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Religion and Reality TV

Why is reality television flourishing in today’s expanding media market? Religion and Reality TV: Faith in Late Capitalism argues that the reality genre offers answers to many of life’s urgent questions: Why am I important? What gives my life meaning? How do I present my best self to the world? Case studies address these questions by examining religious representations through late capitalist lenses, including the maintenance of the self, the commodification of the sacred, and the performance of authenticity. The book’s fourteen essays explore why religious themes proliferate in reality TV, audiences’ fascination with “lived religion,” and the economics that make religion and reality TV a successful pairing. Chapters also consider the role of race, gender, and religion in the production and reception of programming.

Religion and Reality TV provides a framework for understanding the intersection of celebrity, media attention, beliefs, and values. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of religion and media studies, communication, American studies, and popular culture.

Religion and Reality TV: Faith in Late Capitalism provides a valuable constellation of case studies in the increasingly popular place of religion in the contemporary TV landscape. The collection’s insightful analysis of how religion, spirituality, and identity have been monetized within the generic and format expectations of reality TV make the book useful for classes focusing on television studies and/or religion. This collection’s particular attention to specific religious traditions and identities, as well as more generalized spirituality, provide multiple approaches to faith within reality TV.
– Charlotte E. Howell, Boston University

The essays are uniformly strong and compelling, reflecting a range of methodological commitments and disciplinary training. They are all written in a manner to engage non-specialists. The volume as a whole will prove a valuable resource for teachers and scholars in the fields of religion and media, religion and pop culture, and religion and visual culture. For scholars and students new to these fields or looking for a way to engage this undeniable substratum of our shared reality, I commend reading and assigning individual essays in this volume as a way to join the conversation.
– Kathryn Reklis, Fordham University