Article

Food and Fashion: Exploring Fat Female Identity in Drop Dead Diva

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

Starring a size 16 actress in its leading role, the legal comedy drama Drop Dead Diva pushes the boundaries of mainstream media, which tend to favor the young, thin, and attractive. Discourse analysis of the program reveals that through food and fashion the show promotes size acceptance, but also includes fat loathing. The program also promotes a hegemonic construction of beauty and conventional femininity to which the white and wealthy main character adheres. Overall, however, Drop Dead Diva demonstrates a progressive path to self-acceptance that redefines body scripts, normalizing and embracing the fat female body.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... Likewise, it has been shown that eating and food have for a long time been morally evaluated (Coveney, 2006). Researchers have looked at the representation of fat people in the media and shown that the portrayals are mainly negative (Contois, 2013). Consequently, with all the negativity attached to 'excessive' eating and fatness, pressures to control eating habits and get thinner coming from governments and media, many resort to dieting and other means of weight loss. ...
Chapter
The existing literature on fatness has critically discussed meanings and morals associated with body weight and explored people’s experiences of weight loss attempts. However, little attention has been paid to the practices of dieting – how it is ‘done’. Based on an interview study involving 31 participants, who shared their self-tracking experience of using the MyFitnessPal calorie counting app, we focus on the practices of ‘doing’ calories. First, we discuss the practices of temporality of logging food, showing that the use of MyFitnessPal not only has to be fitted into daily routines but can also transform them. Then, we look at the practices of precision or users’ various ways of turning the ‘messiness’ of food into precise numbers. Lastly, we explore users’ practices of adjustments – their attitudes to adherence to their daily calorie goal and ways of dealing with going above it. Based on our findings we suggest calorie counting is not a straightforward data collection, but one that involves constant practical strategies and negotiations, and can both influence and be influenced by other everyday practices.
Article
In June of 2018, AMC debuted the series Dietland, a television show about a woman of size named Plum who plans to have weight loss surgery until she begins a journey of self-acceptance. While critics assert that the harms enacted against Plum are exaggerated, we show through 74 in-depth interviews with North American women of size that the representation of Plum’s lived experiences are sadly realistic and, in many instances, mirror those of the women in our sample. We argue that Plum’s character accurately represents the way that fat women in the US are treated by strangers, colleagues, loved ones, and healthcare professionals.
Article
This essay examines the intersections of fatness, youth, and sexuality in ABC Family’s Huge, a sitcom about teens at “fat camp.” The series departs from common “fat kid” tropes of the past because it consciously presents fat teens as sexual subjects and some fat bodies as objects of desire. Public bodily displays and chosen names, however, mark Willamena and Alistair, campers who resist either the camp’s ideology of weight loss or the gender binary upon which it is constructed, as queer. Moreover, Huge uses metaphors of (un)cleanliness and of the closet to simultaneously regulate these characters’ fatness and queerness. Although Huge initially promises to destabilize the hegemony, the series ultimately falls short in its challenge to fat stigmatization and the gender/sexual regime.
Article
Full-text available
Using a sample of 124 prime-time television programs airing on the 6 broadcast networks during the 2005–06 season, this study examined the social roles enacted by female and male characters. The findings confirm that female characters continue to inhabit interpersonal roles involved with romance, family, and friends. In contrast, male characters are more likely to enact work-related roles. Moreover, programs employing one or more women writers or creators are more likely to feature both female and male characters in interpersonal roles whereas programs employing all-male writers and creators are more likely to feature both female and male characters in work roles.
Article
Full-text available
SYNOPSIS A population of professional dance ( N = 183) and modelling ( N = 56) students, who by career choice must focus increased attention and control over their body shapes, was studied. Height and weight data were obtained on all subjects. In addition, a questionnaire that is useful in assessing the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT), was administered. Results of these tests were compared with those of normal female university students ( N = 59), patients with anorexia nervosa ( N = 68), and music students ( N = 35). Anorexia nervosa and excessive dieting concerns were overrepresented in the dance and modelling students. Twelve cases (6·5%) of primary anexoria nervosa were detected in the dance group. All but one case developed the disorder while studying dance. Within the dance group those from the most competitive environments had the greatest frequency of anorexia nervosa. These data suggest that both pressures to be slim and achievement expectations are risk factors in the development of anorexia nervosa. The influence of socio-cultural determinants are discussed within the context of anorexia nervosa as a multidetermined disorder.
