What happens if we perceive the American presidential elections from the perspective of pop culture? By comparing the spectacle of politics to reality television shows such as American Next Top Model and American Idol, the construction of the media personality and its star myth becomes visible. Just like other media personalities, politicians are the most convincing when they succeed in “being themselves,” thereby providing the illusion of authenticity. Although these media events are not the same - obviously the next American president will have a greater impact on global political reality than any next American top model or pop idol - some of the media strategies are remarkably similar. On October 23, Jaap Kooijman will give a lecture on this topic at the Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg. On the evening of the elections, November 4, he will give a lecture at SPUI25, join a debate at CREA, and reflect on the rhetoric of hope at the infowarroom in the Melkweg.
At a symposium on the “guilty pleasures” of reality television, organized by Studium Generale Universiteit Utrecht and student association Alcmaeon on 2 April 2008, Jaap Kooijman presented a historical overview of the genres that eventually led to the reality television formats we know today. Rather than perceiving programs such as Big Brother and Idols merely as signs of contemporary culture, implying that current times are more “superficial” and “shallow” than before, Kooijman follows the historical traces of reality television back to television genres such as candid camera, news, talk shows, crime shows, documentary, and more. Other speakers at the conference included social psychologist Wilco van Dijk and Bart Spring in ‘t Veld, the first winner of the very first Big Brother, broadcast in the Netherlands in 1999.