No seriously. We need to talk about The Biggest Loser. It’s in its ninth season, with nearly 500 episodes, and this year, Channel Ten have somehow ended up with the rights to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’.
We thought the song was about ‘shaking off’ social criticism and ignoring the ‘haterz’, which completely contradicts the premise of the show. But hey, haterz gonna hate, advertisers gonna misappropriATE. And in the end, ratings gonna rate, rate, rate, rate, rate, because these people are gonna lose the weight, lose the weight, (andgainitbackinthenearfuture) Ooh Ooh Ooooh.
It doesn’t even fit… with the rhythm. Because those words are just not in the song.
Swift is actually encouraging contestants like Sylvia (not ‘130kg Sylvia’, it’s SYLVIA, her name is just SYLVIA) to ‘shake off’ the verbal abuse she faces simply by being visible in public spaces.
The use of this song on that show makes less sense than Michelle Bridges working out with eyeshadow on. And that’s saying something.
We’re not going to pretend we haven’t watched it. Hell, we have had more than one Biggest Loser finale party where we ate pizza, and everyone had to bring a dish that the contestants had to resist during temptation.
There was an entire season where it became our ritual to eat CAKE MIX while we watched it.
But just like in The Biggest Loser, where they’re forced to scrutinise their bodies in the mirror in unflattering underwear on national television (with poor lighting, an unmade bed, and most likely a sizeable camera crew), and then confess how disgusted they are at themselves, we too need to have a good, hard look in the mirror.
Actually, screw the mirror. Not all epiphanies need to happen in front of a goddam mirror. No good thing has ever come from staring at yourself, in your underwear, in the mirror. EVER.
What we do need is to slice apart the cultural framework that provided the ingredients for such a show, which grills and roasts the fat body in order to ultimately feed the voyeuristic stomachs of a nation, who have been stuffed with the stigma that fat means greedy, lazy and stupid, whilst being starved of critical thought. Mmm, sorry. Writing about this show makes us really hungry.
Our first issue has little to do with weight, and everything to do with assuming the audience (us) is stupid. The trainers come to surprise the wives of the Auvele family, announcing that they are officially contestants in The Biggest Loser 2015.
We almost bought that it was a surprise. They all looked… pretty surprised. Sure, the strategically placed cake front and centre of the kitchen seemed a little serendipitous, as did the sheer amount of cake, and the fact that they were making more cake when they really seemed to have enough. But hey, who are we to judge what people do on their average Sunday afternoon.
Until we stood in front of the mirror in our underwear and had two epiphanies:
1. These beige undies have holes in them
2. The contestants were NOT surprised
The Biggest Loser had lied to us.
In order for the show to document the reactions of the Auvele family, they had to ALREADY BE THERE. We don’t know about you, but if multiple cameras, sound and lighting equipment and a film crew were in our house, we’d be asking questions.
We would love the commentary from one of the wives to be “Ah I wasn’t actually that surprised! The camera crew arrived a few hours ago to set up and they all had Biggest Loser merchandise on. Then I asked what they were here for, and they said that I had made it as a contestant. Then they brought five cakes and set them up around my kitchen and instructed me to make a cake! I wasn’t sure, but last weekend when I was doing the washing and making dinner there was no camera crew so I thought something might be up”.
Well, now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on to fat shaming.
According to The Biggest Loser, as obese people, all contestants must concede that their entire lives have been tragedies up until the point that some dude named Commando walked into their house with army pants on.
The show officially cannot begin until they confess that they hate themselves. We are fairly certain that’s in the contract.
The confession must be made not only to their immediate family and trainers, but to their extended family and friends who are literally holding BANNERS.
They are forced to weigh themselves in a room full of people, stating their name followed by their weight. On this show, their weight is as important as their name.
The room is full of people crying, because… fat is sad? Fat is failure? It’s all so ridiculous? ‘Tiffiny’ is spelt like that?
