Maintenance Phase

The Biggest Loser

January 19, 2021
Show Notes Transcript

Aubrey: Hi, everybody, welcome to Maintenance Phase, where we are taking your 2000s TV obsessions and exploring them with an uncomfortable level of detail. 

Michael: Ooh. Is this one going to be about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Is that what you're saying? 

Aubrey: Look, we're going to talk to you about Angel, today. 

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: We are not going to like what you hear.


Michael: I am Michael Hobbes. I'm a reporter for The Huffington Post.

Aubrey: I am Aubrey Gordon. I am an author and columnist for Self Magazine. You can also find us on Patreon. We're at That is also linked through our website and in the show notes. The same goes for t-shirts which you can get through TeePublic.

Michael: You are beautiful. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I'm going to do that every time you mention the Patreon from now on.

Aubrey: Please, just do as many Christina Aguilera impressions as you want. 

Michael: [laughs] And today, we're talking about 'The Biggest Loser.' 

Aubrey: I'm very excited about this one, Mike. I'm like, "Equal parts excited and little bit of dread." 

Michael: I know.

Aubrey: Because I've looked into enough of 'The Biggest Loser' to know what an absolute horror show it is. But I also know that you are going to do deep dives that are going to reveal things to me that I maybe wish I didn't know.

Michael: I was actually thinking this morning that we need to somehow come up with a content warning broad enough, like, all hands-on deck enough for this fucking episode. 

Aubrey: Oh, really?

Michael: This has everything. This has eating disorders, terrible calorie shit, horrible fat phobia. There's a dead kid at one point like, "This episode is dark dude. I like doing this show, because on my other show, it's like, you're wrong about and we're busting people's preconceptions and on this one, if you think 'The Biggest Loser' is trash. It's trash, we're not going to blow any minds today. It's maybe the most damaging television show ever."

Aubrey: Listen, I don't know enough about the history of TV to know this, but I do know that there are not many TV shows that have a hospitalization tool? 

Michael: Right. [laughs] 

Aubrey: And I also will say, I come to 'The Biggest Loser' not from having watched it regularly, but from having been someone who was a fat person when it was on and seeing the ways in which Jillian Michaels, who was sort of the rising star trainer, who would just absolutely scream at people and it wasn't just raising her voice. It was like, "I don't want you getting off that treadmill until I say you get off or unless you're dead." 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: [crosstalk] Just horrifying stuff like that. 

Michael: She's the meanest. Yeah.

Aubrey: I feel what I saw at that time was a number of other people, who were not fat getting enlisted in that as work that they could do that would somehow benefit fat people. So, like, "That's my dog in this fight."

Michael: One of the academic articles I've read has a list of quotes from Jillian Michaels. Do you want me to read them to you?

Aubrey: Ooh, I don't, but I do. 


Aubrey: What you got?

Michael: These are so brutal. Okay. "I don't care if people die on this floor, you better die looking good. I'm proud that I made him vomit. If you don't run, I will pull Alex on the floor and I will break every bone in his body. I don't care if one of your legs falls off or if one of your lungs explodes. The only way you're coming off the damn treadmill is if you die on it. It's fun watching people suffer." 

Aubrey: Whoa.

Michael: This is why we're doing the content warning. It's like, this is like as bright and sunny as it gets this episode.

Aubrey: I was going to say, if the trigger warning didn't get you?

Michael: I know. 


Aubrey: That little list of quotes like, just podcasts switching off. [laughs] 

Michael: What we're basically saying is, under no circumstances should you listen to the rest of this episode. 

Aubrey: Yeah, definitely don't listen to our podcast, guys. [laughs] 

Michael: That one is prepared for how terrible this is. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Before we get into the actual content of 'Biggest Loser and the never-ending horror show that is the rest of this episode, we should first establish how big of a deal Biggest Loser was. The Biggest Loser was four years one of the most popular reality shows on television. At its peak, it had I believe, it was 10 million viewers per episode.

Aubrey: Jesus.

Michael: Also, it spun off all this marketing and licensing. There were Biggest Loser fat camps, there were Biggest Loser TV dinners, there was, of course, all this other merch. You could get workout, nutrition, diet cookbooks. At its peak, The Biggest Loser franchise was making $100 million a year off of ancillary products.

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: People are desperate to lose weight. If you promise people that you can have the results of the people that you're seeing on TV with only whatever the steamed broccoli recipe, people will fall for it. In the 2000s, they did. The show was on for 17 seasons.

Aubrey: Jesus Christ.

Michael: That's Simpsons numbers. And also, as just a glimpse of how mainstream this appeal was, Michelle Obama appeared on Biggest Loser twice.

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: Yeah, because she was doing all of her childhood obesity stuff, twice dude.

Aubrey: I'll tell you what, every part of me loves and appreciates Michelle Obama, except the fat part of me.

Michael: I know, man. 

Aubrey: Where I'm like, "Oh, no. I love you so much. Why you got to?

Michael: We're eventually going to do an episode on her and it's just going to be us going, "Ah," the whole time. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I like her, I want to like her. It's just this huge blind spot. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: Just "Ah."

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: I have a complex structure for this episode. But before we get to that, can you walk me through, like, what does a typical episode look like? What happens in The Biggest Loser?

Aubrey: The Biggest Loser is a season long reality show competition. It's not like Chopped, where there are different competitors, every episode. They are all fat people. They do an initial challenge that gets them some kind of advantage in the final challenge. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: And then, every week they compete to see who has lost the most weight. 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: They get on a big "scale," I don't think it's actually really a scale. I think it's a TV set.

Michael: Oh, yeah. It's fake. Various contestants have said that. They get weighed backstage beforehand. Then they stand on this pedestal, which is not a scale and then the numbers appear on screen.

Aubrey: Yes, totally. They are required is my understanding to take their shirts off for that weighing. 

Michael: Yeah. The women are in spandex and sports bras and the men have their shirts off.

