Weight watching [thesis]

Melissa Mae Zimdars
____________________________________________ Joy Hayes ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I could not have finished this without the support of my parents, Tom and Karla Zimdars, my brothers, John and Zach Zimdars; and my good friend, Jenna Marchant. I also feel so grateful for my Communication Studies colleagues-for-life, who put up with me being "two-points Mish," humbled me with their intelligence, and made me laugh and smile during my lowest points. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Adam Rugg However, my
more » ... Rugg However, my biggest thanks, perhaps, go to the staff at the café in Prairie Lights. The caffeine they served me through the years fueled hundreds of pages and helped me develop hundreds of thought-fragments into semi-coherent arguments. iii ABSTRACT Beyond mapping and analyzing the relationship between representations of fatness on television, this project has two primary interventions within the field of television studies. Firstly, this project demonstrates the importance of bringing policy, from communication and health regulation to initiatives developed by transnational nongovernmental organizations, into media and cultural studies. Secondly, this project modifies theorizations of television, especially reality television, in relation to surveillance, governmentality, and the production of neoliberal citizens. I argue that television contradictorily acts as an extension of government, as opposed to a surveilling replacement of government, and as a site of multidiscursivity that balances neoliberalism and social welfare, individualism and interventionism, and issues of agency versus outside authority over the body. While television circulates discourses of public health, medicalization, and fat acceptance within the context of the obesity epidemic, it simultaneously and contradictorily individualizes and massifies viewers, disciplines and controls while failing to "effectively" discipline and control, and acts as a surveillance appendage (albeit an inconsistent one) and as an asynchronous cultural forum that weaves together various weight narratives and ways of thinking about fatness, health, and the body. iv PUBLIC ABSTRACT From The Biggest Loser to Mike and Molly, globally televised representations of fatness are multiplying in reflection of heightened governmental and medical concern that the size of our bodies constitutes a problem of epidemic proportions. This project demonstrates how television acts as a forum for not only the politics of fat visibility and world health policies, but also for debating issues of fatness in connection to weight-loss and self-discipline, self-love and size acceptance, and even disability and discrimination. Ultimately, this project traces public health, medical, and fat acceptance discourses throughout culture, from media industry documents and regulatory hearings to newspaper reports and television texts, in order to understand television's role in enabling and constraining the ways in which we understand bodies, fatness, and health as well as television as a medium of surveillance and discipline.
doi:10.17077/etd.y7l64iyx fatcat:2rkqpjgbcvap5aybpmllwdqpwm