Maggie Goes on a Diet Communication Analysis

Here is the transcript of my 1st Place Winning Communication Analysis based on the children’s book Maggie Goes on a Diet. As this is a speech transcription, the citations for this are in the text and not in a works cited page section at the end.

_______ _________ _________ ________ _______ _________ ________ ________ _________ _________

Traditionally, children’s stories have had positive messages to share with the youth. We like Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches. “I’m quite happy to say. That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day. The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches. And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.” But today, we have a different story.

The children’s book Maggie Goes on A Diet by Paul Kramer has been met with lots of criticism. Maggie Goes on A Diet is the story of an overweight, unpopular, bullied, 14 year old girl who goes on a diet, gets skinny, and gets popular.

The F Word, a feminist blog from September 11, 2011, stated “do we really need another source telling children that weight loss equates to success? I trust the tween idols of Disney and Hollywood cover this.”

David Katz, senior medical advisor at MindStream Academy, a coed health and wellness boarding school for teens, says, “Essentially, the public is outraged because this book’s title contains the word diet’ and is aimed at young girls. The prevailing opinion is that encouraging kids to diet will lower their self-esteem, cause them to develop unhealthy habits, and maybe even spark weight-related neuroses.”

This leads me to my research question: Obviously, this book is meant to encourage weight loss. Will it be successful, have no impact, or be counterproductive? In order to answer this question, I have chosen STORIES OF HYPEREMBODIMENT: AN ANALYSIS OF PERSONAL NARRATIVES OF AND THROUGH PHYSICALLY DISABLED BODIES by Julie Anne Scott published in Text and Performance Quarterly from April of 2012.

This model is appropriate because it performs a narrative analysis from individuals that do not have a normal body type.

(Today, we will discuss the model chosen for analysis. Next, we will apply the model to Maggie Goes on a Diet. Finally, we will draw some rhetorical conclusions.)

In Scott’s essay STORIES OF HYPEREMBODIMENT: AN ANALYSIS OF PERSONAL NARRATIVES OF AND THROUGH PHYSICALLY DISABLED BODIES, she conducts a performance analysis from personal narratives of physically disabled professionals. The narratives came from a position of hyper embodiment, the ability to transcend their particular bodies, which illuminates mortal embodiment to those unmarked by physical difference. Scott states that there are three components to telling the narratives.

The first tenant, imagining through hyperembodied narrative, talks about how those Scott interviewed would tell their stories had they not been disabled, or disabled in a different way. Scott says that some of the participants struggled with the complexity of their disabled bodies, which offered them opportunities, insights, and understanding, all the while mourning what they have lost due to their disability, so they would tell their stories in such a way as though they had no disability, or a different disability altogether.

The second tenant, performing who one will become through a changing body, talks about how the story will be told after the body is no longer disabled. These narrators had a different struggle. Their struggle came from how their bodies would change, having to imagine what their bodies would become through surgery or physical therapy.

The third and final tenant, performing oneself beyond embodiment explains how personal sentiments move away from the lived experience to the cultural constitution of physically disabled identity as stigmatized within society. These cultural constructions expose prejudices towards bodies that the dominant culture stigmatize and devalue. Essentially, it is the idea of moving away from how a disabled bodied person feels about themselves to how a larger society views an individual with a disabled body. (So far we have covered the model, now lets apply the Maggie text to the model)

The book, has 2 title pages. The first shows Maggie in a compromising position while the second gives the reader a sense of where the story is going, that the easy fix of going on a diet will solve all of her problems, both physical and social. T

he first tenant describes how the story would be told had they been not disabled or disabled differently.We can see this through this picture, where we see shows her imagining herself being athletic. In an article published in March, 2008 in the Journal of Sports Science says that imagery served cognitive, motivational and healing purposes in effectively rehabilitating from an injury. Throughout the book, Maggie is imagining what life is going to be like after she has lost the weight and what she is going to be able to do.

