"Exploitation" is Behind Trading Spouses' Desire to Feature Academics, Says Prof. Jeff McCall '76
June 20, 2006
June 20, 2006, Greencastle, Ind. - "Some professors, including those who have studied and participated in reality programs, are a bit incredulous about the proposal" by the producers of the FOX program, Trading Spouses. As Rob Capriccioso writes in Inside Higher Ed today, the reality show in which moms from two households switch places plans to shoot an episode this season that will "feature two families in which one or both of the parents are professors."
Capriccioso notes, "Some professors, including those who have studied and participated in reality programs, are a bit incredulous about the proposal. Some say that while talk shows have long entertained the middle class by mocking people from lower socioeconomic classes, now a new target is emerging in reality television -- one focused on stereotypical portrayals of academics. 'I would guess that they're trying to look for eggheads or absent-minded professors,' says Jeffrey McCall, a professor of communication at DePauw University in Indiana, who has studied the reality TV genre. 'Producers of reality shows thrive on generating and maintaining stereotypes.'"
Dr. McCall, a 1976 graduate of DePauw, adds, "These programs have one point -- to get ratings. They do that by exploiting or gawking at people. They shoot all kinds of footage and then selectively highlight the stuff that's most bizarre."
Brooke Krinsky, who works to select participants for Trading Spouses, tells Inside Higher Ed, "Our show is about celebrating families from eclectic backgrounds. One reason we're going after higher education professionals is that they tend to lead amazing lives and do amazing things."
But, Capriccioso points out, "McCall doesn't necessarily buy the 'amazing professor' argument offered by Krinsky. 'They might be surprised that people who work in higher education are just like other folks,' he says. 'We live day-to-day lives just like everyone else.'"
Access the complete article, "Alternate Academic Reality," by clicking here. Read about Jeff McCall's 2005 op-ed on "reality TV" shows here, and see clips of the professor's May 2, 2006 appearance on FOX News' O'Reilly Factor here.
On May 26, the same publication spotlighted 2006 DePauw University graduates who have been selected to Teach For America.
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