Aubrey: There's quite a bit of leering at fat bodies. There's part of it to me that feels very, very much like a freak show that is dressing itself up as redemption. 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: The appeal of the show's you get to see fat people pull themselves up out of their own wretchedness. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: At the end of the show, you see, they step onto these scales wearing as little clothes as possible. You see there're big numbers flash up on the scale, and whoever loses the least amount of weight gets sent home, and their scores can be adjusted based on the advantages that they got in the earlier challenge. So, if you win a challenge, you get an extra three pounds or something knocked off of your number. It's like mostly a weight loss thing, but also, they do these little challenges along the way that are like, "Well, it's not strictly weight loss." I don't know.

Michael: I did find a content analysis, where a bunch of researchers went through and watched two entire seasons, which is more than I could get through. Two-thirds of the content was not behavioral weight change diet and exercise stuff. Most of it was reality TV bullshit. This person is trying to get immunity, but then this person is like the runner up, and this person is going to vote this other person off, like, very standard reality show drama and weird selective editing, where they just take a bunch of B-roll of people sitting silently, and then they put intense music behind it, and they make it seem like a confrontation that happens a lot.

Aubrey: Totally. Well, and also, the thing that I remember the most from the bulk of screen time on The Biggest Loser that I remember seeing is just watching fat people workout extremely strenuously in a way that looked dangerous to me. 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: Just like dripping sweat, sometimes vomiting. 

Michael: Yeah, they like to vomiting.

Aubrey: All of this, you're just watching fat people go through clearly excruciating physical pain, while thin people, who appear to be physically fit are shouting at fat people, who appear to be in extreme pain and not physically fit.

Michael: Yeah, it's like hot people yelling at fat people.

Aubrey: Hot mean people. Yeah.

Michael: It's like homeroom. 

Aubrey: Yeah. [laughs] 

Michael: On that note, we are going to watch a clip together. 

Aubrey: Oh, Lord.

Michael: This is a fucking nightmare. I couldn't bring myself to watch a whole season, but I just jumped around, because I wanted to get a representative sample of the show and how it changed over the years. I would watch Episode 6 from Season 2 and Episode 2 from Season 12. So, what I'm about to show you is the season premiere of Season 7. This is the show introducing us to the two trainers, Bob and Jillian. 

Aubrey: Ooh, yay.

Jillian: Hey, you, you, you, you, you, you at home. I've been talking to you. 

Bob: America, we're the fattest country in the world. 

Jillian: You realize 300,000 people are dying from obesity every single year. 

Bob: The stakes are high. Don't you get it? 

Jillian: What is it going to take for you to make that change? Quit smoking. 

Bob: Take the stairs instead of the elevator. 

Jillian: Go for a walk. 

Bob: Drive past a drive thru.

Jillian: Make a change. 

Bob: Do something, you're worth it. 

Jillian: What you're about to watch is our biggest season today five years leading up to this moment.

Bob: But none of it means anything. If you're going to sit there and eat ice cream watching our show. Five--

Jillian: Four, three, two--

Bob: I mean it.

Jillian: One. 

Aubrey: Jesus Christ. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Take the stairs instead of that elevator. Do you seriously think that me as a 350-pound woman taking the stairs instead of an elevator is going to make me thin? How long do you think that's going to take? What?

Michael: I love that they threw that in there like the most cliched advice. And also, the advice that doctors always use as the one not to tell people, because it's so fucking facile.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: A lot of people work on the first floor of their building or on the 36th floor, they put it out there it's some forbidden truth. It's like, "Do you realize we've all been told that at least 25 times in our lives?"

Aubrey: They also throw out my favorite garbage statistic. It's the same one that the Fen-Phen and Redux manufacturers use.

Michael: This is why I picked this clip, Aubrey.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: You love that number.

Aubrey: It's just like waving red in front of a bull. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Just show me that 300,000 number. 

Michael: I was like, "Aubrey's going to fucking hate this." 

Aubrey: Oh, I'm going to hate it so much, but also love it. That 300,000 deaths per year due to obesity is completely--

Michael: Bogus.

Aubrey: Completely bogus, completely exaggerated. The source, the person, who first elevated that number has been like, "Please stop using it. That's not what this is." 

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: People just love to keep using it I think in part, because it justifies the way that they treat fat people.

Michael: Right, that they're like.

Aubrey: "It's not that I don't care about you, it's that I care about you the most. So, I'm going to be true trash panda.

Michael: Well, this to me encapsulates why I picked this clip, because it's this perfect encapsulation in 60, 90 seconds of the show's completely contradictory tone toward fat people. Because at one side, they're saying, "You deserve better, you deserve this better life for yourself" like it's being done out of care. But then on the other side, literally the next sentence, they're saying, "Don't sit there, and eat ice cream, and watch this. This is the last straw. You're going to die if you don't do this." So, it's like, "Well, do you care about me or not?" 

Aubrey: Yeah. This is also where the logic of anti-fatness and the logic of weight loss tips into the logic of spousal or family abuse, where they're like, "I'm doing this for your own good. I wouldn't do this if you didn't make me." It's really wild to me that culturally we have all gotten onboard with like, "Yeah, actually, for some groups of people, you have to publicly abuse and shame them for their own good," that we have all collectively bought into this logic that we would absolutely not stand for in individual relationships. 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: But suddenly, when it's on a grand scale, we're like, "Yeah, no, that's good."

Michael: Also, some of us just like ice cream, Bob.

Aubrey: Listen, some of us are eating Halo Top. 

Michael: Yeah.


Michael: I also, this is so fucking petty, but my other beef with this clip, so, we stopped before we got into the really bad stuff, where they were introducing us to all the contestants. This is Season 7 where it's the couple's season, and there's best friends, and there's a father and a granddaughter, and there's no fucking same sex couples.

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: I'm like, "You can't throw some gay people in, Bob?" 

Aubrey: Yeah. You guys are gay. Yell at some gay people.

Michael: Yeah. Fat gay people exist, Bob.

Aubrey: I'm right here, Bob.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Come and get me. 


Michael: Okay. The way that we're going to do this is, I have five reasons why The Biggest Loser is trash and-

Aubrey: Oh, I like this.

