22 January, 2012

Don’t be a Loser

“Who here has never been in love?” asks the host from under an umbrella while the contestants stand in the rain.  “Come on, be honest!”  she goads as a few sheepishly put their hands up.

“The Biggest Loser this year, is all about singles,” we are told and there is so much wrong with this that I’m going to have a hard time putting it all in order without punching a few walls.

We can see what the basic idea is here.  The Biggest Loser has been going for a few years so it’s time to bring in a new gimmick by mashing it up with Farmer Wants a Wife or some such.  That would be bad enough.  Hell, the original idea of The Biggest Loser is bad enough.  Making weight loss a race is unhealthy in itself and they make their participants try to lose unhealthy amounts of weight over a dangerously short time period which risks triggering the body’s starvation response.  Most reality television is merely stupid but The Biggest Loser is seriously irresponsible. 

Now they’re making it even worse by making the humiliation not just about body image but about their love lives as well.  The message is clear: they’re too fat for love.  Ha ha!  Look at the fatties out in the rain!  They’ve never been in love!   They’re probably virgins!  Haha!  But, as the captions inform us, they’re “ready for love.”

“You’re all here because you want your lives to change,” lectures the presenter, who goes on to list some of the torment they are in for before stating, “At the end of it all, sixteen singles will be ready.”

Ready?  Ready for what, exactly?  Ready to submit themselves to the judgement of people who wouldn’t have looked at them before?  Ready to present themselves with confidence?  That’s got nothing to do with weight and if that is what was sapping their confidence, shows like The Biggest Loser have plenty to do with that. 

That promo got me angry enough, but this next one is even worse:

The contestants are forced to explain themselves, to explain how their weight has stopped them finding love.  One perfectly attractive girl says she has never kissed a boy while another poor lady is shown wondering how she can give someone a loving relationship if she doesn’t have the confidence to look at herself in the mirror.  None of this is challenged as the wrong way of looking at things.  It’s never pointed out that they have internalised the media’s perception of beauty or that accepting yourself doesn’t come from changing yourself.

Then there’s the soundtrack.  The use of the Beatles’ final ever song to promote crap like this is vulgar enough in itself, but let’s just think about the words of the song in relation to what it’s being used for.
It’s real Love,
Yes it’s real.
No.  It.  ISN’T!

Real love is for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  If you need it spelled out for you, it also means for fat or for skinny you pricks!

We all know that ‘reality’ television is a social disease that chews people up and spits them out.  Most of the time, I don’t care.  If some precocious brats think that subjecting themselves to ridicule on The X Factor is going to set them on their way to becoming the next Miley Cyrus, or that their tomato-julienning skills are going to impress the pants off of Master Chef and have them rubbing shoulders with Heston Blumenthal, then more fool them.  I don’t give a shit.  But when television producers take a group of already vulnerable people and submit them to physical and psychological stress, and play on their insecurities, in public for fun and profit, under the guise of self-improvement – that’s when a civilised society should say Enough is enough!

I don’t blame the contestants.  I know what it’s like to be desperate for love and to be willing to try anything to find it.  To them I would say:  you are all beautiful and deserving of love just as you are.  If you want to try to lose weight for yourself, that’s fine.  But if you’re doing this because you think it’s the only way you can love or be loved, then I have to tell you that’s not how it works.  I never had a weight problem, but I never had a girlfriend until I was a couple of weeks off thirty.  I don’t know why, but I know it wasn’t weight.  Just because you’re single or lacking confidence doesn’t mean you have to put yourself through this.  And just look around at people who have partners.  Are they all TV beautiful?  Do they all have model figures?  Of course not!  If someone won’t accept you as you are now, then they don’t deserve you afterwards.  If there are people who would only love you if you lost weight, then fuck them and fuck anyone who tells you to.

There are many reasons why people watch reality television.  Some watch it because they’re silly enough to believe the premise of the show.  Some watch it to be catty about the contestants in their choice of song or frock or dish or whatever.  Some people watch it to hear what bitches the judges are.  As usual, the network and producers don’t care WHY you watch, so long as you watch.  That’s where you can make a difference.

Do NOT watch The Biggest Loser.  Don’t watch it, “just to see how bad it is,” or “just because it was on after ____,” or because they have a guest star you like.  Just do NOT watch it for any reason.  I want to be perfectly clear about this: if ANYONE watches The Biggest Loser for ANY reason, then YOU are the problem and I will blame you for it.


  1. Good stuff, someone had to say these words. I don't like so called reality TV and rarely watch any.
    I did love the ABC show about Happiness though http://makingaustraliahappy.abc.net.au/. This was a beautiful show, with real experts who had the best interests of the contestants as the most important thing.

  2. Darryl Snow22/1/12 8:08 PM

    "Do NOT watch The Biggest Loser. Don’t watch it, “just to see how bad it is,” or “just because it was on after ____,” or because they have a guest star you like. Just do NOT watch it for any reason. I want to be perfectly clear about this: if ANYONE watches The Biggest Loser for ANY reason, then YOU are the problem and I will blame you for it."

    I love a closing paragraph that apportions responsibility. The people that respond to these sort of shows are people who would pull the wings off butterflies. They are the sickness.

  3. These shows wouldn't be made if people didn't watch them, and those who watch them just to be disgusted by them (or so they say) could make the difference between the program continuing or being canned. We can talk forever about how horrible the networks and producers are for making them, but they're not in the business of making shows that people don't watch. Every viewer carries some responsibility.

