Reality TV’s Embrace of the Intern

  • Tanner Mirrlees University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
Keywords: Capitalism, Media Conglomerates, Reality TV Industry, Internships, Cultural Work


In the preface to a seminal exposé of the “intern nation,” Ross Perlin (2012) writes, “reality TV truly embraces the intern” (xii). This article describes and analyzes how 20 reality TV intern job ads for 19 different reality TV studios represent the work of interns and internships in the capitalist reality TV industry. By interrogating how the job postings depict the work that reality TV studios expect interns to do, the skills that TV studios expect interns to possess as a prerequisite to considering them eligible for mostly unpaid positions, the asymmetrical power relations between studios and interns, and the studios’ utilization of “hope” for a career-relevant experience to recruit interns, the article argues that the reality TV intern is actually a misclassified worker. The study demonstrates that reality TV interns are workers whose labour feeds reality TV production and that reality TV internships are a means of getting workers to labour without pay. The conclusion establishes some grounds for a reality TV intern class action suit.


Author Biography

Tanner Mirrlees, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)

Tanner Mirrlees is an Assistant Professor in the Communication and Digital Media Studies Program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. His research centers on key topics in the political economy of communications tradition such as US empire and communications, the military-industrial- communications-media complex, and the politics and ideology of popular culture. He is the author of Hearts and Mines: The US Empire’s Culture Industry (University of British Columbia Press 2015) and Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization (Routledge 2013), and articles in journals such as Alternate Routes, Cineaction, Democratic Communiqué, Global Media Journal, The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, and The Journal for Critical Education

Policy Studies.

Interrogating Internships: Internships and Creative Industries