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the distribution and individual characteristics of body types on prime-time television. Five episodes of each of the 10 top-rated prime-time fictional programs on 6 broadcast networks during the 1999-2000 season were quantitatively analyzed. Of 1018 major television characters, 14% of females and 24% of males were overweight or obese, less than half their percentages in the general population. Overweight and obese females were less likely to be considered attractive, to interact with romantic partners, or to display physical affection. Overweight and obese males were less likely to interact with romantic partners and friends or to talk about dating and were more likely to be shown eating. Overweight and obese television characters are associated with specific negative characteristics.
Article
In the West, the fat woman is most often relegated to the asexual category of the “big girl”. The soft dimpled curves of her thighs, the fleshy rolls of her stomach, the alarming swell of her breasts, all seem a parody of female sexuality, a distortion of contemporary paradigms of feminine beauty and desirability. The fat woman's corporeal experience is constituted largely by the expectation of a constant disavowal of her flesh, an enforced disconnection from her body and a refusal of herself as a sexual being. The fat female body in Western societies stands as a symbol of a body that is uncared for, uncultivated and, indeed, as a body that has failed as the subject of aesthetics.In The Use of Pleasure, Foucault suggests “we have to create ourselves as a work of art”, and advocates living a “beautiful life” by engaging with practices that seek to produce a “cultivated self”. In this paper I wish to examine Foucault's notion of an “aesthetics of existence”, and the implicit bodily transformation that is effected through his “practices of the self”.In light of this, I seek to interrogate the problem of aesthetics in Foucauldian ethics, and the prescriptive modes of becoming that aesthetic ideals inevitably produce. Does “making our lives a work of art” enable a means of overturning dominant discourses around the fat body that relate to the perceived neglect of bodily maintenance and failure of the will by thinking through new ways of living the fat body, or does an “aesthetics of existence” reinforces these dis-courses, by insisting upon sets of practices that disallow the fat “self” from ever coming into being as it is. Can we choose the level of investment we have in aesthetic ideals, and do Foucault's aesthetics for a “beautiful life” irrevocably discipline the fat body, deprive it of its sexuality, and seek to overcome its very flesh in order to transform it into a socially sanctioned “work of art”?
Article
This study began with three objectives. The first was to identify clothing functions for two different affective states: (a) when one feels fat or feels one has gained weight (Fat State), and (b) when one feels more slender or feels one has lost weight (Slender State). The second objective was to investigate the differing motivations behind, and clothing functions given, the two states. The third objective was to investigate the relationships between clothing functions given each state and subjects' feelings about their size and weight (Weight Factor from Mahoney and Finch's body cathexis instrument). The principal axis factor analysis of the data collected from 172 working females and 172 college females resulted in five factors that contribute to clothing functions: fashion, camouflage, assurance, individuality, and comfort. Significant differences were found between clothing functions for the Fat and Slender States, indicating that the motivations concerning clothing functions for the two states are basically different. When subjects perceived themselves to be fat, scores for camouflage, comfort, individuality, and assurance were negatively correlated with Weight Factors. However, when subjects felt slender, the only significant association was a low negative correlation of camouflage scores with Weight Factors.
Article
More to Love, a romance-themed reality television program featuring an all-plus-sized cast, touts itself as a progressive portrayal of “real” women bordering on fat activism. A qualitative content analysis of the program, however, reveals a contradictory and more complex story about gender, body, and relationships. On the one hand, More to Love acknowledges the reality of size and works to debunk several myths about fat women and men. On the other hand, the show negatively depicts fat and also reinforces traditional gender stereotypes along with the age-old fairy tale script that equates heterosexual partnership with happiness. An analysis of these media depictions puts a new spin on an old story and reveals new theoretical understandings about gender, body equality, and romantic relations. Ultimately, the show conveys a superficial form of body equality where fat women too can be loved, but only if they are willing to overexaggerate their femininity and submit themselves to external validation via the objectifying male gaze.
Article
This paper discusses some principles of critical discourse analysis, such as the explicit sociopolitical stance of discourse analysts, and a focus on dominance relations by elite groups and institutions as they are being enacted, legitimated or otherwise reproduced by text and talk. One of the crucial elements of this analysis of the relations between power and discourse is the patterns of access to (public) discourse for different social groups. Theoretically it is shown that in order to be able to relate power and discourse in an explicit way, we need the `cognitive interface' of models, knowledge, attitudes and ideologies and other social representations of the social mind, which also relate the individual and the social, and the micro- and the macro-levels of social structure. Finally, the argument is illustrated with an analysis of parliamentary debates about ethnic affairs.
