Fat Camp


Courtesy irina slutsky

Over the years, we have seen obesity medicalized into an epidemic. Within our pop cultural world, obesity has been integrated into prime-time television with such programs as The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, I Used to be Fat. Not to mention the fact that celebrities and their weight gains or losses infiltrate entertainment news on a daily basis. We follow various journeys of weight gain and weight loss with celebrities because they are constantly in the public sphere.

Jennifer Hudson, once the first plus-sized woman (and only the third black woman) to grace the cover of Vogue fashion magazine, now serves as the spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. On the Dr. Oz show, Hudson shared the secrets to her weight loss success noting exercise techniques, food choices and the over-all sense of happiness she feels now that she is thinner and “healthier”.

But not all celebrities endorse the “thinner” lifestyle as a “healthier” lifestyle. Recently, Lady Gaga responded to criticisms concerning her recent weight gain by launching Body Revolution, a site geared towards body acceptance and body tolerance.

What we see in this celebrity sphere, is the discourse of obesity practiced and enforced through tactics of biopower. If our society continues to enforce a “healthy” lifestyle as that of a “thin” lifestyle, then we are enforcing the notion that fatness equates to an unhealthy lifestyle. Thus fatness (or obesity) equates to some form of badness within our society.

Obesity is often linked to mental issues, especially in women. How many times have you heard women (or been a woman who says), “I’m totally eating my feelings right now”? Or after a long day, “I just want to just pig out and be lazy tonight”? Women are frequently judged by their bodies, are controlled by their bodies and thus women are taught to control their bodies. Be curvy, look like a woman with breasts and hips, but not too curvy. Be thin but not too thin, otherwise you’ll look like a boy.

If a person is fat, we use our knowledge of unhappiness passed down through biopower, to label a person as troubled, unhappy or depressed.


Courtesy Tobyotter

Society has capitalized on this concept of the happy, thin person trapped inside the layer of fat with shows like The Biggest Loser and I Used to be Fat. But what if “fat” people are happy? Or “thin” people? And why can’t we just leave them alone?


Make Me Over


Courtesy of jbcurio

Our society is “addict” happy. The increasing medicalization of addiction welcomes new ways to treat, address and/or ignore addictions and we, as a society, have been trained to recognize addiction at the drop of a flask, can’t we? We sure do label individuals and addicts all the time so we must be experts. Right?

What do you think of when you think of an addict? A person who has hit the dreaded rock bottom? Rebecca Tiger addresses this notion of addiction within the context of celebrity Lindsay Lohan and her public struggles with addiction in the article They Tried to Make Her Go to Rehab. Tiger notes: “While the U.S. increasingly medicalizes addiction, searching for pharmaceutical cures, it simultaneously criminalizes drug use, leading to a system in which some addicts are managed by both rehabilitative and punitive measures, treatment and incarceration, in an effort to achieve the goal of sobriety.” It seems as though everyone has their own theory on how Lindsay Lohan can obtain sobriety, or at least they offer suggestions and/or opinions on how she should be “handled” as an addict.

Just this month on Perez Hilton, Lindsay was tagged in yet another blog post regarding a potential intervention. The twenty-two comments from readers that followed this post ranged from statements like, “she doesn’t want help, it’s obvious she’s using and partying, same old, same old, as always. She looks awful, her face is the face of a hard-core drug user. I say leave her alone. Eventually she’ll OD and that’ll be that” to calling Lohan a “wasted piece of DNA”.

These comments are a great example of biopower and how it is embodied within a society to establish control over an individual – in this case, the “addict” Lindsay Lohan. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen addresses similar examples of biopower in his work Monster Theory. Cohen states, “The monster is continually linked to forbidden practices in order to normalize and to enforce” (Cohen, 16). Biopower roots itself with the body and society uses the monster as a living example, even citing dead monsters like Amy Weinhouse or Whitney Houston to police the body against drug and alcohol abuse.

Celebrities offer ways in which identity of the self has been transformed through the cultural economy of entertainment. Society can police these figures openly, either on blogs or in other public spheres, while policing themselves through their own knowledge concerning addiction. This is a wonderful example of governmentality and it explains how we partake in social control. It is important to question who or what is influencing this authority.  Furthermore, it is especially important to acknowledge intersections of gender and race to see how society criticizes a gendered expectation. Examine the similar antics of Charlie Sheen in which blog comments read, “The guy is a crazy but who can stop him when he makes a mill per episode?” The fall of a women under the influence of addiction feeds into a familiar trope of feminism regarding wasted feminine potential.