With the rise of reality TV, media studies has broadened its scope to focus on the emergence of new representations and stereotypes. In featuring ordinary people in 'unscripted' situations, such shows resonate deeply with current ideas of identity and social relations. (1) Susan Murray and Laurie Ouellette claim that reality TV has significantly contributed to diversity on television, (2) as many of these programmes offer more representations of women and ethnic minorities than most others on broadcast television. (3) Yet, while some studies illustrate that the appearance of women is ubiquitous on reality TV, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam argue that such media representations are often one-dimensional and stereotyped. (4)
Adding to such work, this article explores the representation of the Palestinian Arab woman citizen of Israel and how their national identity is negotiated in reality TV shows on Israeli commercial television. As a national minority living in a Jewish majority state, Palestinian Arab citizens face an inherent conflict between their civic Israeli identity and national Palestinian one. (5) According to Arab Israeli scholar Azmi Bishara, Arab citizens of Israel are caught in the perfect paradox they must be loyal citizens of a nation that declares itself not to be their country but rather that of the Jewish people. (6)
Media representations play an important role in shaping the ways in which audiences understand and make sense of the social world, (7) thus the representation of Palestinian Arab women in Israeli reality TV allows us to explore how the Israeli-Arab conflict and identity of the Arab 'Other' are mediated and what views and values are negotiated as a consequence. Indeed, the analysis of how reality TV shows moderate issues of representation and 'truth' allows us insight into a multiple of personal, cultural, economic and political issues, which are, according to David S. Escoffery, 'constructed within a deliberately designed framework, reflecting societal values.' (8)
Our study involves an in-depth analysis of the reality TV shows on Israeli commercial television, in which Palestinian Arab women participated, in order to understand the patterns of representation of their status as 'Other' in Israeli society. Their presence in entertainment television has cultural, social and ideological corollaries, mainly reflecting the attitudes and values of the hegemonic Jewish majority. We are also interested in comprehending how different identities (personal, cultural, national) are mediated through interactions on reality TV. The analysis will focus specifically on Palestinian Arab women due to their prevalence on the studied TV shows and because of the lack of scholarship that exists. What makes this study unique is in the number of reality TV shows studied and its focus on the representation of Palestinian Arab women in particular. Our aim is to answer the following research questions: how are Palestinian Arab women represented on Israeli reality TV? what kinds of representation can be identified? how are these specific types negotiated on a multiple of levels?
Reality TV and Identity
Scholars offer various definitions of 'reality TV, especially regarding how 'real' or 'realistic' these types...