Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Robert J. Thompson


Narrative, Reality Television, Television Studies

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


This study used an in-depth textual analysis of the television show Survivor: Samoa to demonstrate that the unscripted characters of the program and shows like it have agency within the narrative. In addition to the 19th season of the Survivor series, the sample also included Jeff Probst's (host and executive producer of the series) weekly blog for Unlike most popular television narratives, the unscripted characters of Survivor: Samoa have the opportunity to tell their own story. This doctoral project was an in-depth analysis at how that authorial power was shared between the Producers of the show and the individual characters. The results of indicate there are three types of narrative agents that contributed to the storytelling process: the producers, the characters, and then a unique mix of the two. The result is a new perspective within the academic literature on Survivor and reality television shows like it. The self-performing characters are the product of our societal fascination with fame, self-promotion and hyperbolic impression management.


Open Access