Michael: -we're going to walk through each of them in turn. Reason number one that The Biggest Loser is trash is that it's wildly unrealistic. Some of this stuff is really obvious the fact that it's a reality show, like all reality shows are fundamentally unrealistic. But I think one of the most important aspects of its unrealistic trashiness that doesn't actually show up in the academic literature all that much is the kinds of participants that they choose. The contestants on it are not a representative sample of fat people. They have deliberately chosen fat people, who have emotional eating issues, who have compulsive eating issues, who basically get no exercise, and who are extremely unhappy with their weight. I don't know what percentage of fat people that is, but that is not all fat people. There's a lot of fat people, who are fit and do exercise. There are a lot of fat people that don't have issues with compulsive overeating. There are lots of fat people who are just like, "I am this big and I am perfectly happy with it." But we never see any of those people.

Aubrey: Right. There are also fat people, who have polycystic ovarian syndrome or lipedema, who can't actually lose weight in the ways that we like to think that fat people can just pay attention for a little while and drop a hundred pounds, right? Ultimately, I think the thing that is easy for people to forget about The Biggest Loser which blows my mind, but it's true is that, fundamentally, their task is to make a TV show that has a bunch of drama to it. Their task is not to encourage medically healthy weight loss at a sustainable rate. That's not a TV show.

Michael: Oh, yeah. We need to go through this, but it is the also super-duper obvious point about the unrealisticness of The Biggest Loser, just the fact that they're literally trapped in a ranch house for six months and exercising eight hours a day. If you're going to watch a weight loss TV show, this is the worst model to try to replicate, because you can't go off to a ranch for six months and have somebody shout at you for your entire working day. 

Aubrey: Yeah. [laughs] 

Michael: I found a really interesting analysis online, where they look just collected all the numbers on the first 17 seasons. It was 277 contestants. And this is bananas. The average contestant loses 16 pounds in the first week. 

Aubrey: What?

Michael: Yeah. We have to temper this with the fact that we also know from former contestants that "week" is a little bit of a misnomer, like, oftentimes, the show will call it, because it airs every week. The show will say week two, week three, even though the contestants are actually there for two or three weeks, oftentimes. But they're still depicting to the public that this is a week. They're still essentially saying that, "It is possible for human bodies to do this in a week."

Aubrey: Jesus Christ.

Michael: One guy lost 41 pounds, the first week.

Aubrey: No.

Michael: Like, this A is not good for you to be losing this much weight this fast. Secondly, it's not remotely realistic without a severe eating disorder to be losing this much weight in a week. 

Aubrey: That's like a toddler. 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: He lost to a toddler. 

Michael: There's been various analyses of this over the years and one of them finds that the contestants are burning 8,000 to 9,000 calories every day in exercise.

Aubrey: Jesus.

Michael: They're usually taking in somewhere between 500 and 1,500 calories a day.

Aubrey: Which I also just want to say, "Listen, if you've ever been on one of those treadmills or ellipticals, where they count how many calories you've burned, where you get on for an hour," and they're like, "You burned two Oreos."

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: Where you're like, "What?" The amount of the strenuousness of that exercise has to be through the roof.

Michael: Yeah, and they're being yelled at by hot people the whole time, which makes it worse.

Aubrey: Mean hot people, which makes them unhot to me. 

Michael: Mean hot people. It makes them hotter to me, unfortunately. 

Aubrey: Oh, no, Mike.

Michael: But that's my own personal stuff. 

Aubrey: [laughs] We're going to have a therapy episode. 

Michael: [laughs] Mike's issues.


Aubrey: With mean hot people.

Michael: There's also unrealistic trapped in a ranch eating exercise and there's all that unrealisticness. But I also think underneath the more obvious unrealisticness, the show depicts a really unrealistic view of what dieting can do for you. So, we're going to watch another clip. This is really rough.

Aubrey: Sorry, not like the first one. This comes really well.

Michael: This one's is bad.

Aubrey: The first one was like a walk in the park.


Michael: They ask participants, when they come in the first day, they're at their heaviest to talk to their skinnier selves. At the end of the show, this is the second to last episode when there-- There's only I think five or six contestants left and they watch their heavier selves talking to them now. So, we're going to watch this. 

Aubrey: Oh, God.

Michael: It's bad.

Contestant 1: You know, it's been a journey and you've had to deal with a lot of pain during this process.

Contestant 2: There's no way I ever [unintelligible [00:18:28].

Contestant 3: I just want to remind you, this is not what you are anymore. This is who you were.

Contestant 1: You've already put in a lot of work, you've already gotten this far. You can keep going. There's no need to stop. Stopping is what you do at home and you don't need to do that anymore. 

Contestant 3: Just remember that journey. Remember what you did. Remember the struggle that you did, remember how you felt today when you just felt not like yourself? 

Contestant 1: Please don't forget all you've gone through, because this is the true you.

Contestant 3: You're so much stronger now. You're not this weak person anymore. You're my hero.

Contestant 1: You're going to be so happy and that's what you deserve. You deserve to be happy. 

Contestant 2: The [unintelligible [00:19:07], bud. Just let it away. 

Aubrey: So, I would like to crawl out of my skin. 

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: Uh.

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: This whole idea of the real you is thin is such a quietly horrific and toxic concept that any fatter version of you than the way that you would like to see yourself as a thin person is like a betrayal of yourself or a failure to be your true self is the most wild bullshit.

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: You know me. It's a rare thing, but I'm at a loss for words. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: I'm at a loss for words about this one.

Michael: All of these people do deserve happiness. They all seem really nice. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: But they've just been duped onto the show that is selling them this fantasy about this future life that they're going to have and they've had it drummed into them even before they came on the show that the 350-pound version of yourself is not yourself, and that you only deserve happiness, if you're smaller.

Aubrey: Yeah, listen. I understand this. I am a 350-pound version of myself and I know it's not the real mean. I'm so sorry. I've been deceiving you all the time, Mike.

Michael: Oh, my God.


Michael: There was a tiny moment when I was like, " I thought you were serious, I was like oh God this podcast is taking a turn." 

Aubrey: [laughs] You were like, "Oh, no, we hit that rock."

