One Huge Lesson in Humility.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010.—Diary. 2010
<Jan 19 Jan 21>
Kilocal. Quant.

Listen­ing to the news from Haiti; read­ing about mandatory snack­ing for children. And going to the doc­tor again, right now. I’ve been to the doc­tor more in my 30s than I did as a child. And or­ders of mag­nitude more than in my 20s.

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Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser, Sea­son 9, Epis­ode 3

Last night I went to see half of a ter­rible show at the Bell House (why, when you do a cover of a Bob Dylan song, would you sit on a chair and sing while look­ing at the floor? Why, Charlotte?), so I missed Biggest Loser. But I just down­loaded the show il­leg­ally so that I don’t miss a mo­ment of fleshly weeping.

The yel­low and blue teams are shown at home, work­ing to re­turn to the ranch. The green mile guy is crying.
The green mile guy is crying.
The green mile guy is crying.
The host-woman has fif­teen pounds of blond hair to lose.
Sometimes the re­ac­tion shots are totally random. Clearly at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son they ask these people to react in shock five dif­fer­ent ways, then just queue that up as spice on the pump­kin when they need to pad the shot. If I see one more per­son grabbing the sides of their own chubby face el­lip­sis well el­lip­sis sigh I just don’t know.
It seems Bob and Jill­ian are going to go away for a week (in TV-time, not reality-time), pre­sum­ably to ful­fill their ban­ner ad obligations. In the mean­time there’s temptation challenge. Or whatever. The rules are more com­plic­ated than Archon. Basically: In each team there is to be a stu­dent (who weighs in), a mas­ter (who serves as a coach), and oh who gives a shit. The per­son who de­term­ines who is mas­ter and who is ser­vant is the per­son who eats the most tiny chocol­ate can­dies from two huge candy-filled troughs. Every­one has to eat in rounds, 5 kcal per candy piece. It’s a scene set for seduction, or some sort of Daniel Pink­wa­ter dom­in­atrix fantasy; for a mo­ment I ima­gine everyone, in­clud­ing Blondhost, diving into the candy trough, rub­bing M&Ms all over their bodies, all sorts of ex­cit­ing trans­gress­ive chubhoots. But. Three pieces of candy are eaten out of thirty or forty thou­sand pieces and wa? the con­test is over. Three pieces of candy total. Fif­teen cal­or­ies of crazytimes! In­stead of see­ing fat people chow them­selves to death we’re watch­ing a piece of pop cul­ture eat itself. Grip­ping (insert here sar­casm mark™)! Show me someone club­bing the sides of their shocked face with both hands, please.
The up­shot is that the pink team has to choose who will be the stu­dent and the mas­ter among all the other teams.
Lots of jowls work­ing now.
Goodness Mig­daila is upset that she was picked as the master. Bob is try­ing to get her to be angry; try­ing to get her to let it out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?!?!??!!!!!??!!!, but she, hav­ing basic dig­nity (dignity that is aside from vo­lun­teer­ing her obesity and per­son­al anxi­et­ies as a spec­tacle for the Amer­ic­an masses), is hav­ing none of it.
Now Bob and Jill­ian are doing some sort of psy­cho­lo­gic­al pro­file of Migdaila, at which point they’ve de­cided they do not want her to “alienate” her­self any longer. Has any­one on this show ever read a book? That said, both train­ers are wear­ing very at­tract­ive sweatpants. I’d be hard-pressed to choose which ass is snackier. (Frankly Bob’s.)
Now … the stu­dent has be­come the master. Sur­pris­ing music cues; lots of echo, reverb, and synth bass. Jill­ian has perched, vulturelike, on a tread­mill in order to psy­cho­lo­gic­ally rape Migdaila. “Who takes care of you?” asks Jillian; “Me,” says Migdaila.
Oh my God they’re going to ruin this woman. They won’t let her pee. She has to do some sort of lean­ing squat. This is ba­sic­ally a pris­on situation. Abu Gravy. Oh the humanity.
In fact, the ap­peal of this show can be traced to the Hinden­burg disaster: People love to watch blimps explode. Watch­ing Jill­ian and Bob ana­lyze Mig­daila re­minds me of teen­agers strategiz­ing as to the best way to tor­ture their peers; they tell her how fat she is, and how fat her daugh­ter will become. Mig­daila fights back with sul­len­ness while jump­ing up and down for exercise. “Why did God build that emo­tion into you?” Jill­ian asks about crying but Mig­daila says that cry­ing makes you weak. Oh my God they are going to force this poor woman to cry.
