July 24, 2012

Reality Show Judging On TV

Cynthia D. Bond, The John Marshall Law School (Chicago), is publishing "'We, the Judge(s)': The Legalized Subject and Narratives of Adjudication in Reality T.V., in the UMKC Law Review. Here is the abstract.

At first a cultural oddity, Reality TV is now a cultural commonplace. These quasi-documentaries proliferate on a wide range of network and cable channels, proving adaptable to any audience demographic. Across a variety of types of “Reality” offerings, narratives of adjudication — replete with “judges,” “juries,” and “verdicts”— abound. Do these judgment formations simply reflect the often competitive structure or subtext of Reality TV? Or is there a deeper, more constitutive connection between Reality TV as a genre and narratives of law and adjudication?
This article looks beyond the many “judge shows” popular on Reality TV (e.g. Judge Judy, etc.) to examine the law-like operations of the genre itself, and how legal narratives dovetail with the increasingly participatory nature of our “convergence culture.” In addition, this article examines the ideologies these shows represent regarding community, and particularly the role of the legalized subject within this community. How does the prevalence of images of judges and judging on Reality TV fit into previous notions that media audiences empathize with legal processes by identifying with an “on-screen” jury, embodying shared, democratic decision-making? Do these shows play on pop cultural narratives of conflicts between judges (within the show) and juries (the viewing audience)? Finally, do such shows empower spectators by engaging them in democratic “knowledge collectives,” or instead represent a neo-liberal “technology of governmentality”? Ultimately, through its enactment of a range of adjudicatory and quasi-legal narratives, Reality TV emerges as a deeply regulatory space.
The full text is not available from SSRN. 

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