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Title: Altered states : the transforming body in contemporary film and TV
Author: Bradley, Peri
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates the employment of the transforming body in contemporary television and film investigating how these particular media operate as models of instruction and guidance in a political manner. The transforming body is examined within a framework constructed upon specific key theories that include: Foucault’s sociological and political analysis of the manipulation of the body; Kristeva’s exploration of the abject body and contemporary anthropological studies of the body’s meaning and function in Western culture. These theories are used to execute in-depth analysis of particular case studies that demonstrate how management of the transforming body in the text performs as the most fundamental unit of social control. The concept of ‘governance’ as the dispersal of political responsibility from institutions of authority down to the individual, are therefore revealed at work in contemporary reality TV and documentary. The first chapter of the thesis places the case studies in their theoretical context in order to comprehend how popular TV texts reveal the mechanisms of social control despite a facade of trivial entertainment. These are then placed in their historical, industrial, cultural and political context in order to appreciate how their form and function have altered over time and also to understand why the media, and more specifically TV and film, are used as instruments of dispersal and enforcement. The second chapter interrogates the reality TV text The Swan (Galen Productions, Living TV, 2006 – 2009), which demonstrates the use of plastic surgery and body modification as a form of manipulation that is predominantly aimed at women. The reaction of feminism, examined in its own historical and political context, reveals its struggle to come to terms with and reinterpret the concept of cosmetic procedures as ‘empowering’ women rather than suppressing their freedom. Associated with this is the analysis of how cinematic genre conventions are employed by reality TV as persuasive devices thereby exposing the ideological apparatus of governance at work. The third chapter looks at the notion of the ethical body, as used in reality TV and documentary, as a model of instruction and guidance to convince the mass audience of correct and moral behaviour. The two case studies compare and contrast the use of the ideologically bound transforming body in Supersize vs. Superskinny (Remarkable Television, Channel 4, UK, 2007-) and the politically active one in Supersize Me (Morgan Spurlock, Kathbur Pictures, 2007) that also emphasise the difference in intention and social weight between reality TV and documentary. The fourth chapter incorporates the significance of fashion and its impact on the contemporary body. How to Look Good Naked (Maverick Television, Channel 4, 2008 -) appears to allow women the freedom to enjoy fashion without the restrictions of ideal images. The concept of the carnivalesque body present in the programme expresses it as universal and communal and so undermines the isolating and self-centred ‘projects of the self’ that are promoted in the other texts. Examination of the use of the transforming body in these TV and film texts form a comprehensive and thorough interpretation of how it operates as an instructional guide on how to look and live and therefore as an agent of governance, previously unavailable in other academic work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures