Crying Faces or Brain Scans? Television and the Medicalised Body

Jerome Bourdon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the representation of the human body on television, and specifically on medical television, in the longue durée. It demonstrates that, from its inception, television embraced a new naturalist ontology, inaugurated in early modern Europe, whereby the human body shares with its surroundings the same physical nature but is endowed with a unique spiritual interiority. The article identifies the major contribution of television to this ontology as the emphasis on the speaking face. It contends that television revived two major debates about the representation of the body: the tension between dispassionate scientific physiological images and emotional expressivity, and the sincere character of observable emotions. In conclusion, the article reframes the history of medical television as a major shift of emphasis: from the physicality of the patient, subjected to the authority of the medical practitioner, to an increasingly medicalised visible, emotional interiority of the human self.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia History
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Anthropology of the body
  • authenticity
  • emotions
  • liveness
  • naturalist ontology
  • scientific imagery


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