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.’
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 faked. My 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