Since the release of “Loft Story” in 2001, many reality TV shows have hit our screens. French author Valérie Rey-Robert denounces its sexist mechanisms in her book “Télé-réalité: la fabrique du sexisme”, published by Les Insolence.
“Married at first sight”, “Les Marseillais”, “Love is in the meadow”, “Top chef” or “Famille XXL”: almost every broadcaster has its reality TV shows. Unfortunately, they are marked by sexism, according to French feminist author Valérie Rey-Robert.
Leave your brain in the closet
Far from being a pamphlet against reality TV, the book Reality TV: The Factory of Sexism is actually inspired by its author’s passion for this entertainment. “I like to watch ‘Les Marseillais’ or ‘Les Anges’.
In 2022, most reality TV shows are scripted and watched on both TV and social media. “What we see on screen is a mix of what the contestants want to give, what’s driving the production, and the script. Ultimately, reality TV is real in name only,” adds Valérie Rey-Robert.
From television to social networks
The success of reality TV is based on the viewer’s identification with the candidates. You say to yourself, “This could be me. I could also become famous through reality TV.” However, young people are gradually turning their backs on television. “Not necessarily. Television is still widely watched in the working class. Then, since reality TV is now being watched a lot on social media, producers are recruiting candidates through that media. Reality TV is no longer an end in itself, but a way to gain more followers on social networks to become an influencer or influencer.”
Sexism where you least expect it
In shows like “Les Marseillais” or “Les Anges”, the candidates’ bodies are ultra-feminized, while those of the candidates are ultra-masculinized. But sometimes sexism is there where you least expect it: “In his shows like ‘Maison à vente’, when Stéphane Plaza criticizes the kitschy furnishings in the apartments, he systematically ascribes them to women. In addition, everyone has their role: the men take care of the repairs and the women the decoration,” explains Valérie Rey-Robert.
As evidenced by community life, women tend to compete with each other for men’s attention. “In these programs that emphasize heterosexuality, men are the only topic of conversation for women. Unlike men, women do not show solidarity with each other. The stupidity of all participants is emphasised, but the French agency for the regulation of the audiovisual sector and digital communications has noted that the emphasis is on that of women.
An image that the candidates suffer, especially when they try to join movements like Me Too or to denounce the gender-based violence they are subjected to. “They don’t have the ‘good victim’ codes, which means they’re either angry or they downplay and laugh about it. Also, a lot of them have heavy makeup on and have had cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately, that all leads to them not being taken seriously will.”
Interview by Agathe Birden
Web adaptation: Myriam Semaani
Valérie Rey-Robert, “Reality TV: the factory of sexism”, Les Insolentes editions.
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