Cultural Comment

Society is the Biggest Loser – The Lowest Point on our TV Schedule –

I catch a train most days to and from work. Every so often the train is pretty crowded. The other day, there was a carriage that was full, except for one seat. The middle aged professional man in front of me baulked at going down the steps to sit in that seat. I looked to see why. The window seat had a larger woman sitting in it. I thought “you bastard”. I had no hesitation taking the seat – even discovered that she is a current student at Sydney University and was delightful and friendly.  The situation, though, reminded me of something that is shameful in our society – discrimination against people who are overweight.

It happens everywhere. Stupid jokes, stupid photos, catty comments in TV shows, offices, wherever.  It’s something that should be stopped, along with refugee demonising and racism.  Problem is, unlike those things, this kind of shaming is given tacit approval in many places and, worse, promotion on what ranks as the worst “reality” show on Australian TV – The Biggest Loser.

It’s difficult to ignore the presence of this show – you could be sitting there, enjoying a decent show like Mr and Mrs Murder and there the ads come on, dripping with slurry music accompanying people saying they feeling “ashamed” of the way they look, saying that basically their lives have no meaning because of their weight.  The show then approves this sentiment by having some shouty personal trainer with Personality Deficiency Syndrome (PDS) shouting at them at some “Fat Camp”, “Loser Central” or some inane name.

There are multiple stories about the ridiculous lengths these people go to at Fat Camp to make massive weight loss their goal – as well as the cheating that went on behind the scenes of the show. That’s not the whole point, though – the show itself is an abomination that should never see the light of the day.  Telling people that they are worthless because they are above a certain weight, plus encouraging weight loss more than 1kg a week (considered by many to be a sensible weight loss goal) is irresponsible.  The kind of spotlight that is put on these people wanting a bit of shame fame (goodness knows why) is just cynical manipulation by TV execs wanting to spin some money from the embarrassment of others. As with Big Brother, I’m not convinced that the contestants on these shows know exactly what kind of post – show life they are in for.  For each person that actually gained some happiness, there would be still others forever known as “Biggest Loser Contestants” in a negative way.

The problem is, though, that people watch this stuff. Week after week, getting emotionally attached, going on “the journey” with them. It’s hard to blame people for getting hooked – TV watchers like intense drama – this show is full of such confected, slow motion tear jerking – and many of the viewers would also have weight “issues”, as the magazines would put it.  But it doesn’t reflect well on our culture when what we are watching on TV is people on treadmills being shouted at by PDS suffering prison warden wannabes in lycra.

There are people, however, who will be blogging about it, tweeting it and it will appear, no matter the muting and list management one can do. On will flash some kind of comment about how “wonderful” someone finds the “journey” to being thin.  Nothing, however, about how their personality or ability to communicate to others will be improved. Nor how stupid it is that their friends and people around them will talk to them differently because they a different size.

This show flushes out, however, those people who do like to discriminate according to size. You’ll hear them talking around the water cooler about this show, admiring the weight loss and talking about those who can’t lose weight in a negative way. These same people are often incapable of talking about things other than their bodies, clothes and how they lost weight with x diet. They are the people who don’t need The Biggest Loser to watch every week, smugly looking down on those who struggle. They need another show altogether.

Frankly, what I want to see on TV is The Biggest Gainer. Find people larger people comfortable with their body image who know things about things other than being weight obsessed. Then get a whole group of personal trainers and teach them to appreciate and engage with culture – art, literature, music, etc. Stop these trainers from wanting to spend all their lives on a treadmill, jogging around in circles and shouting at people – instead have them want to read, listen to Beethoven and talk about things. Gain something worthwhile, instead of turning our TV culture into a wasteland of narcissistic finger pointing.

There are those who are filled with horror with the kind of narcissism, egotism, social segregation and self centred grasping that an Abbott Government would encourage. They should be watching The Biggest Loser and see that it’s already happening, every week. Then stop watching. And never refer to it again.

By prestontowers

I had been a teacher observing politics and the media from the outside for some time. I became a political insider, didn't like it much, and hightailed it back to watching it again. And still loving teaching.

2 replies on “Society is the Biggest Loser – The Lowest Point on our TV Schedule –”

I go along with about 85% of your blog, but we do need those PT types at times. Having family members whose health is affected by too much weight makes me keep a foot in both camps, even though more weight is on one than the other. PS I do not watch any of these shows like you just get bombarded with the ad’s. Cheers

What a great piece. As someone with a visibly different appearance – a skin condition called Ichthyosis – I’m so glad that I’ve never felt pressure to conform. However, strangers expect that I want to improve myself, to change how I look, as it’s not ‘ideal’, and assume I would be happier looking ‘normal’. And this show perpetuates that belief towards overweight people – that they’ll be happier thin, even after humiliation from being exploited on national tv, and subsequently by those who discuss the show. Enough. Thank you for writing.

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