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Reality TV, Ghosts, and the Index

Sayad, Cecilia (2019) Reality TV, Ghosts, and the Index. Screen, 60 (4). pp. 587-605. ISSN 0036-9543. E-ISSN 1460-2474. (doi:10.1093/screen/hjz038) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:73903)

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This article examines the presumed documentation of supernatural phenomena in ghost hunting reality television shows. It asks how we relate to these intangible images in the context of a so-called ‘post-truth era’ which challenges mainstream sources of information while offering wide access to the production of texts and images.

One aspect of the discussion considers these reality programmes, which above all aim to entertain, as part of the horror genre, revisiting the place that reality occupies in horror scholarship. Supernatural narratives are traditionally discussed as symbolic representations of the real world—monsters stand for a feared ‘other,’ and stories metaphorically evoke personal or historical trauma. In horror criticism, supernatural tales are removed from reality, and can only address it indirectly. The reality shows in question, on the contrary, bring the occult and our life experiences closer together. Not only do they present ghosts and demons as real—in addition, these shows become a part of the individual lives of viewers, inviting participatory spectatorship. Fans interact with investigators of supernatural activity via text messages in live episodes and offer comments on internet discussion forums.

The second element of the discussion challenges notions about the ontology of the photographic and audiovisual images. It turns to nineteenth-century spirit photography as a point for comparison with digital technologies to question the presumably direct, indexical relationship between the image and material reality in light of our relationship to the photographic and audiovisual records of immaterial entities whose reality cannot be proved.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/screen/hjz038
Uncontrolled keywords: reality tv, television, horror genre, ghost hunting, index, spirit photography
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Cecilia Sayad
Date Deposited: 14 May 2019 15:37 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2021 12:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sayad, Cecilia:
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