Article
Physical attractiveness is associated with a number of positive outcomes, including employment benefits such as hiring, wages, and promotion, and is correlated with social and personal rewards such as work satisfaction, positive perceptions of others, and higher self-esteem. As a result, individuals perform various forms of beauty work, thus reproducing and strengthening a social system that privileges youth and attractiveness. In this article, we explore the beauty work practices that people perform. We begin with an examination of the cultural context in which beauty work occurs, including the individual, social, and institutional rewards accompanying physical attractiveness, and then review the practices themselves. Because these rewards and practices contribute in part to the reproduction of social relations and norms, we then turn to the gender dimensions of beauty work, along with its unique racial embodiment. Throughout, we raise the issue of individual agency in beauty work. Finally, we conclude with suggestions for future research.
Article
This paper examines demographic variables to create a partial picture of current portrayals of women on network television. All prime-time programs for all networks served as the information base. The findings were that few changes had been made in the portrayals of women from the 1970s to the 1980s in terms of observable demographic characteristics.
Article
We examined the associations of emotional eating and depressive symptoms with the consumption of sweet and non-sweet energy-dense foods and vegetables/fruit, also focusing on the possible interplay between emotional eating and depressive symptoms. The participants were 25-64-year-old Finnish men (n=1679) and women (n=2035) from the FINRISK 2007 Study (DILGOM substudy). The Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire-R18, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, and a 132-item Food Frequency Questionnaire were used. Emotional eating and depressive symptoms correlated positively (r=0.31 among men and women), and both were related to a higher body mass. Emotional eating was related to a higher consumption of sweet foods in both genders and non-sweet foods in men independently of depressive symptoms and restrained eating. The positive associations of depressive symptoms with sweet foods became non-significant after adjustment for emotional eating, but this was not the case for non-sweet foods. Depressive symptoms, but not emotional eating, were related to a lower consumption of vegetables/fruit. These findings suggest that emotional eating and depressive symptoms both affect unhealthy food choices. Emotional eating could be one factor explaining the association between depressive symptoms and consumption of sweet foods, while other factors may be more important with respect to non-sweet foods and vegetables/fruit.
Article
Obese individuals are highly stigmatized and face multiple forms of prejudice and discrimination because of their weight (1,2). The prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66 % over the past decade (3), and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination, especially among women (4). Weight bias translates into inequities in employment settings, health-care facilities, and educational institutions, often due to widespread negative stereotypes that overweight and obese persons are lazy, unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, less competent, noncompliant
Article
This study examined the influence of one's own body weight on the strength of implicit and explicit anti-fat bias. Implicit and explicit anti-fat attitudes and obesity stereotypes were assessed among a large online sample (N = 4283) that included representation from across the weight spectrum (from underweight to extremely obese). Respondents also indicated their willingness to make a range of personal sacrifices in exchange for not being obese. All weight groups exhibited significant anti-fat bias, but there was an inverse relation between one's own weight and the level of observed bias. Thinner people were more likely to automatically associate negative attributes (bad, lazy) with fat people, to prefer thin people to fat people, and to explicitly rate fat people as lazier and less motivated than thin people. However, when the lazy stereotype was contrasted with another negative attribute (anxious), obese and non-obese people exhibited equally strong implicit stereotyping. Finally, a substantial proportion of respondents indicated a willingness to endure aversive life events to avoid being obese. For example, 46% of the total sample indicated that they would rather give up 1 year of life than be obese, and 30% reported that they would rather be divorced than be obese. In each case, thinner people were more willing to sacrifice aspects of their health or life circumstances than were heavier people. Although the strength of weight bias decreased as respondents' body weight increased, a significant degree of anti-fat bias was still evident among even the most obese group of respondents, highlighting the pervasiveness of this bias.
Article
Clothing use may be a behavioral avoidance strategy for individuals with body dissatisfaction and eating pathology. The authors administered the Body Image Avoidance Questionnaire (J. C. Rosen, D. Srebnik, E. Saltzberg, & S. Wendt, 1991), the Bulimia Test-Revised (M. Thelen, J. Farmer, S. Wonderlich, & M. Smith, 1991), and the Body dissatisfaction subscale of the Eating Disorder Inventory (D. M. Garner, M. P. Olmstead, & J. Polivy, 1983) to undergraduate college women from two universities (N = 540). Results indicated that women who were more dissatisfied with their bodies (beta = .396) and had greater disordered eating behaviors (beta = .378) were more likely to engage in clothing-related appearance-management behaviors (p < .001), including wearing apparel to camouflage their bodies; avoiding revealing, brightly colored, or tightly fitting clothing; and avoiding shopping for clothing. These findings suggest that the presence of certain clothing-related appearance-management behaviors may be a warning sign that an individual is at risk for developing an eating disorder or may currently have an eating disorder.