Chapter 13: Documentary and 'reality' debates

Here we explore recent debates around broadly ‘documentary’ forms, which are now often taken to include the wide variety of media output called ‘reality TV’. Big Brother is discussed, as well as the too easily taken for granted ‘trash’ status of some ‘reality’ forms. Their relation to ‘ordinary’ people, especially working class women, is also broached.

Issues raised by both of these always-constructed forms, which often aspire to give a truthful account of the real, include the ethical dimension of documentary practices, their treatment of their subjects, and the ‘performances’ which are often inevitably taking place. The area is explored via such examples as the work of Michael Moore, of the Zapruder footage, of hybrids such as drama-documentary (5 Minutes of Heaven (UK 2009)) and the recently argued sub-genre of ‘prankster’ cinema (the films of Sacha Baron Cohen, and of Chris Morris).

As for the other chapters, there is a list of links here as indicated in the book for reference and further study.


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