Fat, Fat, the Water Rat

Or whatever we used to say when we were kids. Mac’s post informing us that, while Mississippi is the very fattest state, Alabama is closing on them fast, reminded me that I got an email from “City of Mobile” this afternoon urging me to consider auditioning for NBC’s reality show, “The Biggest Loser.”  I reproduce most of it here for your edification:

Casting producers are looking for outgoing and charismatic family teams of two, especially those who have the personality, desire and competitive edge to vie for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lose weight, change their lives forever and compete for a grand prize of $250,000. Individuals who don’t have a partner can audition on their own. Candidates must be at least 18 years of age and legal residents of the United States.

“This is an awesome opportunity to spotlight Mobile as well as give our citizens an opportunity to transition into a healthy lifestyle,” said Mayor Sam Jones. “Alabama has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation. We encourage as many people as possible to take advantage of the opportunities that this national show brings to Mobile.”

Candidates should bring a non-returnable photo of them and their partner.

Okay, so after I got over the mental picture of a bloated Bart Simpson proudly telling reporters, “I warsh mahself with a rag on a stick,” I thought seriously about  this.  I mean, yes Sam, we all want a healthier lifestyle. But should we really be falling all over ourselves to put our most corpulent, albeit charismatic,  citizens on national TV to spotlight Mobile??? Isn’t there at least a chance that some of the show will, um, put our city in a bad light? Okay, so maybe we aren’t the only place in the US that sells deep-fried  Snickers bars at the annual fair, but still. That article Mac linked to sure makes it sound like our fattest folks might just be the fattest folks anywhere. Except, of course, for… now y’all say it with me: “Thank God for Mississiippi!”

2 Responses to “Fat, Fat, the Water Rat”

  1. Kathy says:

    Hmmm. I’m not quite sure where to start. I’ve never watched “The Biggest Loser” – not big on reality TV – but this sounds about like what I would expect:

    …“The Biggest Loser” is first and foremost a reality show, where the entertainment value is measured in extremes. There isn’t much punch or visual payoff to a loss of 20 or 30 pounds; viewers have come to expect 100- and 200-pound miracles. Contestants who weigh 300 and 400 pounds are stripped down physically and emotionally, put in form-fitting bike shorts and forced to get on a scale, as clumsy and vulnerable as the human blobs of the future in “Wall-E.”

    Audiences look on with repulsion or empathy, and sometimes both. It’s a conceit that simultaneously prods viewers to gape at unimaginably large human beings and also root for their success. Mostly the visuals feed complacency; as overweight as a viewer may feel, he or she surely will never fall this far into the potato chip abyss. And if the morbidly obese people on screen can drop 100 pounds, then even the chubbiest kid on the couch can fit into a swimsuit by summer.

    On all of these shows the obese confess to past excesses and shameful moments. Often the kind of infra-red camera that captures illegal aliens crossing the borders at night catches the contestants raiding the fridge or bolting down raw cookie dough straight from the package. There are old snapshots of solitary prom nights and beach holidays spent indoors. It’s biography as body mass index, chronicled with lurid close-ups of bulging stomachs, tree trunk thighs and wobbly arms.

    These plus-size transformations are spellbinding, admirable and even enviable, but they are also teases, making impossible transformations seem just a commitment away.

    Sadly, even criticism of a show that shames fat people is rife with shaming of fat people (potato chip abyss?). If the mayor really wants to promote healthier lifestyles, I submit he could find better ways than encouraging participation in crap TV that is nothing more than junk food for the mind. More walkable neighborhoods, better access to healthy food especially in lower income areas, etc.

    Of course, he may already be working on these things, and perhaps he thinks local participation in the show will bring positive attention to the issue. I’m afraid it will only reinforce the related fallacies that all fat people are inherently unhealthy (not to mention lazy slobs who do nothing but sit on the couch and shovel in Ho-Hos), only fat people need to exercise and watch what they eat, and anyone can starve and exercise their way to a size 2.

    (My particular suburb of Birmingham is slowly but surely connecting residential areas to schools and shopping via sidewalk. They’re inching closer to our subdivision, and I can’t wait till I can walk or bike to the grocery store without taking my life into my hands.)

    I think you should take your skinny fanny down to the auditions and tell them you want to participate. If what they do is healthy for the fat people they target, it should be healthy for everyone, and they should encourage people of every size to participate. Right? Right? :)

  2. Del says:

    I don’t like to criticize Sam just now because he’s fighting cancer, God bless him. But just after he was elected, he invited various members of the community to serve on advisory committees to submit ideas about how to improve our city in almost every area you could think of. A family practice physician I know very well was on the Health committee or whatever it was called, and his committee submitted precisely the two ideas you listed, along with others. Certificates of appreciation were awarded to all those who participated, and I think there was a nice luncheon or something.

    Nothing was done, though. So no, I wouldn’t say he’s working on those issues. But I’m sure he (or his staff) had no problem in promoting an idea that costs absolutely nothing.

Leave a Reply