Symposium + Abstract

There is an excellent symposium being run at the University of Auckland near the end of the year. The theme is Gender Cultures and Reality TV, and there have already been some exciting speakers announced. If this is at all in your area, and you think you might be able to justify a trip to Auckland, then I strongly recommend taking a look. I’m a little late pimping this, so abstracts are due Friday! Details can be found at: http://www.genderculturesandrealitytv.com/

And so to me. As much as I do work with Reality TV, and enjoy listening to discussions and chiming in where I can on issues of gender and sexuality, this is a little outside my comfort zone. But this is too good an opportunity to pass up, so I have put together an abstract. I’m still pretty new to abstract writing, so any advice on it would be gratefully appreciated.

“You keep singing like that and you will be able to afford the rest of that dress”: Nascent sexuality in the Idol Franchise

In the first nine years of its run, American Idol was relatively careful to avoid overt sexualisation of the contestants, playing very carefully to a conservative family audience. Judging panel comments regarding appearance or wardrobe of participants frequently came from Paula Abdul, taking on a sisterly or motherly role towards most contestants. However, in the tenth season, the changes made to the judging panel saw the introduction of Steven Tyler, a rocker known for, amongst other things, his lasciviousness and history of promiscuity. Tyler’s presence on the panel saw a shift in the dynamic, with him frequently making comments of a sexual nature towards both male and female contestants. Tyler joining the panel only a year after the success of the most overtly sexual contestant on Idol, Adam Lambert, may not be a pure coincidence, and may indicate a shift to attract new demographics to the show in order to arrest falling ratings. Where this may be problematic is in its coincidence with the lowering of the age limit for competing in Idol, meaning that contestants Lauren Alaina and Thia Megia were both fifteen years old at the time of their auditions. This paper will analyse the increased sexualisation of contestants over the 2011 season, identify moments at which this sexualisation became uncomfortable or problematic, and will attempt to draw comparisons to Australasian versions of the format.

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