The Lie about the Truck: Survivor, Reality TV, and the Endless Gaze

Sallie Tisdale. Gallery, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-982175-89-4
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.)
Reviewed on : 09/24/2021
Release date: 10/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-9821-7590-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-3475-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-3473-4
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-9821-7591-7
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