The truth is in their faces: MTV’s Fear and the rise of ‘Personal Affect’ in paranormal horror | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-3275
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3283



Looking to capture the popularity and excitement surrounding the first truly successful ‘found footage’ horror film The Blair Witch Project (1999), in 2000 MTV began airing Fear, a reality competition-style television series that found contestants completing dares while exploring a haunted location to win money. Continuing the early tradition of MTV pushing boundaries and inventing formulas, Fear utilized the aesthetics made popular in Blair Witch and combined them with the increasingly popular reality competition format. While this union of seemingly disparate concepts did not last long in its own right, Fear set the standard for future paranormal reality television shows in terms of affective programming. Fear had a unique relationship between producer, consumer and technology, as the contestants filmed the show themselves, as well as utilizing surveillance cameras. This results in a more personal, amateur presentation that is indicative of a larger cultural trend in the twenty-first century, with a convergence of audience and performer, consumer and producer. Most interesting for Fear is that these lines are blurred not by ideology, but affect.


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