How can we understand television's pervasive ideology of liveness at a moment in which the medium increasingly invests in the vital capacities of individuals and populations? This article approaches this question by looking at the imbrication of televisual liveness and a perhaps more surprising—and more recent—promise of the medium: that TV can in fact keep the viewer alive by helping her lose weight. While the proliferation of reality TV formats and lifestyle programming has marked the increased visibility of corpulent bodies on television, how is it that a medium once overidentified with the particularly racialized, classed, and gendered figure of the couch potato has been remade in recent years as an engine of “leaner” citizenship? Situating this turn in genre and address against the backdrop of shifting corporeal ideals in late liberalism as well as developments in media convergence, the article maps the supplemental transactions between the medial inscription of liveness and the biopolitical imperative to make live. It argues that reality TV's preoccupation with the obese body functions as a mechanism for the negotiation and containment of the medium's own anxieties over its facilitation of consumption in an era of state-mandated austerity.
Skip Nav Destination
1 May 2015
Michael Litwack; Making Television Live: Mediating Biopolitics in Obesity Programming. Camera Obscura 1 May 2015; 30 (1 (88)): 41–69. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2885442
Download citation file: