Real appeal: The ethics of reality TV

Catharine Lumby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


It Was An Unscripted Moment When 60 Minutes Reporter Charles Wooley jumped up on stage to perform Big Brother housemate Sara-Marie Fedele's infamous ‘bum dance’ for the studio audience. The occasion was the penultimate eviction night in the show's first Australian series and Wooley was there to document this weird new genre for his viewers. Until he took to the stage, his approach to the story had been one of amused professional detachment. But as he stared out into a sea of pink bunny ears that were being sported by hundreds of teenage Fedele fans, you could see the recognition dawning on his face that Big Brother might not be just another flash in the youth culture pan – that maybe there was something groundbreaking in this reality TV stuff; that maybe, just maybe, he was staring out at the future of TV. Despite years of living with the incessant public attention that a TV profile brings, Wooley was clearly stunned by the fascination generated by a bunch of ‘ordinary’ people who'd agreed to live in the Big Brother house and have their lives recorded daily and broadcast nightly to television viewers. ‘Why are they famous?’ Wooley kept asking the fans and experts he interviewed. ‘What have any of them done?’ The stir Wooley's own presence created amongst the studio audience lent more than a touch of irony to his remarks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRemote control
Subtitle of host publicationNew media, new ethics
EditorsCatharine Lumby, Elspeth Probyn
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780511481550, 9780511189876
ISBN (Print)9780521534277
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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