Reality's appetite for disgrace
The Daily Telegraph
May 02, 2007 12:00
In a new low for reality TV, overweight British teenagers will be sent to outback Australia and apparently forced to scavenge for witchetty grubs if they want to eat.
Makers of Fat Teens Can't Hunt are holding talks with local Aboriginal groups interested in co-operating with the BBC Three show by teaching the teens how to trap, kill, gather and cook bush tucker.
The spin on this latest exercise in fatty bashing, which will involve girls and boys aged 16-19, is so cynical it almost makes you gag.
"For them to realise where the meat actually comes from and to actually trap a small game bird and eat it is really, really special," gushed creative director Sara Ramsden. The outback experience would help overweight teenagers "reconnect with where food came from", she added.
Sydney University nutritionist and expert in adolescent body image Dr Jenny O'Dea describes the concept as "appalling".
Rather than helping teens, she says such a show could cause serious psychological problems not only for participants, but for viewers.
Dr O'Dea, who writes about young people, body image and obesity in her new book Everybody's Different, says the concept for the show is another example of the "blame, shame and humiliate" approach that permeates our attitudes towards obesity.
"Children don't need to hunt and catch their own food, their parents need to put good food in front of them and make sure they eat it," she says.
This pending piece of exploitation and voyeurism comes after Australian specialists presenting a study at a recent psychiatry conference blamed "obesity hysteria" for increasing rates of eating disorders.
The research showed almost one in 20 people suffered from a disorder like binge-eating or fasting and purging. At the same time Chloe Lattanzi – the daughter of Olivia Newton-John – and fashion heiress Allegra Versace added their names to the ever-growing list of celebrity anorexia victims.
Western society seems afflicted with a collective obsession with weight gain, weight loss, fat people being ridiculed for being fat and fat people being lauded for becoming skinny people.
Now there is yet another attempt to publicly humiliate overweight people on reality TV – at a time in their lives when they are likely to be most acutely sensitive about their problem.
It's enough to make you lose your appetite.
—The Daily Telegraph
and some excerpts from another article....
Fat kids' reality show 'insulting'
Date: April 16 2007
A new UK reality television show that plans to send 10 obese teenagers to remote indigenous communities in outback Australia, where they will have to forage and hunt for their food, has been labelled "appalling" and "humiliating" by an Australian anthropologist, and "insulting" by prominent indigenous politician Warren Mundine.
The BBC3 series, called Fat Teens Can't Hunt, is currently being planned by the company behind the Big Brother franchise, Endemol. It will see the group of overweight young Brits relying on bush plants, fruits, insects and other animals or go hungry.
Dr Stephen Juan, an anthropologist at Sydney University who was an advisor to the Australian version of Big Brother during its second season, said Fat Teens was another appalling low in reality television.
"It is destructive, foolish, ridiculous, humiliating for the audience as well as the contestants, but will probably score major ratings points."
The show comes hot on the heels of Fat Men Can't Hunt, another Endemol production which sent a group of British men to the Kalihari desert in Namibia to live and eat with the famous Kalihari Bushmen tribes. Other similar shows on Endemol UK's line-up include The 34 stone teenager: 6 months on and Help! My dog's as fat as me.
Mr Mundine, the current National President of the Australian Labor Party - the first indigenous person to hold the title - said he found the concept insulting.
"Here's big fat civilised people coming down to frolic with the natives, I just find that almost hilarious - it's so insulting it's almost funny."
However he did say if the local indigenous community was willing to participate, some good may come out of it. "They might actually see the lives that Aboriginal people live is not as laid back and easy as people think it is."
Fat Teens was described by producer Bridget Sneyd to UK newspaper The Sun as giving the portly teens a "unique opportunity to address their dysfunctional relationship with food once and for all before they reach adulthood".
"Doctors warn that if we don't tackle this problem, generations of kids face a drastic reduction in the quality and longevity of their lives."
Endemol plans to film the show during winter this year, and the Northern Territory News confirmed the NT Film Office was currently in negotiations with the company to find suitable places in the Territory.
However Dr Juan rubbished the planned show, which he said reminded him of the classic William Golding novel about teenaged boys returning to an atavistic state, Lord of the Flies.
When read Ms Sneyd's comments about the show, he was unimpressed. "We're also not living to 43 too, we're living a lot longer. In hunting and gathering societies [the] life expectancy was about 40."
While there was a problem with obesity among children, it would not be solved with such programming, he said.
"You can get people to stop smoking by putting them on a desert island without any cigarettes. You can put people in a prison cell and starve them, and they'll lose weight.
"But this doesn't really correct their behaviours in any way and when they come back to civilisation they'll revert to their old habits again. So what is the point of this? What are they trying to do?"
Not to mention that is was an insult to the aboriginal communities as well. "Their cultural sensitivities will be stepped on as the contrast between 'civilisation' and 'primitive peoples' is shown.
"It's an insult to everyone in this regard. No-one is unscathed in this."
—Sydney Morning Herald