Marwan M. Kraidy, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, has published an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Communication titled “Reality Television, Gender, and Authenticity in Saudi Arabia.” The article is based upon Prof. Kraidy’s forthcoming book, Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life, which will be published this October by Cambridge University Press.
Drawn from a bigger project (Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life, by Marwan Kraidy, Cambridge University Press 2009), this article examines the heated debate triggered by the pan-Arab reality show Star Academy in Saudi Arabia. It examines how controversies over authenticity spawned by popular culture crystallize broader social and political struggles. The article focuses on Star Academy as a contentious media event, describing and analyzing various Saudi reactions to Star Academy, and zeroing in on what the controversy reveals about Saudi politics. The article concludes that Star Academy was so polemical in Saudi Arabia because the show subverted the religious bases of Saudi social order by promoting women's agency, featuring cultural hybridity, and individuating authenticity.