A Reflection of Reality? The Consumption and Reproduction of Obesity Discourses by The Biggest Loser’s Viewers Through Facebook

Sarah Gray, Courtney Szto

Abstract


The Biggest Loser promotes itself as an avenue for ‘obese’ individuals to lose weight through exercise and diet modification with the end goal of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ (NBC, 2013). A driving premise behind The Biggest Loser is the idea that Western countries are in the midst of an ‘obesity epidemic’ and immediate action by all citizens is required. The purpose of this study was to provide insights into viewers’ consumption of the obesity discourses reproduced by The Biggest Loser, through the social media platform Facebook. Viewers’ Facebook posts were analyzed and categorized under the theoretical framework of biopedagogy. Data analysis observed that viewers’ Facebook posts reproduced obesity discourses concerning children, active or inactive citizens and inequalities. Facebook enables active participation of body surveillance and also serves as a multiplier of surveillance. The authors maintain that social media is a form of cultural texts; these texts reflect broader cultural understandings. Although some scholars argue that social media can facilitate movements of resistance, the authors observed that The Biggest Loser viewers reproduced obesity discourses. 


Keywords


Biggest Loser; obesity; biopedagogy, reality television; social media; surveillance

Full Text:

PDF

References


Associated Press. (2006). Facebook to open to all Internet users. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.pantagraph.com/news/facebook-to-open-to-all-internet-users/article_1db9bb2c-4bc7-5ac6-9dc7-f24b5756e901.html

Azzarito, L. (2009). The rise of the corporate curriculum. In J. Wright & V. Harwood (Eds.), Biopolitics and the 'obesity epidemic' (pp. 183-196). New York: Routledge.

Callaghann, V. (2011). Putting the Welfare State on a Diet: The Obesity Epidemic in Canada. Paper presented at the 5th global conference of Inter-Disciplinary. Net, Mansfield College, Oxford.

Crandall, C. (1994). Prejudice against fat people: Ideology and self-interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(5), 882-894.

Crawford, R. (1980). Healthism and the medicalization of everyday life. International Journal of Health Services, 10(3), 365-388.

Crowe, K. (2011). 31% of Canadian kids are overweight or obese. Retrieved September 29, 2012, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/09/20/child-obesity-statscan.html

Dubrofsky, R. (2011). Surveillance on reality television and Facebook: From authenticity to flowing data. Communication Theory, 21(2), 111-129.

Evans, J., Rich, E., Davies, B., & Allwood, R. (2008). Education, Disordered Eating and Obesity Discourse. New York: Routledge.

Facebook. (2014). Data Use Policy. Retrieved January 29, 2013, from https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/

Flores, G., Fuentes-Afflick, E., Barbot, O., Carter-Pokras, O., Lara, M., McLaurin, J., . . . Weitzman, M. (2002). The health of Latino children: urgent priorities, unanswered questions, and a research agenda. Journal of American Medical Association, 288(1), 82-90.

Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical Inquiry, 8(4), 777-795.

Foucault, M. (1988a). The ethic of care for the self as a practice of freedom: An interview with Michel Foucault. In J. Bernauer & D. Rasmussen (Eds.), The final Foucault (pp. 1-20). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Foucault, M. (1988b). Technologies of the Self. In L. Martin, H. Gutman & P. Hutton (Eds.), Technologies of the Self: A seminar with Michel Foucault (pp. 16-49). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Foucault, M. (1991). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Penguin Books.

Foucault, M. (1997). Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. New York: The New Press.

Francombe, J., & Silk, M. (2012). Pedagogies of fat. The social currency of slenderness. In D. Andrews & M. Silk (Eds.), Sport and Neoliberalism. Politics, Consumption, and Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Gard, M. (2009). Friends, enemies and the cultural politics of critical obesity research. In J. Wright & V. Harwood (Eds.), Biopolitics and the 'obesity epidemic' (pp. 31-44). New York: Routledge.

Gard, M., & Wright, J. (2005). The obesity epidemic: science, morality and ideology. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Gastaldo, D. (1997). Is health education good for you? Health education through the concept of biopower. In A. Petersen & R. Bunton (Eds.), Foucault, health and medicine (pp. 113-133). London: Routledge.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Halse, C. (2009). Bio-citizenship: virtue discourses and the birth of the bio-citizen. In J. Wright & V. Harwood (Eds.), Biopolitics and the 'obesity epidemic' (pp. 45-59). New York: Routledge.

Harwood, V. (2009). Theorizing biopedagogies. In J. Wright & V. Harwood (Eds.), Biopolitics and the 'obesity epidemic' (pp. 15-30). New York: Routledge.

