This thesis expands the discussion of the mass appeal and sustained success of reality TV by initiating an examination of the direct connections between reality TV and cinematic and written fiction. As reality TV has firmly established itself as a successful genre of entertainment over the last two decades, scholarship has been slow to follow. The majority of existing scholarship focuses on reality TV as a descendant of the documentary and emphasizes the role of the non-professional, the average person, as the star. Reality TV's appropriation of structural elements from general fiction is acknowledged only briefly and the use of specific techniques borrowed from fiction is largely unexplored. Although reality TV is a variation of the documentary, this thesis explores reality TV's creation of its voyeuristic appeal through the appropriation of key elements that come directly from fiction. Specific techniques used to create a voyeuristic appeal in reality programs, such as the morally ambiguous character and the confession, can be traced, respectively, to the surprising sources of Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. Reality TV, in appropriating these techniques from Hitchcock and Poe, has a similar formula for entertainment: the thrill of voyeurism as a sublime experience. The consistent appeal of reality TV cannot be fully understood without an awareness of its connections to these two great artists.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred Hitchcock, reality TV, voyeurism, sublime