Altaring Reality: Examining Normative Messages in Wedding Reality Television Open Access

Harris, Rachel Suzanne (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/p8418n976?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract
Altaring Reality: Examining Normative Messages in Wedding Reality Television
By Rachel Harris
The prevalence of white weddings in American culture is a fascinating and expansive topic that
has received considerable critical attention within the last decade. Many scholars have attributed
the wedding's continued popularity to popular culture. Chrys Ingraham specifically explains how
sites of popular culture form a wedding ideological complex that informs our commonly held
beliefs about the matrimonial ritual. However, despite the acknowledged importance of popular
culture within wedding culture, scholars have failed to consider how reality television may
function as a critical part of the wedding ideological complex. The purpose of this thesis is to
analyze episodes of wedding reality television representative of the variety of wedding-oriented
programs currently on the air. First, I consider the recent history of the American wedding and its
contemporary role in our cultural landscape. I pay particular attention to the commodification of
the wedding ceremony and how we may understand the commercialized ritual through Pierre
Bourdieu's concepts of capital. Next, I outline the genre of reality television and consider how
wedding culture dovetails nicely into the narratives of transformation prevalent in reality
programming. I then provide a close reading of seven individual episodes of various reality
programs and a separate analysis of one serialized wedding program, Bridalplasty. Finally, I
conclude with a reflection on the aftermath of wedding spending and the consequences of the
omnipresent standard of the commodified wedding.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction 1
Chapter One: A Brief History of the White Wedding in America 4
Chapter Two: Contemporary Weddings and the Cinderella Fantasy 19
Chapter Three: Reality Television and Weddings - A Match Made in Heaven? 34
Chapter Four: Reading Wedding Reality Television Programs 46
Chapter Five: Bridalplasty 79
Conclusion 95
Bibliography 100
Visual Media Bibliography 102

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