The problem with My Big Fat Revenge

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Reality TV producers are grown in vats in a parallel dimension where concepts like ‘taste’, ‘intelligence’ and ‘decency’ are unfamiliar. This much we know.

But even with this understanding, there are some reality TV concepts that still have the power to make our skin crawl.  

Enter My Big Fat Revenge.

The concept — and I use that term loosely — for this baked turd of a TV show is ‘Each week, after amazing body transformations, two formerly overweight girls revisit the people who disrespected them the most and stand up for not only themselves but for the fat girl in all of us.’

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Yes, you read that right. Fat women lose weight and then get revenge on the people who taunted them for being fat — all in front to the cameras. You’ll note that they are only permitted to ‘stand up for the fat girl in all of us,’ after they have lost weight and are no longer fat girls at all.

The show’s promo, which is airing on the US cable network Oxygen and is made by the same cynics who gave us The Biggest Loser, attempts to wrap this new species of vile up in a message of positivity. Despite all appearances, they’d have you believe that the show is really about getting ‘closure’ for women who have spent years of their lives enduring taunts such as ‘thunder thighs’, ‘pork chop’ and ‘fat cow’.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the meeting where the marketing department no doubt tortured themselves, logic and the basic concepts of decency for hours in order to come up with that spin.

The whole ‘getting-closure-on-bullying’ storyline might have been just a tad more believable if the women didn’t have to undergo ‘amazing body transformations’ before confronting their tormentors.

By making the women drop a few dress sizes first, the larger lesson of My Big Fat Revenge is that the bullies were in fact right: the contestants were indeed just a bunch of fat cows who needed to shed the kilos in order to become worth-while human beings.

As with most other reality shows that focus on weight loss and body shape, My Big Fat Revenge isn’t about closure or self-acceptance, but about conforming to a cultural ideal at all costs and reinforcing the prejudice that fat people are undeserving of courtesy or respect.

In our culture, the path from fat to thin has become the stand-in for stories of moral redemption. Those who go from fat to thin are routinely portrayed as having got their life back, as if being fat is a stale, grey existence — a kind of precursor to life itself.

Magazines and TV assault us daily with stories of celebrities bouncing back from career downfall with a new [read: absurdly thin] body and consequently scoring a bloke and a book/TV show/movie/album/modeling contract.

And it’s not confined to celebrities. Before and after pictures, used by those spruiking diet books and workouts, provide a quick visual narrative of the path from death to new life — even though these can be easily fakedMy Big Fat Revenge draws on the same narrative arc, with the added twist that the former victim is now liberated to confront their oppressor.

The problem, though, is that using the show’s faulty moral compass for guidance, you might say that the bullies were just doing these women a favour. After all, if the bullies hadn’t spent all those years devising horrible ways to taunt them, the women might never have gone on the show at all.

If there is one positive to come out of this show, it’s that the show drops the nauseating narrative that accompanies the execrableBiggest Loser. Where The Biggest Loser still pretends that it’s about health rather than making fat people sweat, cry and vomit for our entertainment, at least My Big Fat Revenge is honest enough to aspire to nothing more lofty than shame and revenge.

 

Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com

 

34 comments

  • Reality TV producers are grown in vats in a parallel dimension where concepts like ‘taste’, ‘intelligence’ and ‘decency’ are unfamiliar. This much we know. - The are the same vats that produce Journalists - This much we also know.....

    Commenter
    Shogunmatty
    Location
    Reality
    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 9:24AM
    • Sadly in both cases the vats are finely tuned systems to provide us with the media we choose to consume rather than the media we tell ourselves and others that we want to consume. The vats respond to the audience just as surely as the audience responds to the vats.

      Commenter
      Cultured media for a cultured audience?
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 3:56PM
  • so the show is about "conforming to a cultural ideal at all costs". Like the cost of improving your lifestyle, health and confidence, all at the same time. What horrible people. Clearly it is worse to create a culture that supports and encourages people to be obese. For 99% of the obese population, being obese is a choice! The bullies are right. Sorry but that's it, we need to stop supporting those who won't support themselves.

    Commenter
    Waz
    Location
    Syd
    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 9:50AM
    • Studies have recently shown that body negativity and fat shaming only causes people to gain weight. So no matter how evil you think fat people are (how dare they make decisions about their own body! Women with self-determination? Urgh!) bullying them through social interaction and horrid media like this does nothing to solve this "problem".
      Someone's health isn't anyones business. And their health is never connected to their value as a human.

      Commenter
      Lauren
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 10:42AM
    • I'm not for "shaming" fat people, but I am certainly not for encouraging them to continue with their bad habits. Your arguement is flawed in peoples perceived right to do whatever they want. Smoking is almost being wiped out via taxes and new laws because of the drag it has on our health system, and obesity is right behind it as an obvious (and proven) self destruction mechanism. What do you do to fix the problem? We need to change the culture of excuses and support for the obese members of the public. All the same people that say Jen Hawkins is too thin of course, but those people are bullying someone attractive and healthy so that's ok?

      Commenter
      Waz
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 11:09AM
    • Let's pretend being gay was a choice - it's not, but imagine it was. Would that mean homophobia is ok? Would teasing them, ridiculing them, even abusing them, be ok simply because they chose to be that way?

      We spend a lot of time teaching our kids that bullying is not ok. But the exception, according to people like Waz, is when it comes to fat people.

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 11:40AM
    • Agree Waz. It's OK to try and get people to stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, not speed on roads etc....All worthwhile pursuits no doubt and, just quietly, reflecting on one's 'freedom' to do all this. HOWEVER, try and get people to lose weight and suddenly we're doing something wrong! Why would anyone one consciously WANT to be overweight with all the physical side effects, even if there are no psychological issues. It's like saying I want to get cancer from smoking and become an alcoholic from excess drinking. As a society it's our responsibility to help these people achieve healthy weight levels and not get caught up in what;'s politically correct to say or do.

      Commenter
      JIM
      Location
      Bayside
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 12:16PM
    • Waz how do you know Jennifer Hawkins is the pinnacle of good health, she may be considered underweight by some health professionals.

      Commenter
      Mellah
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 12:21PM
    • I'm with Waz. 99% of fat/obese people do it by choice. I don't think we need to shame them - their own premature death and stranglehold on the health network of this country will be their lasting legacy.
      But, I am free to have a low respect for fat people for the choices they make. Just like drug addicts, alcoholics, smokers, thieves, jaywalkers and those incredibly annoying people who stand on the right hand side of the escalator instead of walking. Your choice to do any of these things, my choice to think you are not attractive and are a burden to the rest of us.

      Commenter
      DT
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 2:00PM
    • DT, spot on.

      Commenter
      Sam
      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 8:24AM

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