Have you heard that teenagers are going to be featured on the upcoming season of The Biggest Loser, starting in January? That’s right; the 14th season of the show will include three overweight people under age 18. Why? Well, according to the trailer, because “age doesn’t matter.” One blogger, Golda Poretsky over at Body Love Wellness, is enraged at the inclusion of kids in the upcoming season, and we’re pretty concerned, too. Should minors be featured as contestants on a weight loss show?
I’ll admit it; I used to be a big fan of the show. For a few seasons circa 2009ish, I watched it pretty religiously. But as the backlash against the show increased, my interest waned. I agree with Golda that this new development in the show’s history is dangerous and exploitative.
Whether or not the young people want to be on the show or if they were pushed into doing it by their parents, putting teens (there are two 16 year-olds and one 13-year-olds slated to be on the show) on television as examples of how NOT to look and how NOT to live seems psychologically damaging, to say the least. I mean, age 13? That’s YOUNG. That’s middle school, the prime age for social awkwardness, peer pressure, puberty…ugh. Just ugh. I’m sure the teens going on the show have already suffered in some way from being overweight, whether it’s with health problems, fat prejudice or bullying. So NBC thinks it’s cool to put them on TV in some kind of cliche, faux redemption narrative? It’s just sad.
Apparently the kids won’t actually be competing, they’ll only be “mentored,” whatever that means. NBC says that a pediatrician who specializes in childhood obesity will also join the show to help monitor them. Since the press for the season has started, we’ve seen the kids and heard their concerns about their bodies; As Lindsay Cross over at Mommyish wrote, noticeably absent is any kind of positive reinforcement that these kids are worthy of confidence and self-acceptance despite the fact that they’re overweight. (On a slightly tangential note, am I the only one wondering how these kids are going to keep up with a Biggest Loser-style workout schedule and also SCHOOL? Are the producers hiring tutors for them? I don’t get it.)
It’s clear why The Biggest Loser is adding teenagers to the show; their ratings have been falling for a few seasons (notably, after Jillian Michaels left in 2011. She’s coming back this season). So, what better way to get ratings back up then put some teens on the show and bring Jillian back to yell at everyone?