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Mixed messages: A multimodal analysis of the criteria for ‘success’ in The Biggest Loser

Monson, O. and Donaghue, N. (2013) Mixed messages: A multimodal analysis of the criteria for ‘success’ in The Biggest Loser. In: International Society of Critical Health Psychology 8th Biennial conference, 23 July 2013, Bradford, United Kingdom

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The Biggest Loser is reality television’s most enduring response to the ‘obesity epidemic’. The program is framed as a well-founded health intervention and employs widely accepted beliefs relating to nutrition and exercise. In this way it is able to trade on the lives and experiences of ‘obese’ contestants with apparent legitimacy. But not only are the weight loss methods problematic and questionable, the messages conveyed through editing choices such as lighting, camera angles and timing reinforce and perpetuate negative stereotypes about overweight and obese individuals and establish prescriptive criteria for success, not just for weight loss but for life. By applying multimodal discursive analysis to the finale of the 2012 Australian season of The Biggest Loser it is apparent that beneath the ostensible focus on health are messages that feed into anti-obesity discourse and discrimination, and potentially impact the lived experiences of fat people.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: British Psychological Society
Copyright: The Authors
Conference Website:
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