‘Biggest Loser’ Controversy Poses Question: Is Reality TV Responsible?
Many viewers tuned in to NBC’s The Biggest Loser finale Tuesday night, and even those who didn’t likely heard what happened on the show the following morning. The $250,000 grand prize winner of The Biggest Loser, Rachel Frederickson, 24, went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds, and lost 59.62 percent of her body weight. The voice-over artist who lives in Los Angeles is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and after being unhappy with her weight all her life — especially within the last six years when she gained more than 100 pounds — she is now facing criticism for being “too thin” and taking the show too far.
Critics of Frederickson and the show have zeroed in on the looks of trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels’ faces when they saw Frederickson’s transformation for the first time Tuesday, charging that their shock illuminates the severity of Frederickson’s situation. Following the big reveal, viewers took to all social media channels to make their claims heard, either arguing that Frederickson is perfect the way she is, took the show too far, or should blame The Biggest Loser for its irresponsibility, but the question still remains: where should the blame be placed?
Many Americans charge that The Biggest Loser encourages extreme and unsustainable weight loss, unrealistic ideals, and self-deprecation. Trainers can do what the want within the confines of their own gyms, but when on a public stage, many believe that they have a responsibility to know what what kind of message they are sending to viewers when they applaud contestants and award them $250,000 when they lose more than 50 percent of their body weight.
Jillian Lampert of the Emily Program, a nationally recognized eating disorder treatment program based in St. Paul, agrees with this sentiment, and said via the Associated Press, “I think about all the kids watching those shows and all the parents watching shows like that and talking about their weight. What do kids think when they see us as adults make shows about people who live in larger bodies and then give them money when they achieve living in a smaller body? What does that teach kids about the value of their body? That worries me.”
Lampert certainly has a point; however, the truth of the matter also is that if we’re going to talk about poor messages being conveyed on a public stage, we can’t place all of the blame on The Biggest Loser without at least making a mention of others who make a living on that same stage: Hollywood actors and actresses. Many of the biggest Hollywood stars are the same height as Frederickson and maintain the same, or a smaller weight than her, yet they are still praised at awards shows and television appearances when they arrive looking slimmed down in their dresses or tuxedos. So, where does one draw the line? Why is it okay for them to especially thin and not others? That is where the line gets blurry.