Readersforum's Blog

February 12, 2013

Chick lit ‘harms body image’, study finds

Depressing stories ... Renee Zellweger in the film version of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

Depressing stories … Renee Zellweger in the film version of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

Virginia Tech study finds fictional representations can affect female readers’ self-esteem

By Alison Flood

Bridget Jones and the army of weight-obsessed young heroines who followed in her footsteps have a lot to answer for, according to academics, who have found that women’s body image is negatively affected by chick lit.

New research from Virginia Tech, published in the journal Body Image, analysed “the effect of protagonist body weight and body esteem on female readers’ body esteem”, and concluded that “scholars and health officials should be concerned about the effect chick lit novels might have on women’s body image”. Co-author Melissa Kaminski, a chick lit fan, said she was prompted to launch the study after noticing that “body image research frequently looked at how visual images of thin women negatively affected women’s body esteem, [but] no research had examined how textual representations of body esteem and body weight affected female readers’ body esteem”.

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