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January 07, 2012

Politics and Reality TV

Rob Walker: "Reality shows, it seems to me, are more or less attempts to recreate the core narrative of electoral politics: a bunch of candidates competing and being eliminated until a solitary winner is chosen, by most votes, with a lot of dramatic tension, narrative richness and exciting plot twists along the way. If politicians begin to compete by seeing who can eat the biggest pile of bugs or dance a rumba, or whip up a multicourse meal that exploits squid to its fullest culinary potential, then you could say the process is borrowing from contemporary reality TV. But the whole winnowing-down-a-field-of-competitors thing has been a staple of the participatory-democracy genre for quite a while."

"The reason that reality shows swiped this narrative structure is that it can be extraordinarily entertaining. That's what I concluded, way back in November, when I found myself shamelessly savoring my fifth Republican debate. (I think it was the ninth or tenth debate overall.) I knew I was supposed to be appalled that the 2012 race began 18 or 24 or perhaps 48 months prior to election day, but I wasn't, and I'm not. The truth is I always enjoy the primaries, Democratic or Republican. And this season has been a real standout."


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