Reading "The Apprentice": Commerce, culture, and the manufacturing of reality

Sharon Simpson Terrell


This study examines the six original seasons of the reality television series The Apprentice as a postmodern, cultural artifact. Grounded in Burke's (1967) "literature as equipment for living," and Brummett's (1984) consideration that televised content constitutes literature, the theory of "televised discourse as equipment for living" provided the guide to examine the series. Hall's (1980) "reading against the grain" oppositional reading technique was utilized to interrogate both the manifest and latent content. The content of the series may indeed provide the audience with a guide to ideological beliefs of both commerce and culture, thereby creating a manufactured reality for its viewers. Discussions include the genre of reality television, marketing techniques that utilize modern sponsorship with product/brand placement, consumerism, social commentary, business discourse, and the mythos of the American Dream.