Large bodies on small screens: fat representation in contemporary British and American television

Jenkins, Abigail (2022) Large bodies on small screens: fat representation in contemporary British and American television. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the narratives told about fatness in contemporary British and American television (from 2010 – 2021). Conversations about fat oppression and anti-fat bias have become more visible in recent years, and fat characters have started appearing more often on television. However, the specific framings and positions associated with fatness have gone mostly unexplored in feminist media studies, where fat is most often framed through the reductive categories of disgust, horror, or unruliness.

To address this gap in research, this thesis utilises a method of embodied feminist textual analysis of TV, making connections between a variety of contemporary shows featuring fat characters. This work argues that the neoliberal structures of governance and the moral frameworks that guide public discourse about fatness are enabled and intensified in the patterns and rhythms of contemporary television. In pursuit of this argument, this thesis demonstrates methods of analysing fat characters and their narratives by considering fat as an intersectional lens; the analysis here interrogates specific representative tropes, “fat-involved” familial relationships, and meanings associated with fat in social justice-oriented – or, “woke” – programmes in order to draw conclusions about the dynamic and boundless medium of contemporary television.

This thesis, then, presents a significant intervention into contemporary feminist media criticism and into the nascent discipline of fat studies. By “fattening” (in other words, situating fat as a material reality with constructed characteristics) feminist studies of television and other media, this work argues that we can enable new possibilities for reading bodies, relationships, and lived realities alike. By addressing the nuances and intricacies of media studies, in turn, we broaden the scope and abilities of fat studies to more fully understand the specificities of media representation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Holdsworth, Dr. Amy and Kelly, Dr. Lisa
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82913
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 May 2022 11:25
Last Modified: 31 May 2022 11:27
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82913

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