Last Sunday while flipping through the channels I came across the show Intervention on A&E. Every time I have seen this program it has been about people battling their addiction to drugs or alcohol. This past week the show was extended to cover those that the medical establishment has labelled morbidly obese. I sat there dumb founded as they portrayed Josh, as this poor pathetic man without critically engaging about the fact that societies attitude towards fat plays a great role in his self esteem.
Fatness is projected as some illness that needs to be cured. Yes a fat person may have a stroke, or a heart attack tomorrow but you know what, the same can happen to a skinny person. You don't know when your number is up. It could be in five minutes or years from now. If fatness was not stigmatized to the degree that it is people would experience a greater satisfaction with their lives. Fatness is either ridiculed, treated as a disease, or made invisible in our society. When one must face such an onslaught of negativity daily is it any wonder that desperation, and depression ensue.
As I watched this segment it was clear to me that he had many unresolved issues due to physical abuse from his father as a child but what he "needed help" with was his weight. It seems to me that no matter what "addiction", he may have been suffering with, until that issue was dealt with, any treatment would be unsuccessful. If we are going to engage with weight we need to do so critically. We need examine the ways in which we use weight as an excuse to other, minimize, and exploit. It did not occur to A&E to delve into the culpability of the diet industry, even though Josh spoke about the various diets that he had attempted. Yo-Yo dieting will increase weight, and the diet industry is dependent upon people trying these fad diets and failing. It did not occur to A&E to critique the media that produces movies like the Nutty Professor that create fat people as objects to be ridiculed. It did not occur to A&E to look at the medical industry that has pitched biatric surgery as a "cure" to fatness, while they line their pockets, reaping profits on peoples insecurities.
I object to them promoting an intervention for fat people without putting the whole issue into context. It simply looks like Josh is this individual that has no self control, and has no life because of his weight. Even though the video showed that he was talented entertainer, and a successful entrepreneur, that was skillfully minimized in an attempt to portray his weight as the only significant factor in his life. No matter what oppression one must negotiate in life, it simply is not the only signifier of identity. If we are going to deal with issues in this society, we need to examine them critically, we need to understand who benefits from the perpetuation of certain ideas. It may be one individual carrying the weight, but obesity is a cultural phenomenon.