The Style Network has carved a niche in presenting provocative shows about self-esteem and being overweight. The serial show Ruby is the most popular, dealing with the life of a 500+ pound woman trying to lose weight. Watching Ruby Gettinger struggle to learn to eat healthy and to find the source of her pain that has caused her to be overweight all of her adult life has been heartwrenching to witness.
But it is the show Too Fat For Fifteen that is the most painful to watch. Obese kids ranging from ages 11 to 17 are sent to a special school in North Carolina to learn to lose weight and still keep up their skills academically. The stories the producers have carved out for these kids and their families tugs the heart strings and incites some really strong anger.
An 11 year old girl weighing over 200 lbs. must experience her first time away from her family. A 14 year old boy coming in at close to 400 lbs. learns that the masterful manipulation he has used on his mother, doesn’t work at the camp. And at last, a 17 year girl turns out to be the largest and heaviest student the camp has ever had – weighing in at over 500 lbs. It is a sad, sad situation. The stories are so honest, you want to crawl into the TV and slap some sense into these kids AND their parents.
It is on purpose that the parents of these kids are depicted as clueless oafs, whining that they want the best for their kids, yet don’t learn the “program” that the kids follow and are at least 50 lbs. overweight themselves. It’s on purpose the producers follow the kids on home visits and have the audience witness all the learning and hard work of the students be sucked down the drain at the first meal they are fed at home.
The storytelling of this show is definitely moving. However, I can’t help but wonder if it can sustain. What I mean is, the show does a great job of sucking you in. You want these kids to succeed – in their weight loss and academically. But with all the obstacles that lie in their way – unsupportive home environments, no self-motivation, no ability to face the pain as to why they over eat – the viewer can’t help but feel their stories won’t have a happy ending. And we all want a happy ending, right?
Or maybe that’s the ultimate lesson of their stories – the unfortunate realization that these kids will not overcome what life and their parents have given them. Heartbreaking.