Performing Race in Flavor of Love and The Bachelor

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whiteness, blackness, surveillance, reality TV, performance, flavor of love, The Bachelor

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Using the reality TV (RTV) shows Flavor of Love and The Bachelor, we ask how the space of RTV is raced. Might the use of surveillance footage and reliance on notions of authenticity create a space where people constructed as a certain race are privileged? Are the qualities valorized in a participant on a White-centered show—comfort with being under surveillance, appearance of not performing—aligned with discourses of Whiteness? How, then, to understand the construction on Flavor of Love of participants self-consciously claiming and performing an identity? We argue that while it is true Flavor of Love animates racial stereotypes, it also allows for fluid and complex understandings of Black identity through active claiming of identities—in contrast to the restrictive naturalized White identities presented on The Bachelor. As RTV shows emerge featuring people of color, it will be the critics’ responsibility to identify if RTV becomes a Televisual ghetto where only certain performances of race are allowed or if RTV can be a space where diverse conceptions of race are animated. Scholarship on RTV needs to find new ways to express the complexity of surveillance and notions of authenticity as they intersect in the display of raced identities.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Critical Studies in Media Communication, v. 25, issue 4, p. 373-392.