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“…. every classificatory system of medicine since Hippocrates has included the category of ‘morbid obesity,’ either as symptom or as etiology. In each of these systems the boundary also exists between the acceptably plump and the overtly obese. It is drawn at every stage of Western history. Yet it is also always different, with different contours, different borders, and different meanings given to both sides of the divide. Michel Foucault notes that the goal of all social control is to maintain the ‘permanent measure of a gap in relation to an inaccessible norm and the asymptotic movement that strives to meet in infinity’ (Discipline and Punish, 1977, p. 227). This is the permanent gap that society imagines between healthy plumpness and morbid obesity. The gap, however, is what is real. These two categories are constantly shifting in relationship to one another. At certain points pleasing plumpness becomes morbid obesity, and a new body standard of plump is created. The gap is maintained.”

Gilman, Sander L. Fat Boys: A Slim BookLincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Print. p. 11.

Gilman’s passage points to the issue of boundaries, in the determinations that we make in the meanings between different bodies and different sizes. I’ve been trying to keep the idea of these kind of “mobile boundaries” (or “blurred lines,” if you will) in mind throughout the dissertation process. This past post on Amy Erdman Farrell’s Fat Shame connects to these points.

“In 1972 (Garry) Marshall managed to finance a pilot (for Happy Days) by doing a segment for Love, American Style…, starring Ron Howard, Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Harold Gould. (Eventually the first three would go on to take up their roles in the series.) The segment had enough interest that (then ABC National Programming Director Michael) Eisner supported continued development, and (Happy Days’ other executive producers) convinced Eisner to give series approval in 1973 when they could also plan to use adjacent publicity that (Ron) Howard was gathering from starring in the ‘companion’ film, American Graffiti (Lucas, 1973).”

Staiger, Janet. Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network EraNew York and London: New York University Press, 2000. Web. p. 115.

Postscript: Cindy Williams was also a part of this equation, starring as Howard’s girlfriend in American Graffiti, then turning a popular one-episode appearance with Penny Marshall on Happy Days into the spin-off Laverne and Shirley.

“…. Writing a master’s thesis about ABC’s programming practices, (eventual CBS head of programming Fred) Silverman coined the phrase the ‘get-age’ families to refer to people in the age brackets most likely to be major purchasers and, of course, those to be treasured by advertisers. Silverman’s thesis promoted other programming strategies including counterprogramming, linking shows that might have a flow in audiences, and ‘crossplugging’ in which a star in one program appears in another show. Most of all, his thesis encouraged seeking a youth audience….”

Staiger, Janet. Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era. New York and London: New York University Press, 2000. Web. p. 99-100.

This section is on Silverman’s decision in 1971 to cancel CBS’ long-running, older-leaning slate and renew All in the Family before the show hit its legendarily high ratings. He completed his Master’s at Ohio State.

Postscript: “…. (Fred Silverman) had written his Ohio State University master’s thesis on ABC’s programming between 1953 and 1959, the period in which the new network achieved a status just shy of its competitors. In the thesis, he argued for the value of program promotion, audience research, a flexible schedule, long-term contracts with prolific producers, series programming over ‘spectaculars,’ and merchandising tie-ins, all of which became prominent components of his own contributions to ABC in the 1970s. The thesis also contended that ABC’s targeting of young families with children was its most important strategy, another principle from which he would borrow when he controlled the ABC schedule.”

Levine, Elana. Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007. Print. p. 32-3.

Note that Silverman moved from head of programming at CBS to president of ABC Entertainment in 1975.

The Sopranos (David Chase, Creator and Executive Producer, HBO, 1999-2007), S1.E1 Pilot

“…. Tony and his crew profit from the over-indulgence of the corporeally fit but spiritually weak. They run the sports betting racket; they run the drug trade. They produce the consumption by which middle-class masculinity has come to define itself. In fact, it might be argued that Tony’s entire existence is the product of consumption…. Even Tony’s ‘legitimate’ business, waste management, profits from discarded consumer products.”

“In the end, Tony’s body must be understood as the expression of self-made manhood’s subsistence, which is consumption itself. In order for Tony to embody the values of self-made manhood, which asserts its identity through battle in the free market and the accumulation of capital, then his girth can only be read as resulting from the profits he has reaped. Those profits are the result of producing the very consumption that causes overindulgence and its repressive counterpart constraint, and which lead, inevitably… to the destruction of the body. In other words, the self-made man that Tony embodies is, essentially, a cannibal, since he feeds off the destructive consequences of consumption….”

Santo, Avi. “‘Fat Fuck! Why Don’t You Take a Look in the Mirror?’: Weight, Body Image, and Masculinity in The Sopranos.” This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos. Ed. David Lavery. New York: Columbia University Press; London: Wallflower Press, 2002. Print. p. 92

“…. the original format for The Munsters was written by Allan Burns (my note: co-creator of The Mary Tyler Moore Showand Chris Hayward, and the show was produced and scripted by Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, the creators of Leave It to Beaver (CBS/ABC [US], 1957-63). Connolly and Mosher’s link to this earlier family sitcom is particularly significant, in that it suggests a direct continuum from the earlier, ‘straight’ incarnations of the genre to these Gothic family sitcoms…. Indeed, on numerous occasions throughout The Munsters’ two year run, Herman Munster, a big fan of television, makes reference to the family sitcom and often quotes Leave It to Beaver. This not only serves to ironically underscore the very ‘everydayness’ of these monsters…, but also knowingly acknowledges their TV ancestry.”

Wheatley, Helen. Gothic Television. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2006. Print. p. 128-9.

“…. The ideal of a coherent heterosexuality that Wittig describes as the norm and standard of the heterosexual contract is an impossible ideal…. In this sense, heterosexuality offers normative sexual positions that are intrinsically impossible to embody, and the persistent failure to identify fully and without incoherence with these positions heterosexuality itself not only as a compulsory law, but as an inevitable comedy. Indeed, I would offer this insight into heterosexuality as both a compulsory system and an intrinsic comedy, a constant parody of itself, as an alternative gay/lesbian perspective.”

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Tenth Anniversary Edition. New York and London: Routledge, 1999. Print. p. 155.