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Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  833 Ratings  ·  109 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
ebook, 392 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Seal Press (CA) (first published November 30th 2009)
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Jan 03, 2011 Sarra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 07, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: at-npl, media
My before reading comments-

This is what I believe :

There is more stupidity than reality in reality TV and that reality TV is bringing more stupidity into our reality.

I wonder if this book will support my hypothesis.

This review will tell you more about me than the book. ................ Hey KIDS , Get off my Lawn! !!

> Spent a good part of 2000s & 2010s watching & fighting the watching of some Reality TV shows by my three teenage daughters -all now in their twenties. Yes, I was th
May 23, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
May 26, 2012 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Sep 27, 2011 Cinnamon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kristina Klausser
Jan 09, 2011 Kristina Klausser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex Templeton
Feb 24, 2011 Alex Templeton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 27, 2011 Jennie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
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
Sep 21, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Mar 07, 2015 Danielle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, 2013
Finally! I will be doing a review on this.
Julie - Book Hooked Blog
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.
May 26, 2014 Rosa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Bradley Bowen
Dec 04, 2013 Bradley Bowen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2013 Jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, media
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
Nov 05, 2011 cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 100-in-2011
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
Mar 07, 2011 Jesse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steven Evatt
Oct 31, 2014 Steven Evatt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2016 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
interesting topic....that was covered in the introduction. the book is completely repetitive. i just kept saying to myself 'didn't she already say this.'
Mar 12, 2014 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
An interesting and important book about the larger consequences of the image of women as depicted on "reality" TV shows. When women are depicted as catty, needy, weak, shallow, and bone thin what is the effect on the public over time? The author starts the book by talking about how she has seen the reaction of young people change over time--when she first started doing media literacy workshops in high schools, teens found these shows to be unrealistic and stupid; but over the decade, she has fou ...more
Lilli Moore
Apr 22, 2015 Lilli Moore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although at times, Pozner may have been a bit biased in her analyzing of reality shows, it is easy to see why. After 1000 hours of evaluating this crap television, much of what she has to say stems from fact–but fact aside, her snarky attitude shines in the book and provides intrigue in a topic that could be otherwise considered cynical drone. Upon finishing this book I watched 6 hours of America's Next Top Model through Pozner's lense for a paper and was apalled at just how much you can absorb ...more
Emi Bevacqua
I shouldn't have waited so long to read this, because a lot of the reality shows covered are no longer current, but the tropes and agendas certainly haven't changed and Pozner does an amazing job of presenting them in an orderly and thought-provoking manner. This is not a light read, but she uses entertaining examples and kept my interest throughout; in fact if I wasn't nodding in agreement, I was shaking my head wondering how the hell I'd been duped by Big Media and its cultural hegemony.

The f
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.
Robb Bridson
Overall a pretty good book on the misogyny, racism, and commercialism of reality shows.
It's just way too disorganized and redundant, so it gets tiring.
It's also kind of hard to buy one of the central points due to lack of evidence (though it is somewhat intuitive): the notion that reality shows have extra impact because they do what they do in the name of "reality."

I suspect, based on the way the brain works, that whether something is done in the name of reality or not has zero effect on the pri
Clever, funny, and meticulously researched, this book does a good job of shedding a light on how we get manipulated by reality television. In some ways, this book works like the best non-fiction - it points out things that you weren't aware that you were fully aware of, which can be powerful. It does more than reinforce opinions that you might already have about reality television (or about societal biases in general). It even manages to remain aware of the response, and to attempt balance, even ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Jenni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
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