Where there is hope, there is a market.

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Courtesy of ejhogbin

Over the years, obesity has entered our social dialogue through a variety of filters ranging from television segments to Lap-Band advertisements and promotions. Often the two worlds collide and we see celebrities and Reality TV Celebs endorse radial weight loss procedures.

In her work Happy Re-birthday: Weight Loss Surgery and the ‘New Me’, author Karen Throsby notes how the recent fascination with obesity has affected the steady increase in weight loss surgeries. Throsby states that weight loss surgery is seen as a last resort to those individuals who have battled with their weight over the years. And although weight loss surgery is incredibly invasive and dangerous, individuals still opt to go under to loss weight.

Throsby notes the discourse of “the new me” is a familiar trope that we often see within the narratives of normative bodily transformations. When we analyze these narratives within the context of weight loss surgeries, we notice that transformative procedures are often marketed with these “new me” values. And where there is hope, there is a market.

Recently, Lauren Manzo – the daughter of The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Caroline Manzo, underwent surgery to get the Lap-Band. Manzo had previously tried methods like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig to lose the weight, but decided on the Lap-Band because she felt as though she was in a “very unhealthy” place in her life. Manzo, of course, is noting her emotional health as well as her physical health in this statement. To her, the Lap-Band was not “an easy fix” but a solution to get to a happier, healthier Lauren Manzo.

Stories similar to Lauren’s pop up all over the ‘fatosphere’ – an online community of fat bloggers and designated fat activists. In her work ‘A beautiful show of strength’: Weight loss and the fat activist self’ author Zoë C. Meleo-Erwin notes the conflicts that arise between fat activists and patients undergoing weight loss surgery. Meleo-Erwin explores the experiences of these two groups and claim they can be understood through the lens of biopower as well as through Foucault’s theory of governmentality.

Concepts of a “healthy” body and an obesity-driven health crisis are more controlled by societal influence (cultural and political) than by physical health. Again we see this in extreme regimentation plans practiced through obese people who are trying and lose weight “naturally”. For any other person, these extreme limitations would be considered dangerous, and might just warrant an eating disorder. But if you are obese, somehow you lose a little bit of personhood to the epidemic of obesity. Your body is a warning and ignites moral panic. And although fat activists are fighting to restructuralize this notion of obesity and fatness, they face the omnipresent opponent created within our society through biopower.

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Courtesy of Tobyotter

And so our country has capitalized on this epidemic – providing us with a bevy of surgical procedures, Reality TV opportunities, diets, and diet pills. It is important here to recognize the different behaviors society displays towards “fat” women versus “fat” men and how a familiar trope of the ideal feminine body is called into play.

Make Me Over

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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.