Michael: I was going to start playing the background music. Oh, God.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Look, what I find too irresponsible about this is that, this is the inner monologue that most people do have when they're dieting. I'm going to be at the smaller weight, I'm going to date somebody, I'm going to get a better job. People extend the trend line and they envision this future for themselves. Then once you inevitably start gaining the weight back, which happens in 95% of attempts to lose weight, then you feel even more of a failure. Because you're losing this life that you envisioned for yourself or you were a better father, and a better partner, and all this insta improvement in the kind of person that you are, and then you feel that slipping away.

Aubrey: And because everyone around you, usually, people who have not tried to lose a hundred pounds or more are telling you how simple it is. 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: You also get the bonus feeling of, "I'm not just a failure, because I lost this glimmering mirage of a life as a thin person, but I'm also a failure, because this thing that everyone is telling me is really simple to do is something that I am not doing."

Michael: Yeah, I just think it's really unethical to reinforce these views that basically the entire population already has. There're no examples of someone on the show being like, "Hey, wait a minute, I'm actually fine." 

Aubrey: Yeah, totally. 

Michael: "My life is fine. I'm not a broken ass person."

Aubrey: And if those people are on the show, they're not showing those clips. 

Michael: Oh, definitely not. Oh, yeah. 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: So, are you ready for reasons it's trash number two?

Aubrey: Always. 

Michael: Boom.

Aubrey: I thought you're going to say, "Are you ready for another clip?" I was going to be like, "Honestly, maybe not."


Michael: Turn those down, Mike, go fully dark. 

Aubrey: I will totally take another reason it's trash. Let's go.

Michael: Reason number two is, it's fake and unethical. 

Aubrey: Uh-huh. 

Michael: One of the things I really have been thankful for in the research for this is that, because the show has been on for so long, we now have a couple of contestants coming forward and being like, "No, this was trash." Behind the scenes, it's even more trash than it looks on TV. So, are you familiar with Kai Hibbard?

Aubrey: I am. Twitter pal, Kai Hibbard.

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: A real dream scenario of a fat person, who lost a bunch of weight and then figured out how to still be in solidarity with people who are still fat. 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: A dream.

Michael: She was the runner up in Season 3, and she says that at the end of the season, she had lost so much weight that she wasn't getting her period, and her hair was falling out in clumps. She had to wear a beanie when she came home to see her boyfriend, because she was so embarrassed about bald patches on her head, like, this was profoundly bad for her being on the show. She says, "It's one of the biggest regrets of her life."

Aubrey: Yeah, those are all things that happen when you're caring for your health. 

Michael: Yes, exactly. 

Aubrey: Classic sign of health.

Michael: One thing I also thought was really interesting is, as a journalist, one of the main things that you learn in journalism school is journalistic ethics. It's not clear to me that there's any ethical code of conduct for reality TV. It's not quite journalism, but it's not entertainment either, because these are real people. But there's no reality TV show contestants bill of rights.

Aubrey: No, there doesn't appear to be any ethical anything except for what gets the most viewers in the most desirable demographic and makes the most money- 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: -for the lowest cost. That's the other thing about reality TV, is if you make reality TV, you don't have to pay writers or as many writers. You don't have to pay all of these unionized positions, you don't have to pay people to make television.

Michael: The real biggest loser is the unionized workforce of America. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This is a quote from another dissident contestant. Suzanne Mendonca, a contestant in Season 2 said, "The contestants would go to extremes to lose weight." She said, "They would utilize amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom and claimed that Bob Harper told people to vomit to lose weight. I vomited every single day," she said.

Aubrey: Good God.

Michael: A lot of the contestants that have come forward, the few dissident contestants that we know about, a lot of them said that they just had really crushing student debt and they wanted the $250,000 reward for winning the show.

Aubrey: Right. This is where the show gets revealed to quietly be The Hunger Games, or The Running Man, or like some dystopian future where you're like, "You just drown people in debt and then you make them lose weight on television to move [crosstalk]." It's just so icky.

Michael: There's also another thing that Kai Hibbard said, "There's no mental health counseling." The show hints that there is, but it appears that the only actual mental health interventions that they have is that all of the contestants take personality tests, like, long detailed personality tests, basically, so the producers can know are they going to blow up at each other, like, who's going to be a good reality TV show contestant essentially? But after that there's no mental health counseling on the show. In Season 17 in Episode 2, which is one of the random episodes that I watched, this woman was talking about how she was homeless, and she was sleeping on a friend's couch, and her five-year-old son wandered outside, and fucking drowned. 

Aubrey: What? 

Michael: Yes. She's talking about like, "I couldn't protect him, I'm a terrible mother." Bob tries to comfort her. He says something that's actually pretty good. He says, "Terrible things happen to people who deserve happiness," which is one of the only semi human behaviors I've seen him display on that show. But then, when she's like, this woman is obviously extremely distraught and then he grabs her hand and he's like, "You're going to make something of yourself now that you're here."

Aubrey: Ah.

Michael: It's like, "Ah, she doesn't need to lose 20 pounds, dude. She needs fucking real trauma counseling and maybe some social safety net stuff." So, she's not homeless. Any normal person with normal professional ethics would have been like, "Oh, let's shut this down and get this woman the help that she needs."

Aubrey: Uh-huh. 

Michael: Also, what's so interesting to me about the structure of the show, too, is it's not just that all these people are living in a house together, and they're all going to support each other in weight loss, etc. It's a contest. It's a reality show. Eventually, this woman, who used to be homeless and whose son died, she didn't lose enough weight. So, she got kicked off. Even as a weight loss deal with our issues around food exercise, that's not the exercise, because it's a fucking contest. This is not how alcohol rehab works. [laughs] Whoever can abstain for the longest days gets to stay and everybody else gets kicked off. Even if you believe that losing weight is imperative, being in a fucking contest is not the way to do it. 

Aubrey: Jesus Christ. 

