The New Real: Iggy Azalea and the Reality Performance
Questions of realness, authenticity, and legitimacy, are deeply invested in a politics of identity that polices the purity of its central categories. The creative potential of performative modes such as rap performance and reality television is thus complicated by expectations of authenticity that are frequently embroiled in broader projects of identity delineation and regulation. This paper considers correlations between hip hop culture’s ethos of realness and authenticity, and the ‘real’ as manifested in the cultural phenomenon of reality television, for the ways in which they are bound by but also strive to reconfigure the limits of realness. With particular attention to the work and self-styling of Australian female rapper Iggy Azalea, I emphasise the tension between performance and authenticity, and point to the ostensibly disparate subcultural forms of hip hop and reality television as distinctly engaged in the renegotiation of this tension. I invoke the critical imperatives of whiteness theory to critique the normative channels of realness that remain at the forefront of hip hop’s self-conceptualisation and general promotion, in particular the role of gender and race in the construction of hip hop authenticity. I then examine reality television and its relationship with shame and intimacy as crucial to understanding its devalued status in studies of television and popular culture more broadly. Ultimately, I propose the explorations of ‘real’ in these works as indicative of a contemporary shift in the evaluation and justification of authenticity that points to a revised appreciation of the power of performativity.
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