Working-class reality?: How the blue-collar reality shows misrepresent the U.S.working class
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The proliferation of the so-called "blue-collar" reality shows, such as Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men, and Dirty Jobs among others, raises critical questions about media representations of the U.S. working class. Although these shows may appear to be simply entertainment, they heavily influence common understandings of working-class life today. The working class is diverse with women and people of color constituting the majority, and working predominantly in the service economy and other low-wage sectors, such as migrant and domestic work. Despite the diverse reality of working-class experience, only a particular group within the U.S. working class is represented on most of these popular reality shows. Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, and Ax Men highlight the experiences of mostly white working-class men, often focusing on the danger these men face on the job, while conversely deemphasizing the need for stronger rights and protections for these men as workers. The programs construct a narrative centered on these workers’ masculinity as they "tame the wilderness" on the frontier. Unlike the aforementioned shows, Dirty Jobs does not glorify the masculinity of white workers, but represents the diversity of both U.S. workers and their occupations. Through analyzing and deconstructing the first seasons of these programs, I demonstrate how the realities of workingclass life are not only being represented on corporate-owned networks, but the ways in which these representations affect understandings of class structure and class consciousness in the U.S. I take this a step further by historicizing the connection between white masculinity and the working class, and how it continues to obscure the truly diverse working class majority.