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"I don't kiss on the first date": Symbolic convergence through women's ritualistic watching of reality -dating television

Elizabeth N Ribarsky, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The researcher sought to understand how women engage in the process of symbolic convergence through ritually watching and discussing reality dating television programs. Four questions guided the present study. The first two questions addressed how women participated in the informal ritual of viewing the reality-dating program The Bachelor together, and the function this ritual served for these women. The last two questions examined the rhetorical visions, fantasy themes and types regarding both dating and reality television through which the women symbolically converged in the course of viewing the show. Working within the interpretive paradigm, nearly 35 hours of ethnographic observation were completed with a total of 8 groups of women while they viewed The Bachelor. Open/focused coding revealed five of Hymes's (1974) SPEAKING framework categories were most relevant in describing the women's ritual and the function it served: participants, key, scene, act, and ends. Further, Symbolic Convergence Theory was used to establish four rhetorical visions through which the women symbolically converged. First, Longing for a Romantic Fairytale included the women's talk of ideal dates and perfect kisses. Second, Looking for a Prince involved ideas such as desiring a man who is good looking and also has a good occupation. Third, Acting Like a Princess was comprised of fantasy themes and types that addressed the women's need to look and communicate appropriately. Fourth, Rejecting Reality Television's Reality included opposition to the abundance of alcohol and unrealistic scenarios and stress on the show. The findings of the present study highlight the importance and implications of informal rituals in fostering and maintaining women's relationships. Moreover, using Symbolic Convergence Theory as a theoretical lens shed light on the interactional process of developing shared meaning about dating, relationships, and gender. The researcher argues that reality-dating television serves as an impetus for conversations about romantic relationship expectations and plays a noteworthy role in the women's construction of what it means to date. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Speech Communication|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Ribarsky, Elizabeth N, ""I don't kiss on the first date": Symbolic convergence through women's ritualistic watching of reality -dating television" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3344727.