I recently read a short piece in the Huffington Post that asked the question, “Is the new obession with “fat shows” helping or hurting?” The title grabbed my attention because I co-authored a “fat show.”
FANTASY: This article is about all of the people buying our DVD, Leftovers, the Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater and how much it is helping them learn to love who they are and get off of the Diet Merry-Go-Round!
Of course that is not what the question was referring to, it was referring to shows like The Biggest Loser and others in that genre. This is how I answered the question.
FACT: Some people enjoy watching other people suffer. In Ancient Rome, Gladiators murdered each other and the spectators cheered! In the Golden Age of television, shows like, Queen for a Day, asked the audience to vote on which contestant’s life was most lamentable and the winner (or biggest loser in that case) won an appliance.
And now we live in a time where the proliferation of Extreme Weight Loss Shows is comparable to the infamous mushrooming of Starbucks Coffee Shops. The popularity of these shows is nothing new and certainly not surprising. People are glued to their screens, in the privacy of their homes, watching the side show at the circus. Some watch with disgust, some with arrogant superiority others with morbid curiosity. The people who touch my heart the most are the ones that watch with envy. The ones who wish they could be chosen for the magic transformation that would make them thin, enviable, and “good” in people’s eyes. These people get hooked in despite the…
FACT: Research clearly demonstrates that diets do not work and quick fixes of boot camp interventions don’t last.
FACT: This counter message isn’t being equally publicized via social media/networking and television.
In today’s world of social media, social networking and television, our culture is re-defining boundaries for acceptable voyeurism and exhibitionism. It is too late to turn back the clock and I’m not sure I would want to. People connecting with each other can be a wonderful way to build community and support. The channels available to express our opinions and share facts are also proliferating. Frankly, I am growing quite fond of the luxury of being able to give and receive immediate feedback. The down side of course is that the power of television and social networking can also be used to create hurtful factions and perpetuate misinformation. The Extreme Weight Loss Shows are prime examples of this.
WISH: If we could use television to educate instead of humiliate and promote acceptance instead of bias that would be a worthwhile use of the airwaves.