From a Western Phenomenon to a Global Phenomenon: A Comparative Culutral Analysis of Reality TV in the U.S. and China

By Evie Psarras.

Published by Journal of Communication and Media Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article examines the globalization of reality television by comparing popular reality shows in the United States and China. This research transcends the common debates concerning globalization (i.e., cultural homogenization and glocalization) by emphasizing what exists on the margins of these arguments. The author instead focuses attention on the micro-level consequences of the globalization of popular culture –the anxieties and insecurities facing Chinese and American citizens. The author reviews foundational studies of globalization that show these anxieties are produced by the increasing disconnect between what people want and state power. Using Schudson’s (1989) theory of popular culture the author proposes that the reality television content that is popular in these two locales indicate viewer’s primary sources of anxiety but also works to remedy these anxieties in accordance with the values and goals of the nation state. The findings of this article are based on a theoretical explanation of what is culturally resonant in each nation and even politically necessary. The author calls for future research to critically engage with both the production of reality television and audience research on the genre as a means to more clearly distinguish what is reality and what is entertainment in the time of President Trump. Overall, this article adds to the literature by exploring the important intersections between reality television, politics, and globalization.

Keywords: Reality Television, Globalization, Glocalization, Popular Culture, Mass Participation

The Journal of Communication and Media Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.17-31. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 771.100KB).

Evie Psarras

Doctoral Student, Teaching Instructor, Communication Department, University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, Il, USA

I am a third year Ph.D. Student at the University of Illinois-Chicago studying the social and cultural implications of reality TV and new media technologies. My other research interests include gender, millennials, and celebrity culture.