‘Torture television’ and the spectacle of suffering in light entertainment: 16 years of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Since its launch in 2002, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (ITV) has become a staple of the British television winter schedule. With a unique approach to the constructed reality format, I’m a Celebrity offers an intense television experience preoccupied with personality, group dynamics and suffering. The comedic potential of a group of celebrities camping in the Australian jungle is cultivated through the deployment of Ant and Dec, the most successful presenting partnership on British television, as they gently make fun of the celebrities and mediate the audience response to the experience. Celebrities are often forced to subsist on a starvation diet of rice and beans and the only respite from the enforced monotony of campfire ‘togetherness’ and the sharing of anecdotes and meagre rations, is the possibility of participation in gruesome ‘bushtucker trials’ and ‘dingo dollar’ challenges. Throughout the 3-week run, public votes form a brutal popularity index, culminating in a vote for the most popular celebrity to become either the jungle King or Queen. As one of the most successful examples of the constructed reality format, the series has long popularised the use of ‘torture’ for the purposes of light entertainment. In this regard, I’m a Celebrity probes popular ideas around group dynamics and individuation and begs the question: why is it ok to torture celebrities? Building on recent scholarship of the reality format by Deller (2016) and Skeggs & Wood (2012), this paper critiques the categories of celebrity found in the series and explores the significance of the ‘fame cycle’ (Deller) within the format. What does I’m a Celebrity tell us about contemporary attitudes towards celebrity culture?Skeggs, B & Wood, H Reacting to Reality Television: Performance, Audience and Value. London: Routledge, 2012Deller, R. ‘Star image, celebrity reality television and the fame cycle’ in Celebrity Studies, 2016, vol.7 (3), p.373-390.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019
EventInaugural International Persona Studies Conference - Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Jun 201926 Jun 2019
https://personastudiesconference.home.blog/ (Conference website.)

Conference

ConferenceInaugural International Persona Studies Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityNewcastle
Period25/06/1926/06/19
Internet address

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Keywords

  • Celebrity
  • Reality TV
  • Torture TV
  • Doxa
  • Personality
  • Light entertainment

Cite this

Jamieson, G. (2019). ‘Torture television’ and the spectacle of suffering in light entertainment: 16 years of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!. Paper presented at Inaugural International Persona Studies Conference, Newcastle, United Kingdom.