The Biggest Loser.
The show where everyone but the biggest of losers, is a loser anyway.
How many times have you heard the word ‘Obesity’ in the last week? The last month? The issue is a central part of our society and a consistently hot topic for public debate. It is not surprising that a reality TV show came about for our entertainment that is centred around such a prevalent topic. However the show raises questions about much more than simply obesity.
The Biggest Loser has been accused of trivialising weight loss. Weight loss professional Professor Wittert (2014) claims the show “is a crass attempt to make entertainment of a serious problem… putting them (contestants) through a gruelling and unrealistic regime of exercise and diet, and exposing them to public ridicule because of their weight.” In her Article, “The Biggest Loser: you win some…you lose more” journalist Stacey Carter (2014) describes the way the show provokes audiences’ interest, “Trainers scream abuse, contestants strip down for weigh-ins (reinforcing the freak-show vibe).” Both Wittert’s and Carter’s takes of the show raise issues for debate in the public sphere questioning what our society deems to be ‘entertaining’. Have we become insensitive, cruel even, in the things that entertain us?
Critics and health professionals have accused the show of professing unrealistic expectations of weight loss. Professor Wittert (2014) says, “It is misleading. It may also lead to physical harm if individuals try to emulate it and even partially succeed, and potentially to psychological harm if they can’t.” Stacey Carter (2014) claims, “the show is likely to harm contestants and unlikely to benefit them… Before weigh-ins they reportedly starve themselves, go without fluids and take long saunas to temporarily shed kilos.”
Debate over The Biggest Loser in the mediated public sphere ranges from ‘Did you see that fat dude fall off the bike last night?’ to ‘Where are society’s morals when laughing at the expense of these people?’ to ‘What are the real health concerns in weight loss?’ to ‘Am I a bad person if I eat pizza while watching this?’ Never the less, The Biggest Loser demands discussion of the issues it raises, contributing to the mediated public sphere in a very big way.
Anderson, J 2014, ‘6 ”Biggest Loser” Lessons to Unlearn’, Spark People, accessed 7 April 2014 http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1192&page=3
Carter, S 2014 ‘The Biggest Loser: you win some… you lose more’, Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 7 April 2014 http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-biggest-loser-you-win-some–you-lose-more-20140118-311gk.html
Health Sciences, Media Release, Research Story University of Adelaide, 2014, ‘Biggest Loser a setback for healthy weight loss’, The University of Adelaide, accessed 7 April 2014 https://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/print67942.html