Sheltered Wrath —
In case there was ever any question in your mind, “The Biggest Loser” has absolutely nothing to do with health.
As we all know, the entire point of the show is to produce the most stunning, most headline-grabbing weight loss possible without actually killing anyone.
Yet, when the show is on at the YMCA, you get these segments where the trainers, Jillian and Bob, are talking about how it’s all about their health and that they are “saving their lives” by pushing this extreme weight loss regime.
And this is the message that the public takes from the show: weight loss equals health.
Of course, we all know that weight loss is not necessary for health, and neither are the absurd exercise regimens they push on the contestants and, ultimately, the viewers.
When I wrote previously about the show, I mentioned that they had been working out for two-and-a-half hours before being sent to work out even more with Jillian. I wasn’t certain that I had heard that right because it seemed like an awfully long time.
Well, today, while doing research, I finally came across this clip in which a contestant is complaining and Jillian yells, “You have four hours a day of this for four months.”
How in the hell do they reconcile the sort of “anyone can do it” message of “The Biggest Loser” with the reality that these contestants dedicate one-fourth of their waking hours (assuming they get 8 hours of sleep) to exercise.
This same clip encapsulates everything that I hate about “The Biggest Loser.” Watch at your own risk because it’s got a double shot of rage-maker.
Now, we’ve all seen the clips where Jillian says such asinine things as “All I care about is that your ass gets smaller” and “I don’t care if you both die on this floor, you better die looking good.”
But in the clip above, Jillian’s behavior is not only obnoxious, it’s damn near life-threatening. This clip comes from the first day of the show and the contestant, Greg, says he felt “dizzy, nauseous,” which are signs that you should probably take a break and recover.
A lot of times they throw up and it’s because they have a lot of toxins stored up in their body.
Jillian Michaels, you are a fucking moron.
People don’t puke from an intense workout because they have toxins stored up, they puke because they are suffering from dehydration or heat exhaustion or hyponatremia (an electrolyte disturbance) or even a vasovagal response. What they don’t vomit from is excess toxins.
And the thing is, Jillian takes pleasure in making people throw up. She pushes Greg as hard as she can in an effort to “break” him. When he gets off the treadmill because he doesn’t feel good, she tells him, “If you don’t throw up right now, we’re going to have a problem.”
When he begins looking for a place to throw up, he’s thwarted by a locked door and as he turns we see Jillian following him and smiling.
After he throws up, she tells him, “Puke and then hop on the treadmill.”
And finally, she tells the camera crew, “I”m proud that I made him vomit.”
This complete disregard for the health of the contestants should make viewers angry, it should drive away sponsors, but instead, it becomes part of the “charm” of the show.
Sort of like how the verbal abuse has become a fan favorite. In fact, on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” YouTube channel, the clip with the most viewers (417,003 as of today) is titled “Bob’s Freakout Extended,” in which he berates a contestant for not sprinting long enough on a treadmill. The scene was so popular in the show, that NBC released a longer version.
The most popular comment on this clip summarizes the appeal nicely: “I want his job. Screaming at fat people on tv for money.”
Couple this with the fact that Jillian Michaels thinks very little of the people she is supposedly “helping” and you get the reality of why “The Biggest Loser” is so successful: it’s a sort of fat minstrel show.
Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper are society’s stand-ins. They are the good and righteous people who are berating and beating the bad fatties into submission for their own good. In the process, you get reinforcement of the stereotypes of gluttony and sloth, and the vicarious pleasure of watching the fatties be “broken.”
I don’t care what Jillian and Bob are like in real life, on the show they are horrible, horrible people, and our society celebrates them as paragons of virtue. And to reinforce that view, they have pulled what I call Frat Philanthropy Syndrome, which corporations have fully embraced as Philanthronomics.
Here’s how it works in its most basic form: fraternities basically clubs for (overwhelmingly) upper-middle class, white men to engage in widespread debauchery and, eventually, corporate networking. It’s the Good Ol’ Boys Club for Kids.
The solution: emphasize the philanthropy of the Greek system to deflect criticism.
Let’s say there are 200 days of fraternity life in a school year. Fraternities require their members to sacrifice five days to raise money for a charity to pay for the other 195 days dedicated to sustained douchebaggery.
The veneer is thin, though, as I learned during my days at Mizzou. I wrote for student newspaper, The Maneater, and one of the “real news” stories that I wrote was about Greek Life, which organizes events for sororities and fraternities at Mizzou, had shat upon the fundraiser of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity.
Rock-a-Thon is the country’s biggest fraternal philanthropy, bringing in $23,000 every two years, according to members of Alpha Epsilon Pi. During the downtown event, fraternity member Evan Pfaff will rock in a rocking chair for 63 hours until the organization’s goal is reached. Members will “can” for money while Pfaff rocks. The fraternity only holds the event every other year because it takes so long to plan.
“Most houses only raise $1,000 or $2,000 because they are required to,” Rosenthal said. “It’s our passion. You would never see Greek Week fall during the larger houses’ philanthropies.”
Philanthropy matters, but not as much as the gratuitous celebration of the Greek system.
The rest of the time, philanthropy is their shield, providing the talking heads of each fraternity an opportunity to turn an investigation of crimes into an opportunity to shine.
Now, “The Biggest Loser” is doing the same thing. While people should be outraged at the widespread abuse that makes up the core of the show, instead they’re touched that Bob and Jillian are sharing the spotlight with Ford’s Warriors in Pink fundraiser for breast cancer.
Aaaaaaaaw, see… they’re not dehumanizing assholes, they really care about people.
That Jillian Michaels, she sure is a sweetheart.