Issues of fatness and weight have come to the fore of popular discourse in recent decades, particularly in countries like the United States where authorities in medicine and public health insist that we are in the throes of an “obesity epidemic.” Weight loss is prized as a way to recover health and claim subjecthood in a larger makeover culture. In response, fat activism and fat studies have arisen to challenge these cultural assumptions about the body. This dissertation explores how television narratives position themselves within this discourse and construct the relationship between the fat body and narrative in the temporalities and teleologies of weight loss. It argues that contemporary television not only dramatizes the debate between contradictory approaches to fatness, but also paradoxically manages to capitalize both on the “moral panic” over obesity and the visuality of the fat body by placing fat characters in weight loss narratives. In addition, these narratives demonstrate how genre influences body politics. While reality television makeovers produce weight loss and assume the thin person after the makeover to be happier and healthier than the fat person before, other genres provide resistance to such teleologies. Both comedies and dramas, in fact, offer narrative possibilities to characters who either fail to lose weight and thus remain fat, or lose weight and regain it, returning to their previous states. Likewise, while the reality television makeover is quantitative, other narratives of weight loss offer a qualitative understanding of fatness and weight issues. In examining narratives across genre and geographical context, though primarily from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, the dissertation demonstrates both the diversity of narratives as well as the circulation of makeover formats and competing ideas of fatness through television.

(2016). Body Curves and Story Arcs: Weight Loss in Contemporary Television Narratives [doctoral thesis - tesi di dottorato]. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10446/72274

Body Curves and Story Arcs: Weight Loss in Contemporary Television Narratives

HASS, Margaret
2016

Abstract

Issues of fatness and weight have come to the fore of popular discourse in recent decades, particularly in countries like the United States where authorities in medicine and public health insist that we are in the throes of an “obesity epidemic.” Weight loss is prized as a way to recover health and claim subjecthood in a larger makeover culture. In response, fat activism and fat studies have arisen to challenge these cultural assumptions about the body. This dissertation explores how television narratives position themselves within this discourse and construct the relationship between the fat body and narrative in the temporalities and teleologies of weight loss. It argues that contemporary television not only dramatizes the debate between contradictory approaches to fatness, but also paradoxically manages to capitalize both on the “moral panic” over obesity and the visuality of the fat body by placing fat characters in weight loss narratives. In addition, these narratives demonstrate how genre influences body politics. While reality television makeovers produce weight loss and assume the thin person after the makeover to be happier and healthier than the fat person before, other genres provide resistance to such teleologies. Both comedies and dramas, in fact, offer narrative possibilities to characters who either fail to lose weight and thus remain fat, or lose weight and regain it, returning to their previous states. Likewise, while the reality television makeover is quantitative, other narratives of weight loss offer a qualitative understanding of fatness and weight issues. In examining narratives across genre and geographical context, though primarily from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, the dissertation demonstrates both the diversity of narratives as well as the circulation of makeover formats and competing ideas of fatness through television.
28
2014/2015
EMJD - CULTURAL STUDIES IN LITERARY INTERZONES
Pasquali, Francesca
Hass, Margaret
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