In today's Huffington Post, Laura Beck issues a "Wake Up Call to Kirstie Alley" after watching previews for Alley's new A&E show Kirstie Alley's Big Life. But does the blame lie with Alley or the television watching public?
Screw Thinspiration. Be an inspiration, Kirstie Alley. Our societal obsession with thinness over health is damaging at best and deadly at worst. Alley, as a larger woman, has a chance to disprove the myth that all fat people do is just lay in bed and eat all day. Show the world that you can be fat and healthy. That you can be fat and happy. Use this opportunity to fight for all women and get out there and work it, girl. Put on them tight jeans and a tank top and make the world look at you, not being embarrassed or ashamed, but proud of everything you have accomplished and will accomplish. Girl, you better work.
But clearly, the only thing Alley is working is the talk show circuit, shopping yet another program where she is the butt of a national joke on fat people. (Alley's previous show, Fat Actress, has the same theme without the weight-loss component.)
Here's the promo for Alley's Big Life:
And a random segment on "fat pants" from Fat Actress:
Alley's new show is being heavily promoted, probably because it will be a hit with viewers. Weight scrutiny is a way of life for celebrities, so why wouldn't more of them try to cash in, playing to certain stereotypes to boost ratings? I've been reading the Fatshionista recaps of Carnie Wilson's show Unstapled. Wilson, who is famous for being one-third of the popular nineties girl group Wilson Phillips, live-streamed her own gastric bypass surgery on the internet, became a spokesperson for life after fatness, regained the weight, and has signed up for the requisite reality show. The program provides a set up that borders on sadistic- Wilson is attempting to lose 50 pounds, but she also is struggling with her love of sweets, which prompts her to also launch a baking business. (Wondering how she going to lose weight while baking reams of cookies and cakes and coping with the stress and busy schedule that comes with entrepreneurship? Me too!)
But ultimately, Wilson shows her business acumen for signing up for a reality show in the first place. Viewers have an insatiable appetite for narratives about fat people that serve up the desire to change, embarrassing situations, and a heaping helping of self-flagellation. We want to watch people huffing and puffing away on the Biggest Loser to lose hundreds of pounds - even when that type of weight loss borders on body abuse and contestants have urinated blood, and experienced hair loss trying to drop a lifetime of weight in eight weeks. We want to watch Shar Jackson and K-Fed repent for the sin of fatness while working out their relationship issues.
(When I visited the VH1 blog for Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp recaps, the banner ads are for Oreo cakesters. Way to motivate, VH1!)
Our national obsession with weight and fat shaming is so great that Kelly Osbourne recently remarked ""I took more hell for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that." And sadly, she's right. Even as news outlets fret over a national obesity crisis and advertisers peddle newer, cheaper, processed foods, reality shows about epic weight struggles seem to never go out of style.
Fat shaming is the new Millennium bloodsport, and American television watchers have taken the place of the voyeurs in the Coliseum.
So, are we entertained?