Tribal Warfare: Survivor and the Politcal Unconscious of Reality Television

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Tribal Warfare thoroughly investigates a central element of the hit reality television show Survivor that the existing literature on reality television has overlooked: class politics. Christopher J. Wright combines textual analysis and survey research to demonstrate that Survivor operates and resonates as a political allegory. Using the work of Fredric Jameson, this book reveals how Survivor frames its "characters" as "haves" and "have-nots." For those new to Jameson, Wright breaks down the theorist's complex notion of the political unconscious into easily understandable language. Furthermore, using the results of a survey of Survivor viewers, Tribal Warfare demonstrates that viewers divide along gender, racial, age, and—most significantly—class-related lines in their consumption of, and reaction to, the program. The first book to explore the premise of "Survivor as society," this unique work serves as both an engaging analysis of a popular television program and a highly readable primer for those new to critical theory.

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Editorial Reviews

Dan Bollinger and Louise Wezzie Craven
Tribal Warfare offers a fascinating political analysis of a television and cultural phenomenon. Wright reveals the meaning behind Survivor's alliances, challenges and torch-snuffings—demonstrating that the program's tribes have spoken in more ways than one.
Brian Corridan
Wright's fascinating in-depth analysis adds a cultural relevance to Survivor beyond its entertainment value. You do not need to have seen the show to appreciate his research into the political and racial undertones and sociological impact of reality television. Tribal Warfare legitimizes discussion of Survivor as a literary topic.
Matthew J. Smith
This work takes reality television seriously and examines the underlying messages of the popular Survivor series deliberately, consequently shedding light over the social dynamics within the series and among the viewers. Everyone studying reality television should read this book.
March 2009 Communication Booknotes Quarterly
The writing is dynamic and the ideas compelling.
Communication Booknotes Quarterly
The writing is dynamic and the ideas compelling.
The Journal of Popular Culture
This is a delightful and thorough study of the politics and ideologyof the ‘‘reality’’ TV show Survivor.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739111659
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Series: Critical Studies in Television Series
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher J. Wright began writing about political and cultural implications of Survivor in 2001 for He works in the political media in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 "Interrogating the Obvious": Survivor, Cultural Touchstore Chapter 2 "You Cannot Talk to the Guys in the Boat": Survivor as the False Real Chapter 3 "Apparently Reprehensible Material": The Political Unconscious and Popular Culture Chapter 4 "If It Happens Again . . .": Repression and the Tagi Alliance Chapter 5 "They're All Lying to Me": Repression among Contestants Chapter 6 "A Really Passionate Affair": Repression through Editing Chapter 7 "These Three Girls Have All Been Riding Coattails": Survivor's Gender Wars Chapter 8 "Thrashing around Like I'm Thirty-Five": Paradoxes of Aging on Survivor Chapter 9 "This Thing Runs Deeper Than a Game": Survivor's Trouble with Race Chapter 10 "Always Historicize!": Symbolic Resolutions and Contemporary Politics Chapter 11 Appendix A: Synopses of the First Eleven Survivor Seasons Chapter 12 Appendix B: Contestant Profiles and Ratings Chapter 13 Appendix C: Methodology

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