Michael: The last thing that Kai Hibbard said that sent me down a rabbit hole about the fake and unethicalness of the show is that, she mentioned very casually that in this ranch house where they're all supposed to be barely eating, and they're trapped there, and they have to lose all this weight, most of the food that's in the house is from products that are sponsoring the show. 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: It's like Jell-O, and Kraft mac & cheese. By far, the funniest scenes on the show are when they try to give diet advice to the participants, which are actually few and far between this content analysis found that almost all of the weight loss that was prescribed was exercise, that there's exercising constantly. They don't talk about diet that much. But when they do talk about diet, there will be scenes that pretend to be like, "Oh, I just popped in by the ranch house, seeing what's up with Janine or whatever." Then Bob will come and be like, "Janine, did you know about this Quaker Oats cereal that only has 235 calories?" She's very clearly acting and she's like, "No, Bob, I hadn't heard of it." It's like infomercial acting. 

Aubrey: Yeah. [laughs] 

Michael: They are like, "That sounds great, Bob. This will help me with my needs." "What are the different flavors?" He's like, "Maple syrup and brown sugar." "Oh, wow, Bob." It's like, "Really?"

Aubrey: Right. Pop chips are a sustainable alternative to greasy potato chips.

Michael: [laughs] And you're like, "Is anybody falling for this? These aren't food tips." None of the foods that they're prescribing are particularly fucking healthy. They're all packaged, microwaved, whatever little foods. This is the double genius of the show is that not only are they making money from advertisers, but the show itself is an advertiser.

Aubrey: This was also the era when there was all this talk in TV production about "vertical integration."

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: It's such a weird peek behind the curtain of like, "It's all a profit grab. Goodbye." [laughs] They are like, "Oh."

Michael: According to a New York Times article, The Biggest Loser had the most product placements of any TV show on the air in 2011. They had 533 placements.

Aubrey: Well, it's also one of those things where it's like, "Listen, the diet industry is extremely profitable." 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: Even now that it has changed its name to the wellness industry. There are just like bajillion things, where you're like, "It's oatmeal. It's just oatmeal." 

Michael: We're familiar with its work.

Aubrey: Yeah. That's right. [laughs] 

Michael: Okay. Reason number three that The Biggest Loser is trash is, it's abusive and horrible. 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: You knew it was coming. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: We're not going to watch a clip, but I am going to send you a really horrifying picture. 

Aubrey: Oh, okay.

Michael: Here we go. 

Aubrey: No.

Michael: I know.

Aubrey: What we're seeing--? I can't remember this contestant's name.

Michael: Rachel Frederickson. 

Aubrey: Rachel Frederickson. 

Michael: Uh-huh. 

Aubrey: You're seeing a before and after photo of, I would say a mid-fat lady. She's wearing Biggest Loser workout shoes, and bike shorts, and branded t-shirt. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Sassy little hands-on hips pose. 

Michael: They also make them look like shit in all the before photos. That's another thing. They always have them in oversized t-shirts. 

Aubrey: I was going to say, it's almost as if they're trying to cultivate an image.

Michael: Yeah, definitely. [laughs] 

Aubrey: [laughs] So, that's the photo on the left is the before photo, the one that every fat person everywhere has come to know to dread. Then the photo on the right is her with her hair blown out, and done, and highlighted. She's wearing a full face of makeup, she's wearing silvery, champagny, glittery mini dress, cocktail dress, maybe. She looks like she is ready for an event and she is extremely thin. 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: She is thin enough that when you see tabloid photos where they just go scary skinny and then have photos of Celine Dion, or Nicole Richie, or whoever it is at the moment that they're like zooming in salaciously on knobby knees, or bony elbows, or what have you, like, that is the look that she is giving. 

Michael: She's a size zero/two here.

Aubrey: Jesus. 

Michael: When she started the show, she was 260 pounds. She ends the show at 105. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: It's 60% of her body weight.

Aubrey: A totally sustainable amount of weight to lose in a period of a few months.

Michael: It what made this such a big deal is that, they do the six months of the ranch, and then all the contestants go home, like, the final three, four contestants go home, and they come back a couple months later, and you see have they gained weight in the interim period, have they lost more weight in the interim period, like, "Can they maintain The Biggest Loser lifestyle dah, dah, dah?" She is unique and remarkable for losing a lot more weight during this interregnum period, which is when everybody else usually ends up gaining weight or maintaining. What's fucked up about this is that she looks worryingly thin in this photo. 

Aubrey: Yeah. 

Michael: But this also triggers around of people talking about her body. She ends up on the cover of People Magazine with the headline "too thin, too fast." 

Aubrey: It's People Magazine, who I would not necessarily trust implicitly with a sensitive conversation about eating disorders. 

Michael: Yeah, no kidding.

Aubrey: You know? [laughs] Like, "Mm." 

Michael: To me, it's like, "What do you fucking expect that she's in a fucking weight loss contest?" 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: Of course, she's losing a ton of weight. Of course, this is making her an unhealthy competitor. That's what you want her to do. She's unhealthy and we're worried about her, because she's too thin. But all of the behaviors that got her there, we weren't worried about her? 

Aubrey: Right.

Michael: She admits in the interview in People Magazine that, she's working out four times a day. 

Aubrey: Oh.

Michael: Ah, that's bad regardless of whether she's 105 pounds or 140.

Aubrey: This is also upheld in the way that eating disorders are diagnosed even. You and I can talk about this and know that disordered behaviors are disordered behaviors, but in order to be diagnosed with anorexia, you currently need to have a BMI of under 17. This is one of those cases, where again, when she was a fat person doing it, we were like, "Get it, go. You got this." We're applauding while it's on television and then when she hits a thin weight, we're like, "Uh-oh."

Michael: Right. And also, as long as we're moving toward the goal of weight loss, which of course is imperative, whatever that means we use to get there are fine. 

Aubrey: Yep. 

Michael: This is an excerpt from an interview with Kai Hibbard. She says, "They would say things to contestants like you're going to die before your children grow up. You're going to die just like your mother. We've picked out your fat person coffin." One production assistant told the contestant to take up smoking because it would cut her appetite in half.

Aubrey: Jesus Christ. 

Michael: There's this very pervasive message throughout the show that fat people cannot trust their bodies when a fat person says like, "My knees hurt." It's like, "Shut up. Keep running." When fat people say like, "This is too much or I'm not comfortable with this," we shouldn't believe them, because that's the weakness that got them to this place in the first place.

