Title page for ETD etd-05132012-123043

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kaminski, Melissa J.
URN etd-05132012-123043
Title Does This Book Make Me Look Fat? The Effect of Protagonist Body Esteem and Body Weight in Novels on Female Readers’ Body Esteem
Degree Master of Arts
Department Communication Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Magee, Robert G. Committee Chair
Ivory, James D. Committee Member
Waggenspack, Beth M. Committee Member
  • identification
  • transportation
  • chick literature
  • body esteem
Date of Defense 2012-05-01
Availability unrestricted
The effects of visual representations of the thin ideal in movies, magazines, and television have been widely explored, but strictly textual representations of the thin ideal in novels have received scant attention. The genre of chick literature has been criticized for depicting characters that constantly worry about their body weight and have poor body esteem. Excerpts from two popular chick lit novels were used to examine the effect of a protagonist’s body weight and body esteem on participants’ overall body esteem, sexual attractiveness, weight concern, and physical condition. In Study 1 (N = 159), underweight protagonists made participants feel less sexually attractive. Furthermore, protagonists with low body esteem caused participants to report significantly low body esteem scores compared to protagonists with high body esteem. Study 2 (N = 251) examined the role of transportation and identification with the protagonist. Identification with the protagonist with low body esteem was a significant predictor of participants’ lower reported scores of body esteem, lower evaluations of appearance, and increased weight concern. The results suggest that textual representations of body size and body esteem in novels have an effect that is similar to the effect of visual images prevalent in movies, television, and magazines. Implications and future directions are discussed.
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