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Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,087 ratings  ·  146 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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Oct 22, 2010 rated it liked it
I've been going back and forth on my rating for this. 3 feels too low, 4 is 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 at all us
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
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 the dad you d
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Melody Newby
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a bit dated but the analyses on reality tv, integrated marketing, and the plethora of gendered, racial and class stereotypes found embedded in this medium, are still very relevant.
Do not be fooled by reality television. We all realize that reality television is partially scripted, but for me, the realization that these shows are just very long infomercials, is new. This is noteworthy since a significant percentage of every major network’s primetime line up dedicates hours to unscrip
Alex Templeton
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Kristina Klausser
Nov 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
RD Morgan
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic, 2013
Finally! I will be doing a review on this.
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Bradley Bowen
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Julie G
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 leaves no ...more
Laura Lee
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have truly appalling taste when it comes to television - Give me Housewives, 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. It's cheap, mindless entertainment, and it's necessary to turn my mind off and just let silliness wash over it every now and then. I am not being slowly brainwashed, or turned into a mindless consumerist zombie, or buying into the Ba ...more
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
everyone who watches reality tv, and even tv in general, should read this book!
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. ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
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.' ...more
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is very "media literacy/feminism 101". If you already think critically about the media you consume, skip this book. It might be an alright read for teens though. ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in media literacy
Shelves: library, media
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
Kitty Jay
Jennifer Pozner in Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV builds a case against the "mindless" entertainment of reality TV and points out how dangerous it can be, as it promotes sexism, racism, and advertises directly to its viewers while bypassing the normal restrictions placed on advertising.

While the book was comprehensive and Pozner did an excellent job building her case, there didn't seem to be anything new in this. Even Pozner admitted that most people are conscio
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
As someone who sometimes watches "Reality" TV, this book really made me pause and think about what it really is & why I watch it, and what messages it's sending. One of the most important things about the book is that it explains that every reality show is based around some already ingrained social concept - i.e. women are desperate and will do anything to get married. The author examines reality TV in regards to gender and race and the results aren't pretty. She is particularly hard on VH1 and ...more
I waited way too long to read this book, and honest, ten years later, yeah, it does feel a little out of date. While I remember most of the reality shows Ponzer is critiquing, our media landscape really does seem to have partially moved on, at least in terms of reality shows no longer dominating the airwaves as much as they once did. While a good number of these shows are still on the air, they don't seem to get the coverage or the mass interest that they once did - although I should note that m ...more
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