On Intentions and “Biggest Loser”
The interview is really stunning. Kai talks about the extreme seclusion, humiliation, and abuse they underwent. She talks about running in 100-degree heat and being given 90-degree water to drink afterward, while the producers, trainers, etc. drank cold water out of coolers. She talks about having bloody feet and bruises all over her body at the end of the show. She talks about the ongoing emotional abuse of being told “you’re lucky to be here” so many times they all started to believe they deserved however they were treated. It really is disgusting, but also hugely informative, and I am eager to hear the other two parts.
I wasn’t going to post about this here until Golda posted the other two parts, but a conversation that sprang up on my Facebook page about this prompted me to go ahead and write this now.
I’m not going to dissect the comments by one friend of mine who called those of us who were angry about this an “angry mob” and then balked that I was “taking [her] too seriously” when I called her on it. What I do want to post is my response to another friend who said “I must say, though, that I don’t think all that BL is about is ‘shaming the fat losers’.”
This brings up the important point, I think, about intentions. Sometimes, intentions of folks who abuse, shame, humiliate, hurt, and otherwise act hatefully toward a particular group are taken into account as if that should excuse the harm that was done. But one of the central tents of justice movements is that intentions do not diminish, mitigate, or least of all excuse behavior that deeply harms another. So without further ado, here is what I said in response:
hmm… I’m not really sure it matters whether the show is “all” about humiliation or not. Seems we can all agree on the fact that it does in fact shame and humiliate fat people, which is bad enough on its own, whether it’s “all” about that or not.
I am definitely willing to grant that some of the producers, trainers, etc. have good intentions. But good intentions don’t erase, or even mitigate, the harm that folks do out of ignorance and hatred. I am sure that my college biology teacher had good intentions when she said that the heart attack risk of Fen-Phen was worth it because it was worse to be fat. I am sure that many of the Mormons who donated to prop 8 truly believed they were doing the right thing. I could point to a million other examples where people’s intentions weren’t really commensurate with the harm they did out of, again, ignorance and hatred.
So, what I’m thinking is, what does it matter what the intentions are of the people who are abusing the contestants, or for that matter the viewers who enjoy watching the abuse as entertainment? Ultimately, people are being humiliated. Shamed. Abused. Silenced. Ignored. Even killed. That’s a problem that no amount of good intentions will change.
After we and others had had our fun joking about what being part of an angry mob might mean (would our weapons be baguettes or Hickory Farms meats? Or perhaps the legs from the chairs we broke? Maybe we wouldn’t have the energy to mob anyway because we’re too busy sitting around eating TWO WHOLE CAKES!) eventually the conversation strayed to such an extent that the last few comments are about Anabaptist colleges and last names. I love my friends :)