Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorders

SUNY Press
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How do movie star bodies and celebrity culture influence the way real girls and women feel about their own size and shape? What effect can popular films have on everyday eating behavior and exercise rituals? Body Shots shows how Hollywood films, movie stars, and celebrity media help propagate the values of an “eating disordered culture” that promotes constant self-scrutiny and vigilance, denial of appetite and overcontrol of weight in the compulsive pursuit of an eternally elusive body ideal of slenderness and fitness. In a unique approach that merges the disciplines of film analysis, gender studies, and psychology, clinical psychologist and cinema studies scholar Emily Fox-Kales demonstrates how the body narratives of such Hollywood celebrities as Lindsay Lohan, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Oprah Winfrey and their battles with bulimia, post-maternal weight gain, and yo-yo dieting not only serve as public enactments of the same eating and weight struggles their fans endure, but create a “new normal” which naturalizes and even valorizes the chronic body dissatisfaction and weight obsession that are established risk factors for eating disorders in women and girls. Written for students of cultural and gender studies, parents, media literacy educators, as well as film buffs everywhere, this book aims to provide the moviegoer with the critical tools necessary to develop a resistant gaze at Hollywood productions and make healthier choices among the many viewing screens of our super-mediated world.
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About the author

Emily Fox-Kales is Clinical Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Harvard University, and Academic Specialist in the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Northeastern University where she teaches film and psychology. She is also Clinical Associate at McLean Hospital/Harvard University and Executive Director of the Feeding Ourselves Program.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Apr 1, 2011
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Pages
205
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ISBN
9781438435305
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Psychopathology / Eating Disorders
Social Science / Media Studies
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Filling Up: The Psychology of Eating addresses a broad subject area that some may rarely think about but that actually encompasses topics relevant to all individuals, regardless of culture or ethnicity. Eating is often an emotionally charged event, and as such, it involves powerful feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Why are we driven to eat what we do and how we do, what are the current controversies and debates that surround the psychology of eating, and how are eating patterns outside of the United States different than ours—and why?

A new addition to the Psychology of Everyday Life series, this book provides a comprehensive examination of issues surrounding food and eating across the lifespan and around the globe. Many of the positive aspects of food, such as social bonding and continuance of ethnic identity and pride through food and family traditions, are highlighted, as are the serious negative aspects of eating, such as food-borne pathogens, unhealthy "trendy" diets, and the various health issues that result from over- or undereating. The book identifies and inspects numerous historical trends related to eating styles over time, including the history of fast food, the advent and booming popularity of food trucks, and food-based traditions like the wedding cake. Readers will benefit from scholarly essays that tackle interesting issues—such as whether or not sugar addiction is real and the merits of a Paleo diet—and that examine both sides of the debate and empower readers to reach their own informed opinions.

“Stories I Tell My Patients” by Arnold Andersen, MD has been an intermittent feature in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention from 1993 to 2015. The complete set of 101 stories is collected here in one volume for the first time. Combining myth, metaphor, fable, tall tale, and inventive fantasy, they were originally intended for professionals treating eating disorders to read and share with their clients, though they can also be read and appreciated by individuals in recovery and their loved ones.
An eclectic mix, Arnold’s stories are both entertaining and insightful. Some are vaguely familiar—with his own peculiar interpretations—such as the retelling of “The Emperor Has No Clothes” or Faustian deals with the devil; and, Jack and Jill appear, but instead of rolling down a hill, they are canoeing down a rapid river. There are knights in shining armor, time machines, intergalactic travelers, stories derived from Greek mythology, anorexic saints of the 16th century, and current events (a few of which may seem dated, like Hurricane Floyd or top baseball salaries of five million dollars). Most of the stories sprang from Arnold’s imagination, and many were inspired by his direct interactions with patients. He introduces such characters as Tom, Dick, and Harry going camping, Muffy and Buffy sitting in judgment, and Clip and Clop plowing a field. Inanimate objects such as buoys and thermometers carry on conversations, and descriptions of Paris reflect the author’s love of that beautiful city.
Storytelling is not meant ultimately to cure eating disorders, but rather to get attention, to convey an idea, to instill a seed, to shake a complacency. No matter how old we get, we can relate to roses and bike trips, shadows and catsup.
“I didn’t decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude. Being as thin as possible was a way to make the job of being an actress easier . . .”

Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.

In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn’t enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.

Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet, Portia makes transparent as never before the behaviors and emotions of someone living with an eating disorder.

From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women’s health issues.

In this remarkable and beautifully written work, Portia shines a bright light on a dark subject. A crucial book for all those who might sometimes feel at war with themselves or their bodies, Unbearable Lightness is a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.
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