I have been fat for longer than America, at least it feels that way. I may someday hold forth on why putting America on a diet will NOT work, but before I do, I want to discuss that freak show phenomenon The Biggest Loser. I always call the show “That one where they make the fat people cry” or “Torturing Fatties.” I find the whole project humiliating.
First, they make fat people weigh themselves in front of all the world, a thing that the vast majority of people (yes, I recognize the pun) would never agree to do. Worse, they make these poor subjects strip. I know people with perfectly attractive bodies who would be humiliated by such an experience, so to take a person who commits the ultimate American sin–fatness–and strip that person so that every fold, roll and dimple is brightly lit then force this individual to stand on a scale built for LIVESTOCK in front of all the world, and (just for added grins) have the readout on the scale spin like some nightmare slot machine… This is the DEF-IN-ITION of torture. If that isn’t enough, they pit these fat people against each other in physical challenges. Once they’re exhausted and confused and miserable, they have one-on-one interviews which probe their psyches until they break, break like little, baby girls. The scarring is finally complete. Just thinking about this show would enrage me.
Imagine how I felt, then, when my preacher confessed (from the pulpit) that he liked to watch that show while eating ice-cream. Talk about a faith-shaker! How could a person who is supposed to embody (or at least teach) the love of Christ like a show that is one of my top three visions of HELL?
I mentioned this whole nightmare to a slender friend of mine. This friend said, “Yeah, but have you seen what they do for those people. It’s amazing!” Poor skinny fool! I thought. You think what they do works. Later I thought more carefully about my friend and about my preacher. It came to me that both these men enjoy the show for another reason. It’s THE STORY!
Sinners confess they have sinned, that they are enslaved by their sin. They seek forgiveness. They repent. They struggle. They suffer. They learn to live a new way, and they emerge transformed, as if resurrected from underneath all that flesh. There is no way to top such a story. It’s the best one of all.
Of course, this transformation is superficial. It does not change the essential, and that’s what really changes everything, the transformation of the essential. The transformation on Biggest Loser is not permanent in almost all cases. It only offers a visible metaphor of a transformation that IS worthwhile. This narrative is the ultimate resolution, a vision of an earned paradise. If only losing fifteen pounds or fifty pounds or thousands and thousands of pounds could bestow real joy!
So, I forgive my preacher and all those slender friends of mine who like that show. I can even appreciate what they see in it, but I will never be able to watch it. It reminds me too much of those old circus side shows, the ones where people paid a nickel to walk past the calf born with two heads and the world’s smallest man and…and…oh yes…the fat lady.