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Undercover Boss's Travels: Comparing the US and UK Reality Shows

journal contribution
posted on 2022-05-25, 00:00 authored by Ilana Gershon
Comparing different versions of *Undercover Boss* reveals how an assemblage of TV producers, camera crews, businesses, and broadcasters choose to portray corporate hierarchies during the financial crisis of 2008 when corporations seemed like especially vulnerable forms of social organization for workers to rely upon. This article approaches the same show done in two different countries as a natural experiment that can reveal national differences through a textual comparison. The US show relies upon a sentimental imagination such that knowledge of the other is based on an emotional connection to the past. The UK show relies upon an organizational imagination in which the structural roles one plays in a company shape what one knows of how the company functions. Each version portrays distinctive approaches to three issues: (1) what can be known about people as social actors; (2) what is portrayed as ethical or appropriate workplace relationships; and (3) what kinds of tacit critiques of contemporary capitalism are possible.

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2022-05-25

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