Performance Studies and Reality Television

Living a cable channel-free life, I never saw Mad Mad House, but if you did and you want to read a performance studies-based analysis, I direct you to Jason Winslade’s “You’ve Got to Grow or Go”: Initiation, Performance, and Reality Television” (PDF file).

At the center of his analysis are the reality show’s “alternate” characters, including the prominent Australian Witch Fiona Horne:

The five Alts were Fiona the Witch, Ta’Shia the Voodoo Priestess, Don the Vampire, Art the Modern Primitive and Avocado the Naturist. The use of just the first names and their “Alt” title was prominent in the show’s promotional materials and title sequence, in which their heads were placed paper doll-like (in South Park fashion) on small drawn bodies in cartoonish settings accompanied by equally cartoonish sound effects. For instance, a bubbling cauldron sound and a witch cackle accompanied Fiona’s brief scene. Further, these constructed characters exist as iconic figures in such settings as the Deliberation Room, where their gaudily painted portraits also feature prominently in the title sequence. These touches unapologetically fetishize and exoticize these characters and their “alternative” beliefs, perhaps to present them as more of a challenge to the mainstream contestants, who were predominantly young, white, upper middle class, and, if they had any religious affiliation, Christian.