A few weeks ago another season of The Biggest Loser, where morbidly obese human gastropods run on treadmills while underachieving fitness trainers berate them all in the name of our entertainment, came to a dramatic conclusion. There were tears, there were cheers, there were exclamations of joy and horror as our heroes marvelled at their rapid transformation from walking butterballs into relatively slim creatures with disturbing excesses of loose skin. The playing of the heart strings reached its epic crescendo as an estranged mother and daughter team proclaimed that their mutual weight loss had brought them closer together; truly it was a moment of such manufactured saccharinity that every hack reality tv producer would have stood up from their velvet lounge chairs and applauded bravo.
It was somewhere in the midst of all these loving embraces, emotional confessions and celebratory backslapping that the true symbolism of The Biggest Loser reared its multi chinned face. The Biggest Loser heralds the ultimate decline of Western civilisation.
Sure, reality tv has been dredging the lowest depths of our society for over decade, from teenage mums struggling to get through high school, desperate losers seeking love, to vacuous celebrities dealing with the many difficulties that come with being rich, famous and completely ignorant. Through reality tv we’ve seen it all and reached the saturation point that makes us desensitised to nearly everything that gets thrown at us. But even so, there’s something special about The Biggest Loser that distinguishes it in a sea of misfortune.
The Biggest Loser shines a light on the horrifying excess consumption and gorging that we as a community have embraced. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 63% of Australians are overweight or obese, with similar figures in America while 1.7 million Australians suffer from diabetes. These are staggering figures and some would argue that The Biggest Loser and shows of its ilk should be applauded for encouraging healthy living but here’s the flaw in that logic- the vast majority of 63% that are overweight are fat because of their own stupidity and laziness. We’re supposed to cheer an obese tub of lard from Suburbia for switching on a treadmill? We’re supposed to applaud a walking heart attack for making the earth shattering decision that three Mars Bars washed down with a can of coke probably isn’t the best lunch option?
Think this all sounds a bit harsh? Consider this- Nearly 900 million people in 2013 are starving. 780 million people don’t have access to clean water. 16,000 children die each day from starvation and 3 billion people live on $2 a day or less. And where do most of these starving masses come from? Asia and Africa. So while we’ve been battling our waistlines and eating everything we can get our hands on, the other half have been searching for some bread crumbs to get through another night. Feeling sorry for the person that is so fat they can’t get out of bed? How about doing something for the person who has to walk 20 kilometres a day just to get clean water? Inequality has been a part of human existence since we first learned to paint on walls but in the 21st century inequality has reached a new level of injustice. Never before has so much been consumed by so few while so many are left to rot. To add insult to injury, we’re conditioned to feel pity for the slobs that eat themselves to oblivion while we turn a cold shoulder to the forgotten masses beyond our window.
Obesity is a serious problem and can ruin lives but don’t expect sympathy for people that have gorged on so much while so many others have had so few. Our grandparents survived war and polio, our parents survived aids, we survived not eating fifty Big Macs in one go. This is the decline. This is the ultimate first world problem.