Aubrey: Right. Fat people are not allowed to have boundaries.

Michael: Exactly. Injuries and things like joint pain or being short of breath. A 63-year-old guy passes out within five minutes of getting on a treadmill in the first episode. There's like, "Well, yeah, it's weakness leaving the body. Get back up there."

Aubrey: Right. Even a good faith, like, if you assume good intentions from the show,- 

Michael: No, yes. 

Aubrey: -hard to do. 

Michael: In the most recent season like the Wellness Reboot season, there's a woman, who fucks up her knee doing box jumps and she's then two minutes later seen on a rowing machine with an ice pack on her knee. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: This is not good. 

Aubrey: Also, a rowing machine is not using your knee. 

Michael: Oh, yeah. Good point. [laughs] 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: I hadn't even thought about that. it's no surprise that all of this abuse has produced a lot of injuries over the years. In 2009, two contestants on the same season were hospitalized from basically forcing them to run and one of them passed out. There was one contestant, who got stress fractures in her feet from being forced to do these jumps.

Aubrey: Right. We're just concerned about your health, which is why we're pushing you to the point of kidney failure, hospitalization, and wasn't somebody flown in a helicopter to us like life flighted, basically?

Michael: Yeah. They call it heat exhaustion, but according to Kai Hibbard, that was basically from being forced to run. 

Aubrey: Good Lord. 

Michael: Reason four, why Biggest Loser is trash, people gain all the weight back.

Aubrey: Yeah. There was a big, big, big New York Times story about this. 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: My recollection is that what they found is that it permanently damages their metabolisms.

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: It makes it almost impossible to lose weight in the future.

Michael: At the average weight that contestants were at six years after the show, they should be burning around 2,600 calories a day just like existing. But they're only burning 2,000. Which means, if they eat more than 2,000 calories a day, they will gain weight. This is six years after. What's amazing is, they actually did the same study 30 weeks after, so, almost a year after they left The Biggest Loser, and then they did it again six years afterwards, and their metabolisms actually got slower over that time even as they gained a lot of the weight back.

Aubrey: This is like, "We sent these adults to fat camp. We filmed it, so you can watch, and then we return them to the lives that they were leading, and now, we're dismayed that they haven't been able to keep it up and we've decided to attribute that to their character, or their emotional eating, or some kind of invisible pathology that there's some kind of character weakness that must be leading them to weight gain." Not that, "Hey, science actually doesn't know fully what makes some people fat and some people thin." It is so much more comforting to approach that from a lens of pathologizing fat people and standing uncomfortable judgment of them than it is to go, "Actually, this is really complex and some stuff we know and some stuff we don't." 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Sometimes, people are fat and that might be okay. Because again, then you don't have a show. Whoops.

Michael: One thing that did stick out to me was the fact that on average, the participants six years later were still in the obese category. The average weight of participants when they got onto the show was 305 pounds. By the end of the six years, all of the diet, lifestyle, whatever gaining losing weight stuff, the average is 5'8" and 192 pounds. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: What's really interesting to me about that is that, anyone putting up those numbers would go to the doctor, and get weighed, and the doctor would start that conversation with, "You need to lose weight." Because according to the numbers, they do need to lose weight. But the thing that fat people have been saying forever is just fucking ask people. Before you have the conversation of like, "Did you know you need to lose weight?" Ask people like, "Were you recently on a game show, where you lost 50% of your body weight and then gained 25% of it back?" That's really helpful context for the advice that your doctor should be giving you.

Aubrey: Right. As fat people what they've been eating and when they tell you, believe them. 

Michael: Yes.

Aubrey: Part of the reason that many doctors don't ask fat people questions about why we're fat, or what we've done to interact with our own fatness, or try and get thin, or whatever is that they fundamentally just don't believe our answers. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: It feels like a useless exercise. 

Michael: Right. Okay, last reason. Are you ready? 

Aubrey: Ready. Ready as I'll ever be.

Michael: You knew it was coming. The fifth reason why The Biggest Loser is trash is the effect that it has on the rest of society. Not just the people that are on the show, but everybody watching it. 

Aubrey: Oh, gross.

Michael: The Biggest Loser has been controversial for quite a while and there're quite a few articles, where people defend the show like Jillian Michaels in interviewees, various TV executives, producers, and the defense is always what we heard a million times on the show that it's raising awareness of the obesity epidemic and is inspiring people to lose weight.

Aubrey: Who is unaware of the obesity epidemic? Can you show me the people, who are like, "Oh, I didn't know people think it's healthier to be thin than to be fat?"

Michael: This is from New York Times article. JD Roth, an executive producer of the series, who created its current format says that, "While the show was extreme, it needs to be extreme in my opinion. For some of these people, this is their last chance." He said, "And in a country right now, that's wrestling with health care issues, and the billions of dollars that are spent on obesity issues per year in a way what a public service to have a show that inspires people to be healthier. Getting 100% to keep the weight off has never been the goal. The goal is, can we inspire people in America to make a change in their life? In that we're batting a thousand." 

Aubrey: Are you?

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: There are more fat people now than there ever have been before. Are you making a positive change? Are you doing what you think you're doing?

Michael: This is what I wrote in my notes. I wrote, "Are you though?"

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: This is not something I've seen documented. There've been various academic dissections of the effect of The Biggest Loser and all these other weight loss reality shows. There's a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, like, a literature review of all the different studies have been done. They all do the same thing that we saw in the President's Physical Fitness Test, where they weigh the pros and cons of the show and of this kind of TV, and all of the pros are potential things, and all of the cons are actual things.

Aubrey: Look at all the stuff we could do, but haven't done for the 50 years that we've been doing this garbage test that everybody hates. It's like, "No." 

Michael: This is an excerpt from the Kaiser Family Foundation report. "Reality TV has the potential to provide inspiration for lifestyle changes such as weight loss or smoking cessation. Reality TV also gives a voice to normal everyday people rather than stars. Provides exposure to a broad range of human experiences not available in other programs and may also provide viewers with a sense of personal validation and awareness. There are people out there like me with the same kinds of problems that I have. No, it doesn't."

Aubrey: Fuck off. 