Your feel­ings are meant to be felt! If you don’t ex­press your feel­ings you will be oh God this is an af­ter­school special. They are not going to be happy until they make this woman admit that she hates her­self and watch her cry out loud. This is psy­cho­logy as prac­ticed by people who read only text messages: “2 LOL first u must COL!” Watch­ing dull people hec­tor other dull people to cry and “be brave” is a spe­cial kind of hellish punishment.
“Why are you not happy? Be brave! Right now!” For all that is holy.
Side pro­file of Jill­ian as she tells this poor woman in her green shirt to “dig in” and begs her to cry. “Talk,” says Jillian. “Give it a voice. PLEASE.” Interestingly, her con­cerns for this woman are sur­pris­ingly close to the con­cerns of someone mak­ing a good net­work tele­vi­sion show. Fi­nally the woman is crying—but quits the show and stomps away.
They picked on the fat kid enough that she’s en­tirely upset. She’s drift­ing away in green. Now TV must now re­solve the prob­lem it cre­ated when it star­ted run­ning so many KFC ads all those years ago.
The green team is speak­ing angry Span­ish be­hind closed doors. And Bob, at Jillian’s insistence, is running to tell Mig­daila in green not to leave the show.
Bob as­sures Mig­daila that he is going to help her get her head straight. Being an ex­pert on straightness.
“I’m here to help you,” says Bob. Sweep of strings. “Now let’s hug it out.” Bob’s nipples erect as he leans in for the hug, either in real­ity or my imagination.
The nice ex­iled blue-team ladies in Houston, TX, are going to the spin class at a megagym. Everything wrong with Amer­ica right there.
The green mile guy is crying.
The pink team is made up of women who look ex­actly like troll dolls.
Let’s take this belly to the bank (TTBTTB, or TTBx2): The re­main­ing brown-team twin is shil­ling Wal­greens hardcore. They just said Wal­greens about sev­en­teen times in a minute, talk­ing about ways to ice their badly swollen chubknees.
We are in­tro­duced again to Aus­trali­an celebrity chef who can­not break through in Amer­ica Curtis Stone, who looks like a seven-year-old who just got out of a go-cart. I defy you to re­mem­ber this man. He’s the Clark Kent to Alton Brown’s Superman. But he shows us 8,894 cal­or­ies worth of food; Mi­chael (not wear­ing a headband) says he used to eat that at a meal and every­one is all like oh, well there you go. That’s why you weight 500-odd lbs. At which pt. we in the audi­ence go, “who the hell are you to judge?” Be­cause cruel judg­ments are in this con­text the sole do­main of the audience, the only power we exercise.
Curtis is cook­ing chicken. TTBx2: he shills Muir Glen (now part of Gen­er­al Mills!) fire-roasted tomatoes, a fairly reas­on­able product place­ment esp. as they’re no-salt-added. A woman on the black team then tells us how great Muir Glen fire-roasted to­ma­toes are, and how they are her new secret weapon. Me too. I’m going to use them as a suppository. This show makes it clear that a major part of los­ing weight is learn­ing to choke down a great thorny length of cor­por­ate prong. It may not taste as good as chocol­ate cake, but it’s good for your fu­ture ca­reer as a mo­tiv­a­tion­al puppet.
They’re learn­ing to eat four-ounce pack­ages of chicken! Good for them. I am also a big fan of four-ounce por­tions of chicken.
The Mom is telling Mig­daila to chill out and stop being such a bitch, which is I swear to God ac­com­pan­ied by strings and the sort of jungle drums usu­ally re­served for open­ing cred­its and heli­copter flyovers. There is more crying.
I deeply miss the com­mer­cials when watch­ing a down­loaded pir­ate ver­sion of the show; they’re a blessed re­lief from the unremitting—oh Jesus they’re car­a­mel­iz­ing onions.
Bottom ban­ner tells us the Jay Leno show is next, as if to prove that we are cursed by God.
