The 15th season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” wrapped up on this past Tuesday with a reveal that sent the internet into a frenzy.
When contestant Rachel Frederickson stepped on to the digital weighing scale and exposed her 155 lb weight loss, the show’s audience members and its hosts alike were visually taken aback; she had evidently gone too far. Viewers immediately took to social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to express their shock at the 24 year old’s “emaciated” body. Some expressed genuine concern while others simply indulged in a sick amount of poorly disguised body shaming.
What is surprising to me is that it has taken a transformation as severe as Frederickson’s in order to get the country’s attention. The Biggest Loser competition highlights so many of the things that are wrong with society. First off, it reinforces that idea that thinness=success. It is no secret that in modern society, a thin and “fit” appearance is valued above all others, and this show literally makes a competition based off that fact. Consider the basic concept of the program: whichever contestant loses the most (weight) gains the most (money). If everybody knows this, then why did Frederickson’s weight loss shock everyone as much as it did? It was only a matter of time before the show drove someone to go “too far” in their weight loss efforts. After all, if some weight loss = some success, wouldn’t more weight loss = more success?
Society’s obsession with appearance has lead us to create one, ideal body shape that is respected and admired above all others. This mystical body is neither too fat nor too thin, too dark nor too light, too short nor too tall. If an individual does not meet all theses criteria for”perfection,” he/she is mocked, shamed, and criticized into altering his/her appearance in the endless pursuit of societal acceptance.
When Frederickson first entered the competition, she was slyly being mocked and pitied for being overweight and, if we keep with the earlier logic, unsuccessful. So she embarked on a rigorous, 14-week boot camp/competition that pushed and taunted her through her weight loss, and emerged on the other side only to STILL be criticized for her size.
Very little, if anything, has been said in regards to the current state of her health because that is simply not important to people. All that matters is the width of her waist, the weight of her body, and the exact digits of her BMI; so basically the same things that mattered before she lost all that weight.
Our society will never progress unless it moves away from its myopic concentration on something so small and insignificant as physical appearance. Rachel Frederickson’s transformation and the backlash it has inspired is the result of the suffocating emphasis society places on an individual’s physical appearance.
What do you think of The Biggest Loser?
Featured photo via Celebitchy