Taking responsibility for the tooth: A semiotic and thematic analysis of oral health and disease in the TV show 'Embarrassing Bodies'

Alexander Cl Holden, Patricia Neville, Barry Gibson, Heiko Spallek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

Oral health and dentistry are seldom the subject of medical reality TV. This study investigates whether the dental segments within the British medical reality show, 'Embarrassing Bodies', may contribute to the anthropological understanding of oral health and social status, through semiotic and thematic analysis. This methodology involves close examination of both the visual and narrative themes within the programme. The show presents mouths afflicted by oral disease as traumascapes, the framing of which provides voyeuristic appeal. The portrayal of dental disease as negatively affecting human flourishing through shame and the inhibition of intimacy was common across the analysed cases. The key themes of intimacy and social distance; discipline, blame and personal responsibility; carnography; disciplining gaze and authority; and redemption and rebirth were identified through analysis. The cases also present a strong correlation between a lack of personal responsibility and the development of dental disease within the wider context of social class, with the dentist as a disciplining authority, enforcing professional and societal norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1363459320904419
JournalHealth (United Kingdom)
Early online date5 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

The acceptance date for this record is provisional and based upon the month of publication for the article.

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