This lively and passionate book explores the importance of television, in particular reality tv, in bringing forward stories of marginalised queer communities.
In this gradually engrossing memoir, Fenton Bailey really delves deep and with much insight into the way in which television really has developed to celebrate the stories from marginalised queer communities. Working alongside numerous recognisable faces, through his work with Randy Barbato and their work with World of Wonder, Fenton Bailey recounts 30 years of bringing a huge variety of stories to the wider public and this book feels very much a celebration of that.
The style in which Bailey writes is one of passion and pride – which initially might come across as a little bit too much, but by the end you fully appreciate – he has plenty in which to be proud of and you are truly swept along with his narrative. It is filled with fascinating stories and he doesn’t hold back when telling them with great honesty and with compassion as well – particularly it comes to Monica Lewinsky and trying to change the narrative of how she has been portrayed in the media. It is the way in which between them, Barbato and Bailey have always offered a different perspective of stories and bring them to a new and open minded audience.
Screenage is an extremely detailed book about how presenting real life stories, whether through documentaries or through reality television shows such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race and celebrating humans from all walks of life. The attention that has gone into research and using it effectively makes this a book that is completely eye opening. As someone who did media studies as a chosen subject for my A Levels – it really is a fascinating read, particularly when it delves into the creation of documentaries relating to Britney Spears and examining the porn industry from a fresh perspective. This is more than a memoir of 30 years of being in the television business – it is a reminder that television of how can challenge perspectives of many different subjects and make an impact on how society as a whole can adapt thanks to television.
On each and every page, it is clear that Fenton Bailey really cares deeply about every project that he and Randy Barbato has worked on through World of Wonder and will always do each subject as much justice as possible.
However, on occasion, it does feel as though in places that the book does shift about a little bit too much in terms of focus in the way in which it flits from decade to the other that makes it come across as a little inconsistent in where it is heading. This aside, it is fascinating to see through Bailey’s eyes how society has changed through television’s perspective.
Overall, it is a must read for those fascinated by the way in which television has developed and changed – but it also highlights the long way that society has to go in terms of acceptance of those from all walks of life and television has strong part to play in that . It is not a memoir in a traditional sense but it shows how many of the things that we enjoy in popular culture has roots in queer culture – which has outright been dismissed (wrongly) or ignored and this book makes a celebration of it.
By Emma Clarendon
ScreenAge: How TV Shaped Our Reality is available to buy now.