Friday, October 15, 2010

The Biggest Loser?

I watch The Biggest Loser sometimes. I usually watch it while enjoying snacks. Fatty snacks. Delicious snacks. But as a person who has to work hard to keep his Olympian figure (hey, you can't see me, so what the hell -- I look like Brad Pitt and I am built like the Bowflex guy), I understand what it means to deal with weight issues, as do the rest of the people in my family, so I can certainly empathize with obese America; I'd be right there with them if not for at least intermittent attention to my diet and exercise. But something about The Biggest Loser bothers me. In fact, it rends me asunder. It makes my superficial Jeckyll deeply critical of my secretly sadistic hide.

Can't we just be nice? Surely, the show has a heart to it and it chases a socially helpful goal. But why can't we stand to watch a show that isn't tainted with scheming and ax-dropping? Must these people be made to eliminate each other? What's with our fascination with "elimination" on our reality TV shows? Can't it just be a contest to see who loses the most weight, in the end? No, it can't. That wouldn't hold the dark appeal that morphs people into cathode ray bathed, TV watching zombies who eagerly devour the rubber-necking, car-wreck gaping joy we all share as if it were freshly harvested brain stew. It seems there is nothing more satisfying than watching fast friends, dripping rivulets of maudlin tears, voting each other out of the only situation that can save their overweight lives.

Stephen King wrote an essay called "Why We Crave Horror Movies" in which he gives his position on our dark natures and how they manifest themselves in creepy behavior. He attempts to explain -- quite well, I might add -- why we are drawn toward death and gruesomeness. Well, my topic is not as extreme, but what I see does throw devil horn shadows on the wall behind us as the blue light from the screen dances around us.

We enjoy seeing people succeed, sure, but we also enjoy seeing people fail. Alarmingly, we enjoy seeing friends getting forced to kick each other out of Camp Salvation. There are paradoxes galore around the show. Even the title implies this with its multiple meanings: He's a loser because he is big; he loses the most pounds, so he is the biggest loser of weight; he fails in his attempt to lose weight, so he is a big loser. Et-freaking-cetera.

When all is said and done, the show wants to help its cast, unless the rest of the cast is forced, by the design of the show, to cut off the help for some big loser who couldn't lose enough that week. (In fairness, I am not sure how much the show sticks with the contestants after they are "kicked off" -- if anyone knows, let me know.)

Then you have, as on other reality shows, reoccurring criticism, by both cast and home viewers, of the person who is doing too much "game playing". This, I do not get. You go on a show to win, right? I mean, the dangling carrot (besides not dying, someday, of cardiac arrest while clipping your toenails) is $250, 000. So, now, we let you on this show and offer you lots of money if you win and we offer you a shot at a new life if you lose lots of weight -- a task that is clearly made easier by the twenty-four hour assistance of the two most famous, successful trainers in the world --  but we expect you not to try too hard to win, because that is mean. Adam, meet the serpent. Serpent, Adam. The rest of us will decide if you continue to deserve this chance to live a long healthy life, thank you oodles and oodles.

(Did someone say "noodles"? Or cupcakes for that matter! Eat twelve of them and you can have a big weight advantage reward. Forget the fact that, every season, you have watched people eat them and then cry because of guilt and because Jillian then scratches out their eyes with a salty pretzel rod in a fit of righteous rage. Stuff those cheeks, pal. It is all a game and this gives you the advantage. Oh, wait -- that's wrong -- it is not a game -- or it shouldn't be. You are here to lose weight and to help your chubby chums do the same thing. So -- I guess don't eat the cupcakes. And hug that poor girl hard before you push her out the door.)

After all is said and done, perhaps it is good enough that when the sappy MIDI music plays at the end of the show and we watch an encapsulated video summary of all of the flab of the past (bouncing and wobbling in dramatic, deeply disturbing slow-motion) turning into the muscles of the bright future, it is all forgotten that, for an entire season, we simultaneously enjoyed seeing people lose ridiculous amounts of weight while dismantling each other's chances of winning (and criticizing them for doing this) all whilst spooning Ben and Jerry's into our gaping, critical, head-shaking, teary-eyed, empathetic faces.

Perhaps we, the audience, are the biggest losers? (In a bad way.)



  1. So true...but is it alright if I down a bowl of the low-fat Rocky Road instead?

  2. Yeah, I'll let that slide. As long as you quietly hope for the downfall of those losers.

  3. Evil actually goes well with Rocky Road.