The lie about the truck Survivor, reality TV, and the endless gaze

Sallie Tisdale

Book - 2021

"In a world of fake news and rampant conspiracy theories, the nature of truth has increasingly blurry borders. In this clever and timely cultural commentary, award-winning author Sallie Tisdale tackles this issue by framing it in a familiar way-reality TV, particularly the long-running CBS show Survivor. With humor and in-depth superfan analysis, Tisdale explores the distinction between suspended disbelief and true authenticity both in how we watch shows like Survivor, and in how we perceiv...e the world around us."--

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Television criticism and reviews
New York : Gallery Books 2021.
First Gallery Books hardcover edition
Physical Description
254 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Sallie Tisdale (author)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Essayist Tisdale (Violation) takes readers down an entertaining rabbit hole in this fascinating exploration of the enduring attraction and success of "the greatest social experiment on television." How has the award-winning reality TV show Survivor kept audiences rapt through 40 seasons over 20 years? The appeal, Tisdale asserts, lies in the way it both "partakes of base archetypes... and indulges a few impulses we like to imagine indulging." It's a competition, she writes, where everyone's included; as viewers, "we connive to keep the game going." Balancing her impressive knowledge with an unpretentious tone ("the fact that we produce so much crap is interesting"), Tisdale takes a subject that many are quick to "trash" and convincingly argues there's a lot more to it--just as in real life, players have to navigate their own feelings of alienation (when they're banned to "exile island"), develop leadership skills, and even overcome sexist stereotypes. What her sharp observations reveal is that parsing truth from perception is a fool's errand. Though the narratives may be "structured reality," there's nothing more authentic than fans' desire to believe "that anyone can do it, that maybe I could do it." This fascinating study will be like candy for fans of the show and pop culture enthusiasts alike. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Tisdale (Talk Dirty to Me) has written an extensive study of Survivor that argues that reality television as a whole is both a performed reality--by the stars of the show--and a perceived reality by its avid audience. Though Tisdale's book begins as a behind-the-scenes breakdown of the very successful Survivor, it quickly devolves into a list of incidents and anecdotes. Tisdale's first-person approach often lessens the impact of her interpretations; her tone is overly chatty, and because she's approaching the work as an admitted Survivor devotee, it's almost essential that readers also be super-fans to understand her references to 40 seasons of cast members and in-show challenges. There are also frequent unexplored references--for instance, readers may not know that Tisdale's mention of the "post-Van Doren era" refers to the 1950s quiz show scandal (in which producers of Twenty-One fixed the game by feeding answers to a contestant). As a breezy roundup of Survivor's melodrama, the book succeeds, but it fails to deliver the insightful exploration of reality TV that its title promises. VERDICT A light and diverting read, but only for devoted fans of the show.--Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

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