Reality Corrupts; Reality Television Corrupts Absolutely
Austin, Michael,Decker, Mark T.
Peculiar Portrayals : Mormons on the Page, Stage, and Screen
Utah State University Press
"Explanations for the unlikely prominence of Mormons on reality TV are not hard to find, and everyone who has noticed it has an opinion....The more interesting part of the story, however, is the extent to which these Mormons appear as Mormons. Their religious identity is part of either the explicit narrative of the production or, even more often, the informal narrative of the fan base that participates in reality television programs on e-mail discussion lists and Web sites and in chat rooms. Undoubtedly lots of United Methodists and Roman Catholics have appeared on these shows, but these more mainstream denominations have not played nearly as big a part in the narrative building that defines reality television. Mormonism itself functions in these narratives in much the same way that race and sexual orientation do: an off-the-shelf cultural category that functions to build scenarious, create conflicts, and produce resolutions. Reality television has made characters out of average Americans, and as any honest critic will tell you, characterization requires stereotypes. From the comfort of an easy chair, viewers observe recognizable reality show characters from the cast of thousands: nurses, cowboys, aspiring models, people of color, soccer moms, homosexuals, college students, firemen--and even Mormons." [From author's introduction]