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Classy looks and classificatory gazes: The fashioning of class in reality television

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Reality television has spawned a proliferation of programmes that feature ‘ordinary’ people. Often this notion of ordinary not only means non-celebrity but is also a synonym for working-class. Class, however, is typically unacknowledged and unspoken in the narratives that unfold in the genre, while the programmes themselves construct class and perceptions of difference, largely through fashion and appearance. Although there is an increased representation of working-class subjects in the reality genre, this visibility is not matched by an access to control of media platforms. Therefore, it is argued, what is often found in the representations generated by these programmes is a kind of class tourism that involves Othering. A substantial branch of reality TV that deals in narratives of transformation and foregrounds fashion and the body as signifiers of classed taste is introduced, and it is posited that cultural hegemony might be identified in the framing of middle-class taste as good taste in this subgenre, not only for those surveyed on-screen but also for the audience watching at home. Snog Marry Avoid? is analysed in relation to the performance of classed femininity it offers within this context.
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Keywords: cultural hegemony; embodied capital; habitus; hyperfemininity; panopticism; performativity; reality TV; working class

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: December 1, 2014

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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