person on a show had to do the same act, if one or two of them were black, she would claim ra ...more
Shannon
Is this book a past selection from a freshman "Media Studies 101" survey course? Was the course taught by a militant feminist grad student at State U? It sure felt like it. The author wasted 300+ pages repeatedly positing the same argument, namely that reality television is sexist, classist and racist. (Most of us have already figured this out) I had higher hopes for this book. On a more positive note, I enjoyed some of the behind the scenes factoids that peppered the text. These little bits wer ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
This book was AWESOME. It made it's point without being over-judgmental of people who enjoy reality t.v. This was a refreshing read.
Jenni
If you've ever taken reality TV at anything less than face value, then you're probably already familiar with some of the themes in this book. But Pozner doesn't let you off the hook.

She makes a lot of pretty damning arguments against reality TV and its producers. Shows like The Bachelor, America's Next Top Model, and Flavor of Love are the biggest offenders, discreetly setting a cultural hegemony by presenting the following scenarios as "reality": gold-digging, wedding-obsessed women who are wo
...more
Julie (julie37619)
Writing
Very well done in terms of research and documentation. I'm a huge stickler for showing where your information comes from in non-fiction, and Pozner does a great job of this. You can tell that she has put a lot of time into her research and analysis of reality TV. Not only is the research done well, the analysis is spot on and done with humor and wit. It's dense at times, but very readable and the tone makes it fun.

Entertainment Value
I will confess that reality TV is one of my weaknesses.
...more
Rosa
May 26, 2014 Rosa rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Budding teenage feminists, reality TV enthusiasts
Shelves: thrown-at-a-wall
I tried more than once to finish this book but I couldn't get further than the first 10%. It's clearly not aimed at me (a film studies minor and avowed feminist) so I tried to ignore the glib, flippant tone, which I assume is the author's attempt to engage people who watch reality TV uncritically and avoid charges of taking it all too seriously, but it shaded into patronizing once too often for my tolerance. The efforts to address intersectionality, while appreciated, also rubbed me the wrong wa ...more
Laura Lee
I have truly appalling taste when it comes to television - Give me Housewives, Toddlers n' Tiaras, Top Models, and Bachelors, and I'm a happy girl. I am also a person with moderate intelligence who can easily pick out the manipulative editing, set-ups, and product placements on my own. Furthermore, I am able to identify stereotyping, misogyny, and lack of cultural diversity in most reality tv shows, yet I watch them anyway. I am the problem, I get that. It's cheap, mindless entertainment, and it ...more
Lena
This was a very eye opening expose on the meta scripts of reality TV. Though at times I found the tone of the writing preachy, I agreed with the overall message that media literacy and awareness are a key part of democratic discourse and that it's absence in the public consciousness threatens to erode the strides made by the civil rights movements. By exposing the tactics reality tv show producers use to craft narratives that paint women and minorities in a negative light, Pozner reveals the tru ...more
Christine
Reality Bites Back is a well researched book. And Pozner is an excellent, and often times hilarious, writer. She made some very excellent points...over and over and over again. But it was a tough read. And way too long.

As TV watchers and consumers we all need to be aware of the way TV, especially reality TV, manipulates us. We need to be more aware of how TV portrays women and people of color and how this shapes our views of stereotypes. We need to understand how big a role advertising plays in
...more
Carrie
Nothing in Reality Bites Back is especially groundbreaking or surprising, especially for someone who's already a pretty critical media consumer. That said, this book is incredibly necessary, as it compiles all of the terrible truths about reality television in one book. I enjoyed Pozner's exploration of sexism, racism, classism and homophobia/heterosexism in network and basic cable reality shows, but what most sets this book apart from others like it is her discussion about what viewers can do a ...more
Krista, Ambassador of Shimmy
"Banish the phase 'mindless entertainment' from your vocabulary." Reality Bites Back is an eye-opening read calling attention to the media giants and how what we consume impacts our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Among other things, it brings forth "cosmetic surgery shows jeopardizing women's health, dating shows treating single women as pathetic losers, and various cable subgenres portraying men of color like criminals and thugs." Pozner encourages us to "taken an honest look at how reality TV ...more
Jschwabenland1
We now have a new generation of children who are being raised with reality T.V. as the acceptable form of entertainment. This book vividly entails how women are generally depicted on reality T.V. And also men, minorities, aliens,...no one is spared. Even parents are criticized (Super Nanny). I see it as the impetus in the decline in our culture. Now where are the politicians on this? I want someone to have as platform--NO MORE REALITY TELEVISION!


The author hates Stacy London and What Not to Wear
...more
Ayse
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written, the arguments were interesting and in-depth and the social commentary was insightful and scathing. However, as always with this sort of thing, the people likely to buy and read it are already supportive of the main premise and I wonder what the larger point really is. I actually do not watch a lot of reality tv and it was interesting to read about some of the excesses and a little maddening to see so starkly the messages that are being reintroduce ...more
Lara
This was an interesting and informative read. What kept it from receiving a 5-star rating from me were two things: the repetition and the often times too colloquial language. She uses words such as fuck or ass throughout the book, which is distracting. I get that she is trying to sound hip and cool and present a sort of tough, ironic ethos, but her language actually detracts from her credibility and the seriousness of the issue. I also felt she kept the subject matter too limited: sure, women ar ...more
Hannah
Feb 09, 2013 Hannah rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in media literacy
Shelves: media, library
Reality Bites Back is a very thick book. There are millions and millions of hours of reality TV and different types of reality TV, and so this book needs to be thick to accomplish its goal. In part, I think it does, but in other aspects, it doesn't.
If I had titled this book, it would've been Unscripted Women Bite Back: Age Old Views in Reality TV or something of the sort. Most of the book focuses on women, which is probably the author's strong point, but I think that made this book weak. Gender
...more
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