Reality‟s Fantasy: Survivor‟s Fan Culture The Academic College of Emek Yezreel, Israel The Popularity of Reality Programs Reality shows has recently become • increasingly popular in many countries around the world. It is a pervasive and provocative phenomenon that is remaking television culture and our understanding of it. Reality TV: Definition “Unabashedly commercial genre united less • by aesthetic rules or certainties than by the fusion of popular entertainment with a self- conscious claim to the discourse of the real. This coupling . . . Is what has made reality TV an important generic forum for a range of institutional and cultural developments (Murray & Ouellette, 2004, pp 22). The Reality Genre As a genre, reality television involves placing “ordinary” people before the camera and deriving some entertainment value from their activities being unscripted. What ties together all the various formats of the reality TV genre is their professed abilities to more fully provide viewers an unmediated, voyeuristic, yet often playful look into what might be called the “entertainment real”. Survivor Survivor is the most successful of the reality show • and has become, perhaps, the “classic” format of the current generation of reality. Interest in the series had become an obsession: the focus of media attention as well as the topic of everyday conversation. Survivor introduced an element that neither live- • television documentaries nor drama could boast: competition. Survivors‟ Fan Community “To „view‟ television is to engage in a relatively • private behavior. To be a „fan‟ however, is to participate in a range of activities that extend beyond the private act of viewing and reflects on enhanced emotional involvement with a television narrative (Bielby et al., 1999, pp 36) Jenkins (1991) adds: “the ability to transform • personal reaction into social interaction, spectatorial culture into participatory culture, is one of the central characteristics of fandom (pp 291). The Study‟s Objectives Although many studies focused on how the • viewing public constructs the meaning of reality based TV, they did not examine the meaning fans assign to their experience. This study examines the way this experience is generate and organized in youngsters‟ personal and social life arguing that reconceptualization of reality itself is necessary to help us understand the ways in which social worlds are created during the formative years. Methodology This ethnographic study us based on individual • and focus group interviews with 28 Jewish Israeli high school students. They watch Survivor Regularly, define themselves as Survivor‟s fans and developed interpersonal and in-group relationships on the basis of their interest in the show. Occasionally, I was invited to spontaneous meetings with the participants that took place in their homes. In addition, two sites and the complete DVD series of Survivor Australia were subjected to a qualitative analysis. Research Findigns The Concept of Realism • All the participants referred to the • conceptualization of reality. Thus, media realism, or the way in which a media representation is seen to relate to real-world experience has been the focus of the fans‟ reality judgment. Their responses were emotionally involved and indicated that the fine line between reality and fantasy was somewhat blurred. Research Findings (con.) Shared Sense of Community • The primary benefit of being a fan is embedded in • a network of people with similar interests. Moreover, discovering that others publicly share the same perspective only reinforces the belief that their perceptions are valid and legitimate. Research findings indicated that reality fandom is • as conflictual as everyday reality because the well spring of fans‟ values was not the show, but rather the overall fractious and competitive culture itself. Research Findings (cont) Fans’ Characteristics • 1. Survivor represents real life situations and • people. 2. “Everyone can be a celebrity and enjoy fame”. • 3. “Competitiveness is a crucial way for great • success”. 4. “It‟s all about money” • 5. Willingness to over-look people‟s feelings • 6. “It‟s just a game” • 7. “I am the most important”. • Discussion The Survivor show has caught fan‟s imagination and inspired fantasies. The show‟s content overflow to many areas of life including: daily schedule, areas of interest, consuming priorities etc. What are the implications of theses processes on the development of theses youngsters‟ world view and the consequent social construction of reality? To Conclude, Adolescent Survivor‟s fans perceive the show as real presentation of reality and not a symbolic one. Consequently, they incorporated to the construction of their identity a fantasy that functions as a role model for their future personal, social, and professional development. What does this reframing of television culture says about our society? Does it reflect the basic values of the capitalist world we live in or reinforce them? Final Word Who is responsible for making the decisions • regarding the formats and content of reality programs? Ironically, those who are the most competitive, • powerful, and wealthy-”the lords of media”, make the decisions based on their interests. Their form of action closely resembled the values and priorities portrayed in Survivor: competition, quick profit, and a strong notion that all means justify the end.