Fertile Ground: Weight of the Nation, HBO? Let's Talk Industrial Agriculture First
I've been watching your miniseries, Weight of the Nation, and though you have some good information, I am largely disappointed. Not that I’m all that surprised—the title alone employs the same old fat-shaming rhetoric. "Look at these fat people!" your show says. Yeah yeah, health problems, diabetes, etc., blah blah. LOOK THEY’RE FAT.
In your minds, the only way to draw people in to a show about the looming health crisis is to place the blame on individual fat people. This person is fat because they eat fast food and sit on their recliners watching TV all day. That person had to get his foot amputated because he let himself gain weight. That's much easier than digging deep into the roots of the issue, revealing all sorts of awful truths about a corporate-owned food system soaked with greed and chemicals. After all, you didn’t want to make a show and call it Toxic State of the Union, because no one would watch that. First of all, it would be depressing—who wants to know how many pesticides we’re ingesting eating those run-of-the-mill diner fries, or the herbicides we’re eating when we munch on those corn chips? Instead, you say, let’s touch briefly on those topics and then shift the focus to fat people: Why they can’t stop eating cheeseburgers?
The real issue, of course, is our sad, careless food system, run by corporations who care nothing for the land, environmental quality, or the health of our bodies. You could have at least brought up the farm bill, which is up for renewal this year and contains many issues related to the American food system, including those related to organic produce and small family farms.
I’m sure the corporations that lobby (including those representing the food and advertising industries) and influence Washington’s policymaking are grateful that they came out of your series virtually unscathed. Again, issues involving corporate power in our food system are—what? Too dangerous for HBO to delve into? Instead, I suppose it’s just easier to make a show about fatness and people wanting to lose weight. You highlight the evilness of soda pop and fruit juice—both evil, I agree—but make it about pounds on the scale, ignoring a zillion other underlying issues (Monsanto and subsidy-ridden, chemical-poisoned corn farms that are responsible high fructose corn syrup, as well as corporate-owned fruit juices that are pure sugar water).
I don’t expect a lot from “concerned TV shows” in general. In my mind, TV could be a great medium for discussing serious issues—a way to get out worthwhile, crucial information to a mass audience who are willing to listen—but it rarely is. And don’t get me wrong—Weight of the Nation is no The Biggest Loser. There is some information here worth hearing, like the discussion about marketing junk food to kids. So you’re probably thinking, “What’s your problem, lady? We touched on lots of issues pertaining to what you’re talking about!”
Well, okay. But it’s pretty half-assed, if you ask me. Why barely touch on the deeper issues, not doing them justice, and pretend this show isn’t just some exploitative, body-shaming carnival ride? If you really care, HBO, dig deeper into your material, sink into those roots, and try to make a nuanced series that's actually worth watching?
Or maybe that’s too much to ask. Maybe next time I should just turn your show off and watch something else.
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