Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Scholars have recognized the platform that reality television offers in studying discourse features in action (Lorenzo-Dus and Blivitch 2013), as well as the platform that these shows offer for metapragmatic negotiation of sociopolitical issues (Pardo 2013). This paper attends to the multimodal aspects of film conventions and linguistic strategies that gossip-based reality television shows utilize to invite audiences to co-construct ‘what really happened.’ Whereas scripted fictional shows are developed around plotlines and events acted out on film, television series such as Love & Hip Hop are centered upon the recounting and interpreting events that have already happened. The show strategically shows all sides to a conflict through the combination of sit-down scenes, reported speech, embedded narratives, and ‘talking head’ post-film interview segments.
Building off of Goffman’s (1981) participant roles and Irvine’s (1996) interpretation of participation frameworks of reported speech, this paper analyzes the multiple participant roles that both cast members and audience members inhibit throughout the show. For example, sit-down scenes position the audience as an overhearer, whereas ‘talking head’ interviews position the audience as the direct addressee. I further examine how the self-lamination (Hill 1995) of cast members, who are often presented as taking one stance in one scene and a contradicting stance in another scene, invites audience members to question their credibility and poke holes in their constructions of reality. Ultimately, the producers of gossip-based reality shows leave conflicts purposefully unresolved, which prompts viewers to co-construct the ‘truth’ through debates on social media.