    Carolyn, some reality television really is that. Most of what it called reality television is completely manufactured.

  4. Ugh, this is just so horrifying. These shows are just another one of the diet industry's lies. The fact that they are setting these people up to gain even more weight over the long term with their crash dieting and stupidly harsh exercise regime makes what they're doing pure evil.

  5. If anyone is interested, a bunch of us made a video response to that awful Biggest Loser ad, and it can be found here:


    1. YES! Watching this, I wanted to stand up and cheer, and cry at the same time. This is beautiful. Thank you!

  6. Great post. I don't really watch much commercial TV, and I wasn't aware of the latest horrendous concept.

  7. That's a great video - thank you!

  8. Agree 100% with you, have NEVER EVER watched this show, NEVER will. Seems to me the really ugly 'reality' shows are always on Ten??

  9. I've never heard of any of the shows you mention (we don't have TV) now I'm torn... you see - you've piqued my interest.... so I wonder - is it possible to voice an opinion on reality tv (albeit a negative one) without inadvertently promoting that which you despise?

  10. I wholeheartedly agree with you on all your assertions regarding Biggest Loser. The ads they have postered eveywhere make me sick (surely the last thing overweight people need is MORE pictures of perfect looking bodies...)

    Although, I will take issue with one statement you make: "To them I would say: you are all beautiful and deserving of love just as you are."

    I call this Christina Aguilera syndrone (you are beautiful in every single way, etc etc). I think sometimes people need to be told that parts of their life are ugly, and demand attention. Obviously this is a more nuanced thing that should only be spoken about between people you trust, but I really hate the "everyone is beautiful" bullshit. World history proves this not be the case :)

    1. Everyone has ugly traits. I wasn't saying that in the hippy bullshit context so much as trying to see the best in people.

      We all accept that respect is earned, not just given - but some people use this as an excuse to be disrespectful to people until they have proved they deserve respect, whereas I feel it's better to treat people with respect until they have proved they don't deserve it.

      I don't know anything about any of the participants, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

      Or maybe I'm just being patronising...

  11. "I never had a weight problem" - wow, never would have guessed from the sheer level of privilege that's needed to tell obese people how they should be living their lives.

    Study after study (Cornell, Chen and Brown) have shown that there is stigma towards dating and sleeping with obese people. We haven't internalised the media portrayal of beauty - we just live in the real world. The media is actually quite pleasant to us. It's the guys who drive down the street and moo at us that's the real soul crusher.

    And you can hate the show, or any reality TV. It's your prerogative. But I will be watching TBL tonight. I don't normally, but a workmate is on this season. I'll have to check in with him about how obviously evil and exploitative the whole process was and how much he appreciates this patronising attitude towards the decision he made to be on the show.

    1. I find this rather bewildering.

      "wow, never would have guessed from the sheer level of privilege that's needed to tell obese people how they should be living their lives."

      For a start, I don't see how you can possibly interpret anything I've said as telling obese people (your words, not mine) how they should be living their lives. Indeed, I am arguing for the opposite while you defend a program that exists to tell obese how they should be living their lives.

      You don't need to quote university studies to illustrate something that is painfully obvious to anyone who has been to primary school. If someone has to lose weight so that their partner isn't embarrassed to be seen with them, I suggest a new partner.

    2. I'm with Amy on this one. Bill you say that you aren't telling people how to live their lives and you clearly don't believe that you are but how you pose your argument is just as insidious as you suggest that the show is. If you haven't had a weight problem or worked in a professional capacity with people that have then you are unqualified to really understand what we go through and I suggest you are also unqualified to pass comment.

      It would also be great if life was as simple as suggest it is out there in the dating world. My wife met me and married me when I was super morbidly obese and I had been overweight my whole life. I went on the TBL because I wanted to do for me! And that is the point that you so arrogantly assume is missing with these contestants you ASSUME they are doing it for other people but they are doing it for themselves and even if they don't realise it now they will. I was motivated to do it for the family I want to have with my wife but I was doing it for me and these guys are doing it for themselves.

    3. Sharif, I am not going to say anything that involves other people, but you are making just as many assumptions as you suggest that I am making.

      I find it interesting that people have picked up on the beginning of that sentence but not the conclusion of it. Read the rest of it and you'll see that I am not suggesting that dating is simple at all. Indeed, I am suggesting that it's far more complex that The Biggest Loser is suggesting it is.

      When this year's series say it's about singles and proceeds to humiliate participants about their love lives, I think it's self evident that it's about other people.

      As to your own reasons, I did say, "If you want to try to lose weight for yourself, that’s fine."

  12. Like most reality TV it's good entertainment, but bad humanity...

  13. Challenging people to lose weight the quickest is always an unhealthy attitude - it should be done in a healthy way with medical oversight - and definitely some psychotherapy should be involved - especially in a show like this that is preying on peoples loneliness to promote the show and their weight loss!! It is not healthy mentally or physically to 'compete' to lose weight - not in real life or in a reality show!

  14. I don't watch. It's rubbish and it makes me sad. Now it's making me sadder :(

  15. All of these so called reality programmes are insulting to the people who work and study most of their lives to perfect their craft. The true pop idols, master chefs, top models worked to get there. They didn't win some game show.

    I love the fact that a post about a TV programme gets 20 times more comments than politics and music. Priorities.

  16. I thought it was the swearing.
    In fairness, this particular post got a lot of tweets and links, for which I am most grateful.