This article examines the fame‐hungry reality celebrity mother as a template for a new form of the female grotesque emerging within the postmillennial mediascape. Using a model of transmediation, the article argues that understanding this figure requires analyzing not only television but also online media and print and digital tabloids and the audience discourses involved with them. It further argues that transmediation incorporates gender and sexuality as well as media. In this, the body also functions as a medium, simultaneously grounded in materiality and dispersed in ambivalent representations and interpretations across the mediascape. Due to its combinatory nature and gendered valences, we call this concept the transmediated grotesque. We build this discussion around three reality celebrity case studies: Kate Gosselin, star of TLC's Jon and Kate Plus 8 (2007–11) and Kate Plus 8 (2011) and contestant on ABC's Dancing with the Stars (2005–); Kris Jenner, matriarch “momager” of the Kardashian family and star of E!’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2007–); and Farrah Abraham, star of MTV's 16 and Pregnant (2009–) and Teen Mom (2009–12) and participant on VH1’s Couples Therapy (2012–). In each case, fame corresponds with scandal and with the vilification of these women across media as “publicity whores” who will resort to anything to perpetuate their celebrity.
Reality Moms, Real Monsters: Transmediated Continuity, Reality Celebrity, and the Female Grotesque
Jennifer Lynn Jones is a doctoral candidate in film and media studies in Indiana University's Department of Communication and Culture. She is a feminist media scholar working in comparative media and critical cultural studies. Her research centers on identity, embodiment, and representation, and her dissertation is on celebrity, convergence, and corpulence in contemporary American media. She has published in Antenna and In Media Res.
Brenda R. Weber is professor of gender studies and film and media studies at Indiana University. Her books include Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity (Duke University Press, 2009); Women and Literary Celebrity in the Nineteenth Century: The Transatlantic Production of Fame and Gender (Ashgate, 2012); and Reality Gendervision: Sexuality and Gender on Transatlantic Reality Television (Duke University Press, 2014). She is presently working on a monograph titled Latter-Day Screens: Gender, Modernity, and Mediated Mormonism to be published with Duke University Press.
Jennifer Lynn Jones, Brenda R. Weber; Reality Moms, Real Monsters: Transmediated Continuity, Reality Celebrity, and the Female Grotesque. Camera Obscura 1 May 2015; 30 (1 (88)): 11–39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2885431
Download citation file:
Sign in via your InstitutionSign In