Michael: What are the other health issues for which we weigh potential benefits against actual harms? The potential for The Biggest Loser to inspire people to lose weight, it's like, "Okay, well, there're studies on this. Does this inspire people to lose?" No.

Aubrey: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Michael: So, why would that even be relevant this potential when we know it does not inspire people to lose weight?

Aubrey: There have been some studies on looking at the effects of the "obesity epidemic messaging" on how folks think about fat people in particular. What they found is that all of that messaging increases bias toward fat people. Surprise, surprise. 

Michael: Yes. 

Aubrey: If you call fat people a disease that is somehow threatening your health, it's not going to go great for your perception of those people. I'm curious about if anyone has done any looking into the effects of watching shows like The Biggest Loser. Did you find anything related to that? 

Michael: There're actually two studies, where they measure people's attitudes regarding fatness and fat people, and then they show them an episode of The Biggest Loser, and then they cast them again. One of them finds that, it doesn't give everybody fat phobic attitudes but if you have existing fat phobic attitudes, it will make them worse. 

Aubrey: Yeah, that makes sense. 

Michael: It also seems the thinner you are, the more likely you are to hold those views. It seems to have this radicalizing effect on thin people that watch The Biggest Loser. There's another one that finds, it doesn't necessarily affect fat phobia, but it does affect how controllable you think weight is. At the root of anti-fat bias is this idea that, people can control their body weight like, "Christian Bale gains and loses pounds for movie roles all the time. So, why can't fat people do that?" When you watch an episode of The Biggest Loser, it reinforces the message that like, "Oh, weight is easily manipulable and all they have to do is eat better and exercise more and then they'll be small, and so, I don't really have to engage with whatever shitty beliefs I have about that."

Aubrey: Well, also, all of those actors gaining and losing significant amounts of weight sort of stories when you read the interviews with the Christian Bales and whoever else is of the world, what they're talking about is like, "For dinner, I melted a pint of Ben & Jerry's and drank it." 

Michael: Right.

Aubrey: Then, surprise, surprise, when they stopped doing that, they lose weight. That's not a one to one for my experience as a fat person, who has been fat since grade school, middle school. Come on, guys.

Michael: I also think that even on its own terms, Biggest Loser does that motivate people to exercise and change their diets, because first of all, there's really no information on the show about healthy diets. It's not actually teaching people how to cook or anything that people would actually need to know like, "Here's how to sauté some carrots for dinner." Then, when it comes to exercise, there's some actually, really good studies of the way that it depicts exercise on the show. Because a really important aspect of this is that, exercise is always cast as torture. Exercise is your punishment for being fat. 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: That is the overwhelming message that you get about exercise from this show. Most of the exercise that people are doing on the show is fucking miserable. It's like, box jumps and lifting weights above your arms 50 times. I say this as somebody, who goes to the gym pretty frequently, not everyone likes going to the gym. And there's never anything on The Biggest Loser for like, "Hey, maybe you really biking. Maybe for you go for a long bike ride and listen to a podcast or maybe for you, it's team sports, maybe play field hockey with some friends on Wednesdays every week." There's no exploration of how a lot of people really like forms of exercise, but they don't know which forms of exercise they like. The only way you ever see exercise on the show is at a gym, where you have to fucking pay for it and with someone yelling in your face as you're throwing this fake rubber ball on a wall back and forth.

Aubrey: Yeah, The Biggest Loser is essentially just recreating fat kids experience of PE. 

Michael: The President's Physical Fitness Test. Full circle.

Aubrey: And the President's Physical Fitness Test, all of it, which is just like, "You are being publicly humiliated, exercises your penance for daring to have this body, and you have to punish yourself in public, so that people know how apologetic you are."

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: I will say for my own self, the thing that helped me figure out what kinds of movement I liked was being able to do those away from other people. Because as it turns out the thing that made it fucking miserable for me were people who would stare at me while I exercised, the people who would say, "Good for you. You you'll get there." The thing that was hardest for me was always the social response to a body like mine in motion.

Michael: Yeah. In all of the other research about this, because there's also research this qualitative research on watching The Biggest Loser with fat people and doing a content analysis on just their reactions is, watching The Biggest Loser has the same effect on fat people as fat shaming. In that it increases their motivation to lose weight, but it doesn't increase their ability. Watching The Biggest Loser and having Jillian Michaels look at the camera and shout at them all the shit we saw in the clip that makes people think like, "Oh, my God, I have to lose weight. I'm going to die if I don't lose weight. It's so imperative for me to lose weight." But it doesn't give them enough money to buy fresh fruit at the grocery store. It doesn't give them a gym membership. It doesn't actually give them any counseling for whatever other issues they had. It doesn't actually do anything. 

Aubrey: Totally, and there are different shades of motivation. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Aubrey: When I have watched The Biggest Loser, the motivation is, "I don't want that lady to yell at me ever." 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Aubrey: The motivation isn't to lose weight for my own good or my own health. It is to avoid abuse, which is not a great sustainable kind of motivation.

Michael: You just have to hire Jillian Michaels to be in your house at all times. 

Aubrey: I don't want that. 

Michael: She's on her way, Aubrey. She'll be there in 15 minutes. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Was I not supposed to send her to your house? Last little section, we're going to do like a little epilogue, because I thought this was funny. Biggest Loser just ended up petering out basically, every season just had fewer and fewer viewers. It was 10 million, then eight million, then six million. By the end, it only had about five million viewers per episode, which was half of what it was when it started. So, reality shows don't really have series finales in the way that Supernatural or Buffy do, but then it basically died in 2017 and then they brought it back on a different network. It's now on USA as a wellness show, like the new super touchy, feely version of it. We're going to watch a clip. You know the clip. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Jillian Michaels also, she has become this massive brand in her own right based on the popularity of the show.

Aubrey: Mean white Oprah? 

Michael: Yeah, exactly. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: So, this is an interview that she gave last year.

Aubrey: Wait, is this the Lizzo interview? 

Michael: It's the Lizzo interview dude. 

Aubrey: Oh, God. 

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: We're not going to watch the whole thing, but it's like, "Ah."

