On the heels of our post about reality television shows that just need to end, a surprise announcement about the next season of the Biggest Loser has been released. Not only is Jillian Michaels returning to the show (she took a season off to focus on motherhood and other projects) but the 14th season has another shocker for us- contestants between the ages of 13 and 17. The teenage contestant won’t be weighed on screen and won’t be subject to elimination, and it appears they are participating to help shed light on the childhood obesity epidemic.
Excuse me for reverting to the cynical person that lurks beneath my bubbly exterior, but all I could think when I read that was “Wow, anything for viewership, eh?”
What exactly is the point of including teenage contestants if they are not subject to the premise of the show? I hardly believe it is to help combat childhood obesity, and I fear that instead we’ll be treated to tearful monologues from exploited kids who will shed light on just how mean other kids can be to someone who is overweight. I’m sure there will also be scenes with the show’s physician who will explain to these kids all the damage they are doing to their bodies (diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, etc.) while dramatic music runs in the background and the child cries about what their future might hold.
The truth is, childhood obesity is a problem in America. Adults are not doing the best job they can teaching kids the virtues of good eating habits and staying active. The statistics are worse for children of low income families and certain minority groups. And while I fully support education and outreach, I draw the line at public shaming on reality television. Furthermore, by presenting childhood obesity in this shameful manner I believe that we teach kids that being kind to others only applies to their skinny peers. I want to teach my child that it is their job to be kind to everyone while also imparting lessons of balanced food choices and the benefits of an active lifestyle. Shows like the Biggest Loser often make those two ideals seem mutually exclusive.
The Biggest Loser can certainly be an inspiring show for some, but critics have long held that the lessons learned on the Ranch are more about physical extremes than teaching balanced eating and maintaining a regular lifestyle. I worry what that means for an impressionable teenagers both on the show and watching at home. Pun intended, I think that this is the biggest loser of an idea that the show has ever had.
Image courtesy of NBC.com
What do you think? Are teenage contestants a good idea for the Biggest Loser?
Daisy is a lawyer married to a lawyer (insert lawyer jokes here) living in a small condo in a big city with a new baby and beagle. She breaks up the legal-speak by blogging about life in Chicago, which is filled with escapades of urban living. In the summer she enjoys patio dining and in the winter wonders what she was thinking when she moved here. You can read more from Daisy on her blog, Just Daisy.