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A Culture of Thinness: Negotiated and Oppositional Decoding of Eating Disorder Discourse by Anorectics
Unformatted Document Text:  A Culture of Thinness 16 out, our groups’ memberships increase in number. Girls come and post messages like ‘I'm so glad I read about this group and about you pro-anas! I didn't know you existed before I read that article!’ Often the worst of it is the articles that actually print some ‘tips’ that appear on our sites. You don't think that is giving young girls ideas? Wendy L.” Just as the contradiction between unnaturally thin models surrounding the anti-eating disorder articles in magazines are exploited by anorectic sub-culture - in pages listing tips and tricks next to pictures of emaciated women in advertisements – this reader understands how anorectics can take advantage of primary text articles criticizing pro-eating disorder groups, whether by learning about the websites for the first time or harvesting new tips for a website they have already found. In either case, the preferred meaning has been discarded in favor of an oppositional reading that is more advantageous to the anorectic. Conclusion: Subversive Decoding in a Culture of Thinness The electronically preserved nature of anorectics’ tertiary texts on pro-eating disorder websites affords the cultural critic a profound opportunity for analyzing the decoding strategies of a marginalized group operating outside of the dominant ideology. Within the cracks of a popular culture shot through with contradictions regarding thinness, the sub-culture of anorectics has created an oppositional and/or negotiated reading position for itself, de-constructing and re- constructing eating disorder discourse to serve its own ends. The media consumption practices of this sub-culture aptly illustrate Hall’s theory of encoding/decoding, as members of the group ‘detotalize’ the eating disorder text in the preferred code in order to ‘retotalize’ the message within their own frame of reference, as ‘tips’ or ‘thinspiration’. The cultural component to decoding that Morley supported with his empirical

Authors: Platt, Carrie Anne.
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A Culture of Thinness
16
out, our groups’ memberships increase in number. Girls come and post messages
like ‘I'm so glad I read about this group and about you pro-anas! I didn't know
you existed before I read that article!’ Often the worst of it is the articles that
actually print some ‘tips’ that appear on our sites. You don't think that is giving
young girls ideas? Wendy L.”
Just as the contradiction between unnaturally thin models surrounding the anti-eating
disorder articles in magazines are exploited by anorectic sub-culture - in pages listing tips and
tricks next to pictures of emaciated women in advertisements – this reader understands how
anorectics can take advantage of primary text articles criticizing pro-eating disorder groups,
whether by learning about the websites for the first time or harvesting new tips for a website they
have already found. In either case, the preferred meaning has been discarded in favor of an
oppositional reading that is more advantageous to the anorectic.
Conclusion: Subversive Decoding in a Culture of Thinness
The electronically preserved nature of anorectics’ tertiary texts on pro-eating disorder
websites affords the cultural critic a profound opportunity for analyzing the decoding strategies
of a marginalized group operating outside of the dominant ideology. Within the cracks of a
popular culture shot through with contradictions regarding thinness, the sub-culture of anorectics
has created an oppositional and/or negotiated reading position for itself, de-constructing and re-
constructing eating disorder discourse to serve its own ends.
The media consumption practices of this sub-culture aptly illustrate Hall’s theory of
encoding/decoding, as members of the group ‘detotalize’ the eating disorder text in the preferred
code in order to ‘retotalize’ the message within their own frame of reference, as ‘tips’ or
‘thinspiration’. The cultural component to decoding that Morley supported with his empirical


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