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Nov 22, 2014

Author Lisa-Jo K. van den Scott discusses her paper, written with co-authors Clare Forstie and Savina Balasubramanian, "Shining Stars, Blind Sides, and "Real" Realities: Exit Rituals, Eulogy Work, and Allegories in Reality Television," which was recently published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Abstract: Competitive reality television is a pervasive part of contemporary American culture and encompasses a range of topics and forms. We identify three categories, or spheres, of contestant-elimination reality shows: External Vote, Internal Vote, and Choosing Individual/Deity. Within each sphere, we examine the locus of blame and the structure of the show as contexts for the elimination as symbolic death. This symbolic death presents allegories of loss of fame, social isolation, and individual loss of job, career, or love across these spheres. Contestants perform eulogy work to cope publicly with their elimination at the moment of exit. Eulogy work enables departing contestants to frame their “death” as a good death and to “cool themselves out” in an attempt to save face. In this way, contestants deal with conceptions of self in the show and the transfer of that self back to a reality outside of the bracketed time and space of the show. Drawing on literature from the sociology of emotions, the sociology of death, and the sociology of ritual, we provide the concept of eulogy work to capture the performance of the self specifically in the context of loss.

Read the article here.