The irony of this whole thing is that I started watching The Biggest Loser on Hulu because I needed something to watch while I ate dinner. Being all caught up on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Vikings, I thought “hey, I used to watch The Biggest Loser…”
It’s just that, since those years ago when I watched the show and found it incredibly positive in comparison to other reality shows (granted, anything is more positive than Flavor of Love or whatever idiocy is going on with The Bachelor), I have read a few blogs written by former Biggest Loser contestants. There they were, saying all of the things we all secretly knew to be true: feeling manipulated by producers, feeling pressured to lose more and more weight, gaining weight back after they no longer had the eyes of America keeping them on the straight and narrow…it was just another reality show after all.
Still, I feel like this season’s treatment of the “child ambassadors” (a bid to bring light to the issue of childhood obesity) is remarkably kind. The kids get Skype calls from the trainers and occasionally visit the ranch to coach contestants in a challenge, but for the most part, they get to go about their lives. They get to go from being bullied to being The Kid From TV. That might come with its own set of problems, but having a TV crew show up to document a donation of thousands of dollars’ worth of gym equipment probably really IS going to help in the “people calling you a fat ass in the hall” factor. I’d like to think that the kids will come out of the experience feeling healthier and like someone somewhere thinks that they matter enough to send a TV crew to talk to them.
Jezebel.com disagreed with my naive optimism, immediately denouncing this move, saying “because adults shouldn’t be the only one running on treadmills until they puke.” In fairness, the blog was written before the shows even aired, but maybe…well, maybe Jezebel should have shut the hell up until they has a chance to see the thing against which they were rallying. Then again, jumping straight from speculation to poorly-researched sarcasm and anger is something that Jezebel does pretty frequently. Jezebel can be terribly entertaining, but must also be taken with a grain of salt.
Maybe The Biggest Loser shouldn’t have involved the kids. Maybe some horrors come out of this show. But maybe some good does, too. Maybe someone out there will finally be inspired to feed kids more vegetables or go on a family bike ride. Maybe a generation of kids will be inspired to be horribly neurotic about their weight. Hell, I don’t know.
See, that’s the point. I don’t know. Neither do you, nor does Jezebel.
As conflicted as this show makes me feel, you get out of it what you choose to get out of it. For me, I choose to see it as a group of people supporting each other in doing something that they all wanted, begged to do. No one is forcing them to stay on the show. I see it as an inspiration, a reminder that donuts are evil (delicious, awesome evil), and a message that people can change (if they want to…you are certainly not required to want to be skinny) and don’t need surgery to do so. If Jezebel wants to see it as “nothing more than a circus sideshow,” run by evil producers, watched by evil people who are watching solely to point and laugh, and participated in by sad, desperate fatties…maybe that’s just a mirror into what lurks in the heart of that particular Jezebel writer. As for me, I see people who are willing to work their butts off to make a change that they want to make, and that’s not such a bad thing to watch while eating dinner.