This paper outlines how Donald Trump’s emergence as the Republican front-runner of the 2016 U.S. presidential election has triggered analysis of reality TV’s impact on the political process. Across blog posts, op-eds, and think pieces, commentators have taken Trump’s bid for the White House as an occasion to opine on reality TV’s relationship to governing. Trump is America’s first “pseudo candidate because he is . . . a celebrity who stands for little besides his celebrity,” Neal Gabler (2016) explains. To state the problem another way, “Trump is the Kardashian of politics.” Instead of dismissing reality TV as inherently trite, superficial, and trashy, we need to understand the social, economic, and political contexts that have shaped its cultural development and shifting contours. Only then, the author concludes, can we really understand the “first reality TV president.”
Trump is more than a symptom of manipulative infotainment and cultural decline: His political ascendency speaks to reality TV’s long-established role in governing practices.
The Trump Show
Television & New Media
2016, Vol. 17(7) 647–650