How do Gay and Arnade illustrate society’s valuation of discipline and control?

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Roxane Gay’s essay, “My Body is Wildly Undisciplined and I Deny Myself Nearly Everything I Desire” examines the TV show The Biggest Loser as a reflection of America’s preoccupation with body size as a reflection of “discipline.” Gay, a Black woman who does not meet the body standards set out on the show, describes how she once watched the show “avidly,” thinking of it as “the ultimate fat girl fantasy” (1). But when contestant Rachel Frederickson actually achieves that fantasy, losing more than half of her body weight by following the advice of the show’s trainers and nutritionists, there is widespread public backlash. Gay, who describes her own efforts to “discipline” her body, argues that Frederickson was only doing “exactly what we asked of her and what too many of us would, if we could, ask of ourselves” (4).
In his essay, “Back Row America,” Chris Arnade also narrates how his perspective on what it means to find success and achievement changed after visiting Hunts Point in the Bronx, and later traveling to other communities throughout the United States that he defines as “back row” America. He writes, after defining himself as a “front row” American, that it didn’t occur to him “that what we valued wasn’t what everyone else wanted” (3). Central to this change in his perspective is a reassessment of the value of religion. Though at first he prided himself on his rejection of religion as “gobbledygook and hocus-pocus” (5) he eventually comes to recognize religion “not just as useful, but as true” (10). Whereas he had once thought that there were “few problems we couldn’t solve with enough smarts, energy, audacity, or money,” he begins to see that religion offers something to those who have “come to peace with the idea that we don’t and never will have this under control.” (10)
Drawing on evidence from both essays and connecting that evidence through your own analysis, develop an argument based on the following questions:
Why does contemporary society value “discipline” and “control”? How are these concepts alienating or even exclusionary?
Key questions to consider and incorporate into your essay:
How do Gay and Arnade define “discipline” and “control”? How would you define these terms? Are they related?
How do “discipline” and “control” lead to conventional “success,” as each author defines it?
How do Gay and Arnade illustrate society’s valuation of discipline and control?
What about these concepts are alienating or exclusionary to the authors? Do you agree with their assessments? Why or why not?

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