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Reality TV gets real about marriage equality: Project Runway’s ‘Tie the Knot’ episode

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While reality television is not typically associated with acts of political advocacy or the endorsement of pro-social causes, on occasion the genre is capable of making such contributions, including participation in the cultural debate over LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) equality. The present article analyses ‘Tie the Knot’, an episode of the acclaimed fashion-design competition reality series Project Runway (2004-present) produced shortly before the United States Supreme Court’s 2013 rulings opening the door for marriage-equality legislation in the United States. I discuss the various ways the ‘Tie the Knot’ episode was noteworthy as a reality television text, a participant in the debate over same-sex marriage and an advocate for marriage equality. While ‘Tie the Knot’ broke new ground for the Runway series and the reality genre, at the same time the episode revealed limitations regarding how far its producers were willing to go in expressing their support for a controversial political cause and raised questions about the varying universalizing tendencies of mainstream media framings of same-sex marriage.
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Keywords: LGBTQ equality; Project Runway; fashion; political advocacy; reality television; same-sex marriage

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of New Mexico

Publication date: October 1, 2017

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