More To Love: Sending the Wrong Message?
FOX aired its premier episode of More to Love last week, which one of my friends jokingly called The Fatchelor due to its blatant format-copying of The Bachelor.
The show's premise: Take a well-off big guy (330 pounds) and have him date 20 big gals (ranging from just under 200 pounds to just under 300), narrow them down to one, and propose to her at the show's end. The Bachelor/ette franchise revealed the full spectrum of thin contestants attracted to this kind of show–people who take their dignity lightly and "true love" way too seriously.
More to Love, which essentially pairs addicts with other addicts, presents a different kind of contestant participating in a very new and special kind of spectacle.
The women spend most of their confessional time crying or wiping at tears, not because of what's happening on the show, but because of what's happened to them prior to the show. They all have similar stories about weight-related anxiety, depression, isolation, and rejection. Most of them have stories about "losing" a guy to a skinnier friend or adversary. An oft-repeated line is "Guys never give me a chance" or a variation thereof.
It's heart-rending stuff if you've ever been fat, because you know that underneath all the sad stories is the conviction that fatness is forever.
Whether or not that's actually the case–and yes, evidence suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to obesity or plain old chubbiness–More to Love says it is, and then says the only thing the contestants need to feel differently about being overweight is to have a lover, preferably one whose weight mirrors their own. The two overweight people paired, all their individual anxieties dissipate.
If feeling better about everything is that simple, why has no other reality show place such an insanely high value on romantic relationships? Even the shows after which More to Love is modeled frame marriage as the last piece of the puzzle, not a magical fix-all.
Because it's not that simple. And despite the show's many other flaws–the women don't have a lot of practice fighting over guys, and are thus really bad at being catty–More to Love works so hard to make it seem simple that it glorifies what the show's contestants don't like about themselves; in particular, the rationalized over-eating and sedentary lifestyles that got these gals and guy into a situation where they feel they can't find love without going on a reality TV show.
If the source of the contestants' hardships were something more openly maligned–anorexia, meth, furries–FOX wouldn't have touched the concept. But being heavyset resides in a strange cultural limbo. Public health advocates call obesity a "killer," but unlike tobacco, we're not supposed to comment on or disapprove of fatness.
Case in point: Bachelor Luke Conley, "a 26-year-old former college football offensive lineman" and a "successful sub-contractor and real estate investor," repeats the phrase, "I love to eat" so many times in the premier episode, and the women coo so admiringly everytime he says it, that you'd think More to Love is a show about binge fetishes.
In short, the Biggest Loser has a much healthier premise, but More to Love is easier to swallow.