The Makeover: Reality Television and Reflexive Audiences

By Katherine Sender | Go to book overview

7
Research Reflexivity
Audiences and Investigators in Context

You really shouldn’t ask a two-part question…. That’s not good
research! I used to design research studies…. Tsk, tsk.

Biggest Loser survey respondent

You’ll notice, you know, if you’ve studied the show, and maybe you
need to go back and start studying old seasons again, but you’ll
notice most of the makeovers fit in a certain age range.

—Robert, What Not to Wear interviewee

In the first quotation, a survey respondent chided us about a badly designed survey question; in the second, an interviewee told us where to look for good data about the candidates on a show. As I developed the frame of reflexivity to describe participants’ engagements with the shows, I realized that they were also reflexive about taking part in a research study. They were aware of dominant and usually negative views of fans of reality television, drawing on their sensitivities to makeover television’s lowbrow status to contextualize their roles in the research process. They situated themselves as actors in the research exchange—as storytellers, experts, and petitioners. Some participants drew on themes from the makeover shows themselves to reflect on the research; this included both their media reflexivity about how the shows were put together and the self-reflexivity valued in the shows.

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