Slim Truth: A Textual and Autoethnographic Analysis of Celebrity Eating Disorder Coverage in People Magazine
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Garner, Ana C.
Turner, Lynn H.
This thesis employs textual analysis and autoethnography to examine portrayals of celebrity eating disorders in People magazine. In it I seek to accomplish two goals: first, to reveal the story told by the entertainment news outlet about anorexia and bulimia, and second, to relate that story to the lived experience of illness and recovery. I discover that the magazine's narrative is reductive and simplistic, laced with half-truths and widely held myths about eating disorders. It depicts these disorders not as complex psychological conditions, but rather as behavioral and physical "battles" triggered by celebrity activities. The illness experience is portrayed as a double life, an extreme diet, a means of life control, or an addiction, while the recovery experience is portrayed as a never-ending process. Through the lens of feminist standpoint theory I critically and self-reflexively analyze this portrayal, drawing on multiple layers of consciousness as a media critic and consumer recovering from an eating disorder myself. As I interrogate my illness, treatment, and recovery against People's narrative, I articulate a nuanced understanding of the eating disorder experience and media portrayals of it.