“Reality” programs and obesity: How “The Scale” and “The Biggest Loser” show the cultural values ​​of Spain and the United States

2. Este niño de los Estados Unidos solo es un ejemplo de una gran población de personas que sufre de sobrepeso en el mundo. Foto de "Fast Food Nation," un articulo del gimnasio Fulton Fithouse.

“Reality” programs and obesity: How “The Scale” and “The Biggest Loser” show the cultural values ​​of Spain and the United States

by Abby Boyle

This paper explores the ways in which two different reality television shows – The Biggest Loser and Spain’s version of the same program, La Báscula – reflect cultural values and responses to the rising obesity rates in their respective countries.

Participants on The Biggest Loser are subject to more cruelty, specifically from their trainers, than are those on La Báscula, demonstrating a trend in American television: Many popular reality and fictional programs are designed to attract and repel the audience at the same time, making the shows themselves difficult to watch, but hard to turn off. The Biggest Loser also emphasizes the competitive aspect of the show, serving as one example of many American shows in which people strive to be the most powerful, most attractive, or the best at a certain specialty. The tone of La Báscula, however, is more positive, and the show focuses on the healthy ways in which contestants can lose weight rather than on the treatment of the participants or solely on the competition. The encouraging attitude that La Báscula projects towards weight loss reflects Spain’s more health-focused outlook on losing weight.

At the same time, both The Biggest Loser and La Báscula humanize the participants on each program, which is critical in these times when obese and overweight people are bullied and sometimes discriminated against in both countries. While both programs address the same issue differently, this humanizing aspect is powerful in encouraging viewers to see obese people as more than just statistics.