Tuesday, November 07, 2006

kirstie alley is full of shit

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have admired Oprah Winfrey for many years. I am particularly enamoured with her philanthropic work, although her determination to overcome adversity and become the architect of her own massive success is also quite admirable. In the last couple years, though, the sheen has worn off as she more frequently and enthusiastically embraces the superficial on her show (and in her magazine, which I stopped reading about a year ago). More importantly, I am deeply disappointed when she exhorts to her millions of fans -- many of whom hang on her every word -- that emulating said superficialities will improve their lives.

She embodies contradiction. And she should know better.

Building schools for girls in Africa improves lives. Rebuilding homes in the Gulf Coast improves lives. Allowing audience members to help their communities with the aid of $1000 debit cards improves lives. Increasing the literacy of millions of otherwise bookless TV zombies improves lives. She knows these things: she's done them all and more.

So, when she spends a ridiculous amount of time over a couple years glorifying Kirstie Alley's weight loss extravaganza, I have to wonder a couple things. First, how is she able to conveniently forget her own experience with years of yo-yo dieting? Second, how much money is Jenny Craig, Inc. paying to have their name sprinkled so liberally on one of daytime TV's most watched television shows? Third, in the year 2012, what will the Oprah show episode be like when Kirstie comes back to wage her next inevitable battle of the bulge?

Oprah is guilty of perpetuating the false hope that weight loss is possible (when 95% of the time, it's not), and that it solves all of life's problems (when 100% of the time, it does not). So when I started to watch yesterday's TiVo'd Oprah show -- the one highlighting Ms. Alley's bikini entrance -- I deleted it after only watching the first few minutes. Thinking I'd done my duty for Size Acceptance by rejecting the show outright, I moved on to the computer to check email and read some news.

But there she was again. I might have let the whole thing slide were it not for this article. In it, Ms. Alley simultaneously flaunts her newly-svelte body and claims she's not defined by it.

"I think women -- I don't think we ever feel like we're good enough. We don't feel like we're thin enough or pretty enough or smart enough or work hard enough. And we are good enough... . The bikini thing is neither here nor there, other than the fact, you know, I am 55 years old. So I thought -- come on, we are all good enough. And we look good enough. And we are not our bodies." - Kirstie Alley

Hogwash. Poppycock. Balderdash.

How is it possible to say you're good enough after spending two years chastising yourself in a veritable media blitz? It's not. It's all horseshit. Bullshit. Publicity. And the happy "look, I lost weight and look fabulous and YOU SHOULD TOO!" routine is just one more hammer banging away in a universe of hammers that pound the message that thin=happy+healthy and fat=unhappy+unhealthy and there's nothing in the middle. It doesn't matter that nothing in life is that straightforward.

And I again dissolve into the continuation I don't have the time or energy to follow-through on. So, I'll end tonight's rant on a note mentioned before in this space. John Tierney of the New York Times wrote a nice piece called "Fat and Happy" that mentioned this great concept identified by George Armelagos, an anthropologist at Emory University. Speaking of popular preference for body types, he calls the relatively recent desire for thinness the "King Henry VIII and Oprah Winfrey Effect." This is how it's explained:

"In Tudor England, it took hundreds of gardeners, farmers, hunters and butchers to keep Henry VIII fat. In America today, anyone can bulk up without help, but it takes a new set of vassals - personal trainer, nutritionist, private chef - to keep Oprah from looking like Henry VIII."

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