Hatfield School of Government. Department of Political Science
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science
affect, democratic decline, marriage, neoliberalism, parasocial relationships, reality television
1 online resource (iv, 103 pages)
This thesis uses reality television and the parasocial relationships it cultivates as a microcosm to better understand the current form of neoliberalism as well as the implications it has for democracy. I extend the preexisting scholarship surrounding neoliberalism and reality television by emphasizing the importance of social media in understanding that link. By conducting a case study of Netflix's Love is Blind, I demonstrate how both reality television content and the reality-television-participant-to-influencer pipeline serve to reinforce neoliberal values by constructing powerful cultural imaginaries such as a model of care and self-sufficiency that centers marriage and the household. I argue that the pandemic increased the commercial and social value of affective bonds as well as the role reality television has in producing them. Despite the anti-democratic and exploitative nature of formal reality television production, an active and critical viewing practice by viewers has the potential to foster non-statist democratic cultures and creative modes of affective resistance. These paradoxical possibilities demonstrate the powerful contradictions and double binds that define neoliberalism post-pandemic.
© 2023 Sophia Aepfelbacher
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Aepfelbacher, Sophia, "The New Profits of Pleasure: Reality Television and Affective Exploitation in Post-Pandemic Neoliberalism" (2023). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6503.
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