October 27, 2004 01:50 PM

I usually don't (won't) watch any reality television. Television is better if it either collects something, information or art or whatever, or just appeals to my fantasy.

But last week I watched the "Loser" weightloss show (and blogged it), and this week I found myself watching it again.

I want to draw some connection between this show and Kathleen LeBesco's latest. I was disappointed in the book a bit - it doesn't have a lot that seems new and drastic to say, and I loved the transgressiveness and inversion of Bodies out of Bounds. And really, how much did I need to re-hear the point that Judith Butler's insights on queerness and gender apply to fat, too? Seems obvious.

But LeBesco's perspective on fat "apologism" is a good one. It doesn't matter politically if you contextualize it as a genetic fact or a choice, as long as you step away from thinking of fat as a disease and a debilitation in and of itself. I said that a couple of years ago, and I'm pretty sure the others I've learned from have been saying it for much longer. Some things bear repeating.

This television show is strangely compelling. I think anyone who can watch it without revulsion is hoping for a transformation. Probably most people aren't thinking of the transformation I'm thinking of, though.

Last night, everyone lost a lot less weight than the first week. Yeah, I've seen that cycle before. I bet all the fat people on the show did. They voted off a woman who weighed maybe 175 lbs (pretty tall, too) and didn't lose weight; they decided that small people had less weight to lose. That's the barometer they go with when they vote off team members, who they think has the most capability to lose more, based entirely on what they weigh. They cry a lot, which makes sense - they're in the worst sort of boot camp, and it's not like they can really rely on their team members for support. I suppose the show is aiming for sniping and such. It's pretty revolting. It intentionally plays the emotions. It wants to be revolting.

So, the first week they leech all the water out of their bodies, and the second week they lose a little weight. Exercising most of each day, eating a lot less than normal, basically giving up all sense of normal routine and their own community; it's no surprise that they're pissed they don't lose more. It doesn't seem like anyone notices that these results say a lot about the complexities of people's response to food reduction and exercise. We're not calorie-processing machines. That's what I would want people to take away. It's more complicated than that. People build muscle, too. Muscle is heavier. I wanted to grab and shake someone and say "IF YOU FEEL HEALTHIER, MAYBE YOU ARE" when she started crying about how she felt so good but she was just bad because she wasn't losing 20lbs every week.

The women they voted off this week and last get shown at the end of the episode with how much weight they lost or kept off. I wonder if they think 10 lbs is failure or success, you know? If they think that 10 lbs is worth handing weeks of your life over to someone else?

We must feel so badly about the body. As a culture, I mean, we must feel terrible and hateful things to want so badly to change this little quantifiable number. To make it smaller; to make making it smaller this overarching focus. It seems like something's fundamentally broken.

I don't think that combatting the science of the Obesity Crisis! Egads! is really about apologism. I think Kathleen's wrong about that one. The audience is different. The science is our olive branch to the people on the "Loser" show and the people who are thinking the same things but not on television. People who haven't had the realization that weight gain or loss isn't all about willpower, but might be happier if they did. Maybe you need to have that before you can start to wonder whether fat is really all that bad or not.

I started to care about these people, about the things they represent in the rest of us. That's why I keep watching this show. I want them to feel better. I want to understand better how they came to conclude that this was the thing to do.

I want - I want more people to look up and look around them and wonder why they have to waste all this time and maybe, well - revolt. And I kinda want the big quiet black man to win or to stand up and walk out.

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