Aubrey: Yeah, totally. 

Michael: It's so bad. Okay, here we go.

Alex: Well, you've said before that you think political correctness has gone too far in the health and fitness world. What did you mean by that? 

Jillian: Political correctness has just become-- I think it's insane. It's like the pendulum. As far as it swings in one direction, it swings back in the other. You've got these crazy extremes, whereas she's too fat to be a pop star. Will you say things like that? Then there's going to be you should never be able to say things like that. But for years, people were. They could fat shame, and they could exclude people, and they could make people feel less than. We should always be inclusive. But you cannot glorify obesity. It's dangerous. It kills people. It's the number one cause of bankruptcy in our country. There's a middle ground here. Now, it's like, "Oh, that woman is 250 pounds. Good for her. It's like, "Mm." [giggles] 250 pounds, 999 times out of a thousand is going to mean heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune issues, and early death, like, "Mm. Mm-hmm."

Alex: I have to say-- [crosstalk] 

Jillian: No. 

Alex: I've personally found-- and I love celebrities like Lizzo or Ashley Graham, who are really preaching self-acceptance--

Jillian: I love her music. Yeah, 100%, I don't know anything about her. I'm sure she's a cool, awesome chick. 

Alex: Yeah, and I love that they're putting images out there that we normally don't get to see of bodies that we don't get to see being celebrated. 

Jillian: Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? That's what I'm saying like, "Why aren't we celebrating her music?" Because it isn't going to be awesome if she gets diabetes.

Aubrey: Wow.

Michael: She is Satan, dude.

Aubrey: I really like that Jillian Michaels, the patron saint of horrific fat shaming is like, "We definitely shouldn't fat shame and it's a real shame that people used to do that. But now, they've stopped and it's gone too far." 

Michael: I know. 

Aubrey: Ask any fat person if they feel like there's too much acceptance of fat people right now. 

Michael: Where did the fat shaming come from, Jillian? was there a particular TV show that you could point to or a particular person on a particular TV show? Can you be specific?

Aubrey: I have to say just on the extremely petty level, I love how much of this interview she spends sputtering and searching for words.

Michael: This is what you get whenever somebody says, "I think political correctness is out of control" and you say, "What do you mean?"

Aubrey: [laughs]

Michael: You never get a clear answer. 

Aubrey: Tell me more Adam Carolla.

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: Just speak up, man. 

Michael: It's funny, because you can tell the host fucking hates her.

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: Which is like, the host does very well like trapping her. It's nice to see somebody else, who just has deep contempt for her and is like, "What can I make her say on TV that's going to make her look like shit?"

Aubrey: Look, if you can get Jillian Michaels to shit on Lizzo, the person that everyone loves right now, like, can you also get her to talk shit about Beyonce. 

Michael: Does she have thoughts on Mr. Rogers [crosstalk] that she would like to share? 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: What else can we get her to talk about? 

Aubrey: Also, there is this attitude that she in particular has really fed into, which is just like, "Fat people will necessarily become diabetic, hypertensive, whatever else. That's a fully made-up number, bam.

Michael: I think the Jillian Michaels thing is the perfect encapsulation of this wellness reboot of The Biggest Loser, because she's not on new show, but I think the entire project feels to me like a version of "I'm not fat shaming, but and then you say something fat shaming." The new season of The Biggest Loser is still a weight loss competition. You get kicked off if you do not lose enough pounds. There is no way to reboot that to make it not about weight loss. It's literally a weight loss contest.

Aubrey: But Mike, they have a group conversation with Bob Harper, who pretends to be a therapist. 


Aubrey: Here's what I feel about The Biggest Loser.

Michael: Ooh.

Aubrey: It feels like America's Id. 

Michael: What do you mean? 

Aubrey: It is what all of us wish we didn't believe about fat people and what we wish we didn't find entertaining as we're shifting out of diets for everyone to "wellness for everyone," which is the same thing that there is this a little bit of rapprochement about like, "Oh, hey, wait a minute. Maybe we shouldn't have all been this into this thing. But also, I don't want to talk about how into it I was." The reason that it held appeal is that fundamentally, I think a lot of us do believe fat people should be yelled at until we get thin. 

Michael: It's also interesting, the way that the fact that it's a reality TV show with the giant air quotes that comes with, gives people a shield for what's actually being depicted on the show. Because if it was a fictional TV show about a bunch of fat people, who couldn't stop eating, and their weight defines their life, and they're so depressed, and if they only lost weight, they'd be happy, you'd be like, "Fuck you, man. Nobody's that simplistic." 

Aubrey: Yeah.

Michael: But the fact that it's a reality TV show, and these are real contestants, and "real dramas" every week, it gives you this cover for watching a show that is basically depicting fat people as all of the negative stereotypes that skinny people have about fat people. They are gluttonous, they are lazy, they are clumsy, they can't do the exercise, they won't do what they're told, but it's packaging them up as look its reality. So, it's okay depicting this.

Aubrey: All of this is designed to make thin people feel calmer and better about our lives. 

Michael: Yeah.

Aubrey: None of this is designed to be viewed by fat people. We are immaterial. 

Michael: Yes. Me and my boyfriend, while we were watching it, we were trying to count the scenes where people weren't crying. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: The only emotions that anybody on the show has are crying and panting. It's like they're doing exercise or they're revealing something extremely personal and deep and dark about themselves. Everything is just misery and CrossFit. 

Aubrey: [laughs] 

Michael: So, that is our Biggest Loser episode.

Aubrey: I feel both gross and a metaphorical weight has been lifted, not lost, but lifted, [laughs] which is just-- I don't know. It makes me feel better to go back through this stuff and talk about why it's constructed the way that it's constructed. Because it's like the man behind the curtain. It's like seeing the Oz the Great and Powerful, where you're like, "Just a mean lady wants to yell at Lizzo on TV."

Michael: [laughs] 

Aubrey: That's all it is. The idea that we're ascribing some kind of altruism to a network TV reality show that it's just taping people yelling at other people until they throw up, this is not an ideological venture, guys.

Michael: You knew when you put it like that, Aubrey, then it sounds bad.

Aubrey: [laughs]