Additionally, this tenant is shown through this picture, which shows Maggie imagining herself wearing a pair of skinny jeans. Finally, the text specifically says “She also knew she would look better, feel better, and run faster if she lost the weight.”

The second tenant discusses how the story will be told after they are no longer disabled. In the book, we can see this because she begins to smile more once she looses the weight. The text puts that “With added self-confidence Maggie was less and less afraid.” In an article published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology from April, 2007, Yael Benyamini emplains that confidence is gained as the weight is being lost, not after the weight is lost. If the scale shows a plateau, even after losing a high amount of weight, then self-confidence can be extremely low. Another example of this tying in with performing oneself through a changing body is the fact that within a couple short months, Maggie goes from fat and unpopular to skinny, pretty, and popular. This shows how important image is to kids as written by Paul Kramer. The most important thing was for Maggie to get skinny and popular, not worrying about health or the importance of how you feel about yourself. This gives a false hope about how fast healthy weight loss truly is.

The third and final tenant explains how personal sentiments move away from the lived experience to the cultural constitution of physically disabled identity as stigmatized within society. This is shown in the book by the kids laughing at Maggie when she is walking away from the school. The book says “Most everyone chuckled as Maggie got up to bat. Maggie was not only clumsy, she was also quite fat.” The European Eating Disorders Review from August 2009 says that, particularly to girls ages 11-14, The most important predictors of body dissatisfaction were self esteem, body mass index, and the perceived views of society. The perceived views of society are cemented pretty clearly with the stereotypical school kids making fun of at the expense of Fat Maggie without any signs of repercussions from adults condemning this behavior.

(Now that we have gone through the model and applied it to the text, we will now draw some rhetorical conclusions)

The first conclusion is that this book gives an inaccurate perception that losing weight equates to happiness. However, according to Gretchen Ruben, author of the book The Happiness Project, says that losing weight does not help people to be happy, but the actual exercise is the responsible party. She puts emphasis on that fact that if you stop working out, even if you have lost 100 pounds, you are going to feel the same way that you did before you began to lose the weight.

As we all know, there are issues in our lives that definitely do not have an easy fix. This book provides a false hope that there are easy fixes for any problem that you may have. In the book, Maggie loses 50 pounds in a couple short months. By the book showing such a quick change, it gives the hope that dieting is a quick and easy fix and that it is healthy to lose such a high amount of weight in such a short time, although the truth reveals otherwise.

Another conclusion is that it serves to promote stereotypes with kids. If a kid who is not overweight were to read this book, it would serve as a reason to bully people who are overweight. It would make them think that by them bullying people who are overweight, it would give them the drive to lose weight and that it is ok to do because the book shows no repercussions to bullying those who are overweight.. An article from USA Today last accessed on September 12, 2012, expresses that when bullies are given a reason to bully, not that they need one in the first place, it will only drive them to do it more and to a more harmful degree. By showing the bullying having a positive impact in making Maggie want to lose the weight, it gives people who aren’t overweight a reason to bully, which is leading to more severe consequences. According to combined studies by Yale University and Oxford published on July 13, 2010, victims of bullying show the following characteristics: low Self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, lack of assertiveness, aggression, difficulty controlling anger, and isolation. Shockingly, this study showed that victims of bullying are between 2 and 9 times more likely to commit suicide, not change what they are being bullied for. The most shocking of this study says that 10-14 year girls , girls Maggie’s age, who are bullied, are at an even higher risk of suicide, being 14 times more likely to commit suicide.

(Today, we have looked at the model. Then, we applied the model to the text. Finally, we drew some rhetorical conclusions. We will now answer our research question)

Obviously, this book is meant to encourage weight loss. Will it be successful, have no impact, or be counterproductive? We can see from our conclusions that this book is more counterproductive, ultimately leading to opposite actions than the book encourages. Children who are overweight who read this book will be miserable, given false hopes about dieting, and have the idea that there is no hope for them to escape from the bullying, which could lead to even more suicide. Children who read this story will not get the happy feeling that children’s books, such as the aforementioned Doctor Seuss book should give them.

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