|A Big Challenge, Part 1
||[Jun. 28th, 2007|02:44 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
I hate the word fat.
Mainly because I was a fat kid. I'd gain a bunch of weight, then grow a couple of inches, stretching it all out, then gain a bunch of weight, then grow a couple inches.
It was stressful and painful. No one believed that I was experiencing growing pains, so I'd just sit by myself, pretending I was rubbing my bones to ease the pain, and cry.
Pretty fuckin' sad.
I spent a LONG time really fat when I was about 12. I looked like a pile of old vanilla pudding. There were a lot of different reasons. They don't really matter to this story. But it was formative.
Most people don't consider me fat, although I am certainly overweight. It helps that by being nearly five foot ten inches, it's well-distributed. It also helps that I developed a lot of muscle young, especially in my arms and legs, so most of the fat goes to my middle where it's easier to hide.
But I have a weak chin, a double chin, and a lack of a defined jawline that makes me think my think my fat cheeks just continue down my neck in one continuous flow of chub. And, according the the NIH, I am just shy of "obese" and I should be at least 30 lbs. lighter than I am to be at a healthy weight.
So although I've mostly come to terms with my childhood, there's a reminder of my weight issues in the mirror every day.
All of this preliminary whinging is to set the scene for why I might watch a reality TV show. (I hate reality TV.)
Tuesday evening, 9pm, 26 June 2007, ABC debuted "Shaq's Big Challenge."
For those who know absolutely nothing about sports, Shaq is the nickname of Shaquille O'Neal, one of the greatest basketball players ever, and a tremendously HUGE man. He's not just tall, he's built like a linebacker. Dude is SEVEN FEET plus one inch tall, weighs around 325 lbs. and wears a size 23 shoe. And that's all for a man who's in great shape. He also seems to be an incredibly intelligent and funny guy with an utterly engaging smile, who's taking a page from Michael Jordan's playbook and trying to cultivate a positive image while simultaneously building a brand.
BUT, he's also trying to change the world. Which I find kind of endearing.
Really. He's a law enforcement officer. He's actually arrested people. He doesn't just give money to foundations, he actually works with the foundations and goes beyond fund raising. He earned his MBA. He dramatically improved his foul shot after it became an obvious liability. He's a good guy.
For whatever reason, he decided to tackle childhood obesity. And someone convinced him to make a TV show out of it. Or the other way round. I have no idea, honestly.
An issue close to my heart. A talented athlete, whom I actually like, doing interesting things with his enforced celebrity status. All of my regular shows in repeats. What's the harm?
Well, it certainly jacked up my blood pressure.
The first half of the show was OK. The premise is that Shaq meets and helps six kids lose weight and change their lives, while bringing attention to the issue of childhood obesity, ultimately resulting in a visit to the Governor's house (the Governor of Florida, I assume).
He met the kids in their homes. They didn't know why the cameras were there until Shaq walked in the door and blew their minds. We saw the lifestyles that contributed to their weight and we also met their families and got little tours of their homes and lives. We got to hear about their hopes and dreams.
That was cute and fun.
Shaq tells us (talking to the camera) that he's confident he can make a difference.
Then he and his personal physician/trainer gave the kids the standard test for physical fitness. Every kid failed. Suddenly, Shaq's not so sure of himself (which was pretty amusing in and of itself given his "I can do anything" attitude and celebrity bullet-proof posture).
So then he got a doctor who specializes in childhood obesity on board and had all the kids checked out. (There's a funny montage while he's on hold with endless hospitals trying to navigate phone trees and find an expert while also dealing with people either not believing he was who he said he was or believing it and just wanting to talk to him instead of helping.)
The kids get weighed, measured, and CAT-scanned then put through a standard stress test. Several of them were morbidly obese. That scared the hell out of the kids and the parents. Many of them cried (some kids, some parents). They just had never realized it was so bad before. The kids ranged from 30% to 50% of their body weight as fat. At least one kid was off the chart, so they estimated him at 50%.
All of that was fine. Interesting and educational, a little voyeuristic but not too bad.
But Shaq had to go to training camp. So he rented the kids a gym, got them set up with a training program, made them promise to do their exercises, and called in periodically to check on them.
The kids, who range in age from 12 to 15, slacked off. Some came in, some didn't. They did the absolute minimum when they were there. They usually devolved into throwing giant rubber balls at each other. They fibbed to Shaq.
Doctor trainer was pretty sure this was going on, so he went on a spy mission and had the film crew filming the kids doing all this. He had them make a DVD for Shaq, which he brought to Shaq's house and played for him.
And, as you probably could have predicted, Shaq went ballistic. He's mad they lied to him and he's angry they aren't doing what they said they would. Although no one said this, it seemed to me that he was ripshit at least in part because they were squandering what he saw as his "gift" to them.
THIS is where my blood pressure hit the roof.
Does this man think people are BORN with discipline? Does he not remember what the hell it was like to be a teenager? Has he no memory of how he LEARNED through a lot of hard work and mistakes how to train and stay in shape? Was he so fucking BLIND when he visited their houses that he did not see years upon YEARS of bad habits right before his eyes?
WHAT THE FUCK DID HE EXPECT? Fucking magic?
Sure they were scared. Sure they're getting encouragement from their scared parents. But ya know what? Fear is a crappy motivator. And kids think, no matter what, that they will live forever. Fear fades. Living in a perpetual state of fear is considered a fucking PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER, DAMMIT.
The kids knew they were being filmed. I'm sure some of them fooled themselves into believing that they WERE doing the exercises, because they made some effort, they sweated a bit, and they were feeling pretty good. Plus, they're kids! They mess around! With most kids, you have to show them something over and over until it gets into their heads, especially things they don't like and don't want to do.
I'm pretty sure the TV people knew this was going to happen. I'll bet they were counting on it. I will even bet you that they SET IT UP this way, hoping to catch Shaq all pissed off on camera. Because it meant that, for the next segment, Shaq would feel justified bringing in a drill sergeant of a personal trainer to drive the kids batshit. A pissed-off Shaq plus miserable kids makes great drama, don't it? One of the kids ends up in the hospital in segment two. THEY SHOWED THAT IN THE FUCKING PREVIEWS! Jeeeeeesus.
I'm debating whether I want to watch the next segment. On the one hand, I am interested in the methods he uses to change the attitudes of the kids and I'm kinda looking forward to seeing him demand that the kids' school(s) change their menus and reinstate mandatory P.E. But, I'm still pissed. And I don't appreciate the exploitive element, that these are showcase kids for Shaq to point to when he talks to the Governor.
I would, however, enjoy having intelligent conversations about the show if anyone else is interested.