The Authenticity Industries: Keeping It Real in Media, Culture, and Politics
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In recent decades, authenticity has become an American obsession. It animates thirty years' worth of reality TV programming and fuels the explosive virality of one hot social media app after another. It characterizes Donald Trump's willful disregard for political correctness (and proofreading) and inspires multinational corporations to stake activist claims in ways that few "woke" brands ever dared before. It buttresses a multibillion-dollar influencer industry of everyday folks shilling their friends with #spon-con and burnishes the street cred of rock stars and rappers alike. But, ironically, authenticity's not actually real: it's as fabricated as it is ubiquitous.
In The Authenticity Industries, journalist and scholar Michael Serazio combines eye-opening reporting and lively prose to take readers behind the scenes with those who make "reality"--and the ways it tries to influence us. Drawing upon dozens of rare interviews with campaign consultants, advertising executives, tech company leadership, and entertainment industry gatekeepers, the book slyly investigates the professionals and practices that make people, products, and platforms seem "authentic" in today's media, culture, and politics. The result is a spotlight on the power of authenticity in today's media-saturated world and the strategies to satisfy this widespread yearning. In theory, authenticity might represent the central moral framework of our time: allaying anxieties about self and society, culture and commerce, and technology and humanity. It infects and informs our ideals of celebrity, aesthetics, privacy, nostalgia, and populism. And Serazio reveals how these pretenses are crafted, backstage, for audiences, consumers, and voters.