All we know is that this is an extreme expression of public shaming and social policing, and that no qualified psychologist or dietician or decent human being would condone this as conducive to weight loss.
One contestant, who appears quite traumatised, says through tears “I feel ashamed. I feel like I want this platform to fall in and for me to fall down there. I don’t want to be standing here”. Succ…ess? Everybody claps.
Another, who apparently refuses to get married until she loses weight admits, “I don’t want to walk down the aisle at this size. I don’t want people to think I’m not beautiful”.
No-one challenges her, and her trainer nods. Okay, we honestly want to get the name and contact details of whoever said that marriage belongs to thin people. We’re not massive fans of marriage in Australia at the best of times, but we’re looking to END marriage discrimination, not to ADD another group to it.
We’re no Michelle Bridges, but it’s very clear that this woman’s issue isn’t with her weight, but with her idea that her self worth comes from the size of her body. Self-esteem is not acquired simply by weighing less.
Another contestant echoes what we hear every season, with “I want to be the best role model I can”, Moses hangs his head in shame, declaring that he is “disgusted at those numbers… disgusted at myself,” and Sylvia ‘admits’, “I don’t play with my girls. I’m too lazy”.
Takeaway message from The Biggest Loser: Fat people are tragic, sad, they hate themselves, they’re embarrassing AND embarrassed, are in denial, ashamed, unworthy of marriage, unattractive, devoid of self esteem, bad role models, disgusting AND disgusted, and, of course, lazy.
Given that this is ‘Biggest Loser Families’, they are particularly focused on how contestants are failing as mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses and so on. But one contestant takes it one step further, stating, “I am not a mother”.
Nup, this is just becoming ridiculous. You just… are a mother. Your daughters are right there, looking confused, because all of a sudden their mum is saying that she is not a mother.
That is surely more traumatic than having an overweight mother…
Michelle, with her Bachelor of Fat Shaming, majoring in Shock at Fat People’s Diets, inspires the contestants with, “It’s time for these people to wake up, grow up, and take some responsibility for their lives.” We find “these people” to be rather condescending, and the assumption that they take no responsibility to be incredibly unfair and judgemental, given the many domains in which a person can exhibit responsibility. We would consider it responsible to be mindful of people’s feelings and not… make them cry, but hey, we don’t have a degree in Fat Shaming so what would we know.
Takeaway message with extra fries: Fat people are not mothers, are asleep… all the time (?), are immature, out of control and irresponsible.
Finally, we meet the unlikely hero of the fat acceptance movement, Johnee. He says “I don’t want to stand up here and give you a sad story about how I feel depressed and stuff because I don’t”, to which Commando patronisingly raises an eyebrow and pries “honest?”
Separating mental illness from obesity is clearly very controversial, given that no thin person has ever struggled with depression, anxiety, PTSD etc.
Commando is quick to remind him that “jokes aren’t gonna get you anywhere anymore”, which they definitely WILL because Johnee is hilarious. Any jokes they use as a totally understandable defence mechanism are met with the response “in all seriousness”, because there is absolutely nothing funny about fat.
There you have it. Week 1 of The Biggest Loser has reminded fat Australians everywhere that the first step to losing weight is to hate yourself.
Super Sized takeaway message: Fat people are tragic, sad, they hate themselves, they’re embarrassing AND embarrassed, are in denial, ashamed, unworthy of marriage, unattractive, devoid of self esteem, bad role models, disgusting AND disgusted, lazy, are not mothers, are asleep … all the time (?), are immature, out of control, irresponsible, either depressed or in denial, and use humour to avoid facing their fat.
No wonder they’re heavy with that much crap thrown at them.
Join us next week, as contestants start to lose weight at a completely unrealistic pace, and those who struggle the most will be sent home ☺
* Clare and Jessie Stephens are Sydney-based writers, and twins. Tune in each week for their special takeaways from The Biggest Loser.
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