V. Being Spencer Pratt

This post comes a little delayed, as I had planned to write the post on my ferry trip to Denmark. I can now say that I have learned two things: firstly, I get seasick quite easily. Secondly, looking at a screen makes seasickness worse. So, there’s that.

But now that I have some solid ground under my feet again, I want to use this week’s blog post to reflect on a piece that was presented to us last week: Being Spencer Pratt. I had never heard the term netprov before, so even when I had a look around before the presentation, it did not fully make sense to me. After the presentation, I feel I have understood it enough to talk about it – but as we already discussed in our session, you probably “had to be there”. Aside from the more obvious discussion about whether this is literature just because it takes place in written form, I want to talk about another aspect of this piece: the “literary value”. Sophia and I had a discussion last week about why we have this strange perception of a certain hierarchy in literature (of course, you could say the same about everything from film to music to paintings.) “Being Spencer Pratt” has a strong connection to reality TV, which does not really have a serious place in the field of the arts. But where does this come from? After all, the definition of what is pop culture and what is not fluctuates constantly – just look at the Beatles, Shakespeare, Bob Dylan. What is considered highly intellectual now might not have been regarded as worthy of academic analysis just some years ago. So, reality TV really navigates that field in a quite interesting way. After all, what if we stop calling it that and start addressing it as a performative real-time television experiment? Isn’t Keeping up with the Kardashians just a TV-prov?

In media studies, especially in the last years, the focus has shifted more towards an inclusive look at all parts of media, whether they have a high academic value or not, and I always find it especially interesting to have a very thorough look at something that you usually only scroll by in your twitter feed. In the case of Being Spencer Pratt, there is an additional dimension: the piece has been included in the ELit-collection. This drastic change of context suddenly shows Spencer Pratt as an artist instead of a social media phenomenon, and the entirety of his posts as a piece of literature. As Sophia pointed out, the artist himself cannot be clearly separated from his online persona – so, where does Spencer Pratt end and where does Spencer Pratt start? Is he a performance artist, a former TV-star looking for fame, or both?

And lastly, there is another interesting aspect: why do we tend to consider the intended audience? Often, we tend disregard whole genres, just because it is something that teenage girls like. Authors of YA-fiction are viewed in a wholly different category as Serious Fiction Writers, which I find quite unfortunate. Maybe pieces like Being Spencer Pratt can help to blur those dichotomies that seem so clear and enables us to reconsider (artistic and) literary value.