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Consuming the Fractured Female: Lessons from MTV's The Real World

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Using MTV's popular long-running program The Real World as a case study, this essay examines the interrelationship of the construction and consumption of bodies in an increasingly surveillance-based, commercial, hybrid media culture. This article is part of a larger project that employed a multi-method approach grounded in feminism combining textual data from The Real World with interviews with producers and female fans of The Real World. The author investigates how Real World viewers make sense of the series' claims to the real, using the body as the site of cultural production. Two key frames of bodies on The Real World are identified: the troubled body and the heteronormative body. The analysis is situated among studies of media realism to interrogate the context in which real women today are recreated as the “fractured female” in popular culture. The author argues that scholars should continue in a move toward interdisciplinary approaches that link the cultural with the capital and offers the body as a major site of cultural production and reception.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies, Christopher Newport University,

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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