Insights (Essays)

Insights (Essays) January 2011

The Pedagogy of Obesity Reality Shows

One of the consequences of the obesity epidemic is the proliferation of “reality based” media aiming to lay bare and expose the unhealthy behaviours that lead to obesity and tout “solutions” primarily aimed at changing individual lifestyles.

Notable examples of this ‘”entertainment” genre include television programmes such as Jamie’s School Dinners and Jamie’s Ministry of Food, You Are What You Eat, Honey, We’re Killing the Kids, Supersize and Superskinny, Fighting Fat Fighting Fit, and The Biggest Loser. In Canada we have our own examples like X-Weighted and the most recent CBC addition, Village on a Diet.

Given the mass audiences that these shows command, it is worth considering how the causes, consequences, and possible solutions to obesity are portrayed in these shows. Perhaps even more importantly, the implicit and explicit portrayal of  people with obesity in these shows and the “narrative” around obesity deserves exploration.

This is the topic of a paper by Emma Rich from Loughborough University, UK, just published in the latest issue of HEALTH, which explores how reality media portrays and perpetuates the interdependent connections between parenting, social class and broader political discourses of parenting and health risks relevant to obesity.

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