Fat stigmatization in television shows and movies: a content analysis

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Mar;15(3):712-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.635.


Objective: To examine the phenomenon of fat stigmatization messages presented in television shows and movies, a content analysis was used to quantify and categorize fat-specific commentary and humor.

Research methods and procedures: Fat stigmatization vignettes were identified using a targeted sampling procedure, and 135 scenes were excised from movies and television shows. The material was coded by trained raters. Reliability indices were uniformly high for the seven categories (percentage agreement ranged from 0.90 to 0.98; kappas ranged from 0.66 to 0.94).

Results: Results indicated that fat stigmatization commentary and fat humor were often verbal, directed toward another person, and often presented directly in the presence of the overweight target. Results also indicated that male characters were three times more likely to engage in fat stigmatization commentary or fat humor than female characters.

Discussion: To our knowledge, these findings provide the first information regarding the specific gender, age, and types of fat stigmatization that occur frequently in movies and television shows. The stimuli should prove useful in future research examining the role of individual difference factors (e.g., BMI) in the reaction to viewing such vignettes.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Body Image
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Stereotyping*
  • Television*
  • United States
  • Wit and Humor as Topic