Hearn, A. (2008). Insecure: Narratives and eEconomies of the branded self in transformation television. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 22(4), 495-504.

Hilpern, K. (2002). Fat chance. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2002/sep/11/familyandrelationships.publichealth

Hines, C. (2008). Virtual ethnography: Modes, varieties, affordances. In N. Fielding, R. Lee & G. Blank (Eds.), Sage Handbook of Online Research Methods (pp. 257-270). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd.

Hookaway, N. (2008). Entering the blogosphere’: Some strategies for using blogs in social research. Qualitative Research, 8(1), 91-113.

Kirk, D., & Spiller, B. (1994). Schooling the docile body: Physical education, schooling and the myth of oppression. Australian Journal of Education, 38, 80-97.

MacNeill, M., & Rail, G. (2010). The visions, voices and moves of young 'Canadians': exploring diversity, subjectivity and cultural constructions of fitness and health. In J. Wright & D. Macdonald (Eds.), Young people, physical activity and the everyday (pp. 175-193). New York: Routledge.

Markham, A. (2003). Critical junctures and ethical choices in internet ethnography. In M. Thorseth (Ed.). Applied Ethics in Internet Research (pp.51-63). Trondheim, Norway: NTNU University Press.

McMahon, T. (2011). War on obesity: Does policing snacks have any effect on children's weight? Retrieved September 29, 2012, from http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/06/11/war-on-obesity-does-policing-snacks-have-any-effect-on-childrens-weight/

Murray, S. (2008). Pathologizing 'Fatness': Medical authority and popular culture. Sociology of Sport Journal, 25, 7-21.

NBC. (2013). The Biggest Loser. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://www.nbc.com/the-biggest-loser/

Oliveira, M. (2012). Canada's 'most socially networked' title slipping away. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/digital-culture/social-web/canadas-most-socially-networked-title-slipping-away/article550205/

Olshansky, J., Passaro, M., Hershow, R., Layden, J., Carnes, B., Brody, J., . . . Ludwig, D. (2005). A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century. New England Journal of Medicine, 352, 1138-1145.

Ouellette, L., & Hay, J. (2008). Makeover television, governmentality and the good citizen. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 22(4), 471-484.

Plakas, P. (2012). Parents the biggest culprits in childhood obesity Retrieved December 16, 2012, from http://www.canada.com/health/Parents+biggest+culprits+childhood+obesity/2172665/story.html

Rail, G., & Lafrance, M. (2009). Confessions of the flesh and biopedagogies: discursive constructions of obesity on Nip/Tuck. Medical Humanities, 35, 76-79.

Redden, G. (2008). Economy and Reflexivity in Makeover Television. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 22(4), 485-494.

Rich, E., & Evans, J. (2005). 'Fat Ethics' - The obesity discourse and body politics. Social Theory & Health, 3(4), 341-358.

Rich, E., & Evans, J. (2009). Performative health in schools: Welfare policy, neoliberalism and social regulation. In J. Wright & V. Harwood (Eds.), Biopolitics and the 'obesity epidemic' (pp. 157-171). New York: Routledge.

Rose, N. (1999). Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Seid, R. (1989). Never too thin: Why women are at war with their bodies. London: Prentice Hall.

Seid, R. (1994). Too 'close to the bone': the historical context for women's obsession with slenderness. In P. Fallon, M. Katzman & S. Wooley (Eds.), Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorder (pp. 3-17). London: The Guildford Press.

Sender, K., & Sullivan, M. (2008). Epidemics of will, failures of self-esteem: Responding to fat bodies in The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 22(4), 573-584.

Shilling, C. (2005). Body pedagogics: A programme and paradigm for research. Paper presented at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Loughborough, UK.

Socialbakers. (2013). List of Countries on Facebook. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics/

Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(3), 321-326.

Tinning, R. (2002). Toward a "Modest Pedagogy": Reflections on the problematics of critical pedagogy. Quest, 54(3), 224-240.

Wilson, B. (2006). Ethnography, the Internet, and youth culture: strategies for examining social resistance and "online-offline" Relationships. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(1), 307-328.

Wright, J. (1996). The construction of complementarity in physical education. Gender and Education, 8(1), 61-79.

Wright, J. (2009). Biopower, biopedagogies and the obesity epidemic. In J. Wright & V. Harwood (Eds.), Biopolitics and the 'obesity epidemic' (pp. 1-14). New York: Routledge.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


The Journal of Social Media in Society is published by the Texas Social Media Research Institute, based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.