Jillian Michaels + The Biggest Loser: Still Annoying
The other morning I overheard Jillian Michaels talking about her return to The Biggest Loser on some TV show. They were asking about her training methods with the contestants, and she described how the contestants who “waste [her] time” drive her crazy.* Specifically, Michaels said they piss her off because (and I paraphrase) she’d rather be home with her kids instead of dealing with these layabouts.
Now, on one hand, this sounds perfectly understandable: I don’t have kids, but I understand the feeling of being at work and wanting to be anywhere but there. But what I can’t justify is Michaels taking that annoyance out on the contestants, like they are charity cases she’s helping out of the goodness of her heart.
Although BL’s producers choose to present this in another way, don’t forget this: the contestants and the trainers are essentially CO-WORKERS. Both are working for the show. The contestants give up their privacy and personal lives for months and make weight loss their full-time job in exchange for physical training + the slim chance of health/fame/prizes; Jillian Michaels and the other celebrity trainers drop in for a few hours to film the clips they show on TV to get a nice fat paycheck. (Hmm, sounds like the trainers get a MUCH better deal.)
If you lashed out at your coworkers just because you would rather be somewhere else, do you think that would be okay? Do you think you’d still have a job if you kept doing that? Of course not. Not to mention that, unlike the average person at a normal job, Michaels intimates that she could afford to quit the show indefinitely because she’s doing well enough with her other enterprises to survive without BL. Must be nice.
Of course, since her coworkers are fat people (subhuman, infantile, weak-willed, useless waste of space, fat people!) Michaels doesn’t just get away with this behavior. I’m sure BL spent a ton of money to get her back on board after her two-season maternity leave.
I watched Biggest Loser for a season or two because my (skinny) girlfriend liked it, but (among its other problematic aspects) I could never get past the skewed relationship between the trainers and contestants. At best, Biggest Loser trainers have a paternalistic attitude toward the contestants; at worst, their attitude is downright hostile, like Michaels exhibited in the most recent episode.
The lack of compassion is just staggering at times. This frustrates me on many levels, in no small part because I believe that these contestants are already hurting and Biggest Loser methods are just adding insult to injury. Continuing to treat the contestants like peons is not going to empower them to succeed, and it certainly won’t help them make healthy, long-lasting life changes.