Viewing The Biggest Loser: modes of reception and reflexivity among obese people

Kate HOLLAND, Warwick BLOOD, Samantha Thomas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    4 Downloads (Pure)


    This article builds on previous reception research and scholarship on makeover TV through an analysis of obese people's views of The Biggest Loser (TBL). TBL involves obese people competing to lose weight as personal trainers push them through dietary and physical activity regimes. We articulate four themes characterizing responses to TBL: “That's not reality,” “Public ownership and judgment of the fat body,” “The lure of the transformation,” and “A guilty pleasure.” We consider how these themes are reflected in participants' movement between mediated, discursive, transparent, and referential modes of reception. While some were adamant in their rejection of the program, others were ambivalent in accepting and identifying with the desire for weight loss but questioning TBL's aesthetic dimensions and moralizing undertones. We argue that the reflexivity of viewers complicates appraisals of TBL as governing at a distance and offer some alternative readings of the impact and appeal of the program.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)16-32
    Number of pages17
    JournalSocial Semiotics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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