Eaten by Zombies: The Role of Global Media in the Construction of New Identities via Reality Television and the Post-Colonial Self

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In February 2009 Australia witnessed the most devastating bushfires in living memory, with 181 people confirmed dead and countless homes and lives ruined. The media coverage of the event swept all other television programs before it: suddenly viewers were confronted with a new kind of reality TV that could not be discounted as mere entertainment. Quickly the coverage of the fires was co-opted into a discussion of Australian values and identity, at the same time as the images of Australia’s ‘hell on earth’ was beamed across the globe, simultaneously sustaining previously established colonial stereotypes of a dangerous and untameable continent.

This paper seeks to investigate the evolution of the reality television genre in light of these recent events, looking at the way programs such as Big Brother have also acted as a forum in which national archetypes can be workshopped and constructed.

Of particular focus will be the recent axing of the Australian Big Brother global franchise, and the place this has in the history of representations of Australian ‘reality’ across time. The paper will also examine the British cult series Dead Set, to determine how representations of the Big Brother house may involve narrative of otherness, surveillance society, and the notion of globalised media as a kind of virtual contagion that threatens to ‘zombify’ viewers into a numbed and disembodied view of themselves and their everyday experiences as new media content. From the perspective of Australia, this series will be analysed in terms of the idea of the empire under attack, unable to sustain its control over post-colonial subjects whose reality is continually evolving in the local context.


Keywords: Reality Television, Post-Colonial Identity, Global New Media
Stream: Media Arts Practices: Television, Multimedia, Digital, Online and Other New Media
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Eaten by Zombies


Paul Venzo

Associate Lecturer, School of Communications and Creative Arts
Faculty of Arts, Deakin University

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Paul Venzo is a lecturer and writer in communications and new media with Deakin University, Australia. He has published work on reality television, digital radio, and the techno-culture of surveillance. As a broadcast journalist he has an insider’s view of the evolution of new media practices in the Australian and global contexts. A first generation Australian-Italian, he maintains a strong interest in the Arts across national borders, and is an alumnus of the Peggy Guggenheim internship programme, Venice. Paul is currently undertaking a PhD in the area of subversive text-making for children and young adults.

Ref: A09P0573