Now it’s the challenge: they’re play­ing with long ribbons. One per­son stretches the ribbon; an­oth­er per­son will then have to re­trieve the ribbon.
Lots of heavy breath­ing as rib­bon is woven through a playground.
It looks like a may­pole fact­ory was bombed by terrorists. Es­pe­cially with people rolling about on the ground, cram­ming them­selves into small crevices. A col­or­ful disaster. This is good TV, though. Shiny, with lots of motion.
Oh my good­ness the stu­dents are going to have to undo the slyly en­twined rib­bons of their teach­ers who I say who could have seen this com­ing they are so clev­er this is such a well-edited program.
They have blind­folded clumsy obese people and forced them to re­trieve ribbons. Is there such a thing as a dig­nity re­lease form?
Blindfolded contestant: “When my mom kept say­ing ‘see the ribbon?’ that was frustrating, be­cause I could not see the ribbon.” That team did not get far.
The guy in red is a com­mer­cial diver and has in­sisted far too many times—almost as many times as the green mile guy has cried—that he will kick ass. But the gray/Tongan team has kicked the ass of the red team. Go Tonga! Work off that spam? There is tre­mend­ous scream­ing and ohgol­lies and hands waving. No men­tion of the com­pany that made the ribbons.
Jillian is hanging off of something screaming. She is so good at perch­ing and clapping.
The Tongans are beat­ing up on Mike, telling him he needs to take advantage; needs to start working. Mike is very defensive. This is a tiny speck of genu­ine drama. You’ve got the tough-love-football-loving dudes pound­ing away at the sens­it­ive de­press­ive vir­gin­al man-mountain des­per­ately cling­ing to his pride and mother.
Oh my God there’s a lot of scream­ing now. Don’t lie to me! Bob yells. Every­one is hold­ing their own hair. This is a big thing in this show, show­ing people put­ting their hands into their own hair. And clearly there is dev­il­ish strategy going on as that one woman has lost but one pound, while her hus­band the com­mer­cial diver lost 12 lbs. Much defensiveness, &c.
Michael lost 10 lbs off his 471. Not good; he is disappointed. If they send him home this show will lack one com­fort­ing goon with whom I, as sad test­a­ment to my adolescence, identify.
I really do miss commercials. They are like balm to soothe the bruises left by the emo­tion­al bat­ter­ing ram of the editing. Michael’s Mom is crying, beg­ging them to let him stay here. There’s a good deal of beg­ging on this show. People are, we know, reduced.
She says: “They’re going to kill my son.” Who is this they?
They are de­bat­ing wheth­er it should be Mi­chael or Maria to go. Meanwhile, the news re­ports that train­er Jill­ian is down with mak­ing love to other ladies. This is ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view in which she said that she doesn’t care who you love as long as you do love. This is not a bad mes­sage at all; GLBT people de­serve the same love and rights as anyone. But it has been turned, by the media, into “Jillian’s-a-rugmuncher.” I think Jill­ian is interesting. She is a bright­ish per­son who is des­per­ately try­ing to cre­ate something moral out of a world of turd in which she is deeply embroiled. She has a mes­sage re­gard­ing help, self-love, and acceptance, but it will be ut­terly com­prom­ised by the de­mands of the lar­ger system. She knows this but can­not stop things or slow them down, and is con­vinced that she will triumph. Cer­tainly the people com­ing up to her on the street say­ing they love her will not con­vince her otherwise. She would do well in polit­ics if she had the desire. She’s ob­vi­ously too lib­er­al and sharp to go very far, but imagine: “Jillian Mi­chaels will whip this state into shape!” I mean this. It would work. Wait ten years. Also Maria is going home, leav­ing her 500+lb son to drift lazily in the pool without his be­loved mamma to tuck in his belly­flap at night.
Maria is to swim. Her fam­ily comes to see her paddle about; they have big horsey smiles. She is now, we see, a mere slip of 230 lbs., 10 of them makeup and 20 jewelry. If she wears all that in the pool she will sink. Her hus­band cheers for her as she des­cends the pool ladder; he says: “Who need the noodles now, eh?” (I need the noodles.) And she is nowhere near done with this process, she tells us. The op­por­tun­ity has just begun. Her life has been changed. And one day, she prom­ises in VO, she will swim in the ocean.
God save us all.
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2010 January <Jan 19 Jan 21>