Friday, January 15, 2010

The Biggest Loser and Legally Blond

I just started watching the Biggest Loser and I have to admit, I find it pretty compelling tv. I like that, on the whole, the competitors develop a real caring for each other, and seem genuinely distraught when one is voted off the show.
But what the Biggest Loser really does is give us the perfect hero/heroine at the beginning of the show and then shows us them overcoming odds and adversity, and one screaming woman, to become the person they want to be.
So smart. On the first show, they bring in these very overweight people and on national tv, show exactly what they weigh and in agonizing detail, show us the shame and hopelessness on their faces.
Then they torture them for weeks on end. Seriously, those workout sessions go on for hours every day. (and yet whenever I watch it, I feel the need to workout)
In the process, our hopeless, overweight protagonists gain what they want the most, weightloss.
It's a pretty classic story structure.

I watched the beginning of Legally Blond the other day, and yes, the pretty, thin blond girl has little to do physically with the overweight contestants on The Biggest Loser, but the movie does something very similar to Elle.
They take everything from her, her boyfriend, her popularity, her success in school, until she is miserable, and then they give it back to her.

Seeing someone at their lowest point, and watching them regain what they have always wanted is fascinating, compelling entertainment, in any genre.


Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm a huge fan of that story structure too. I love stripping the character of everything - and then setting them loose to see how they do.

In Harry Potter (which I consider the classic hero/quest story) we start him with no partents, no loving family.

Then you give him friends, a father figure and an uncle.

First you take away the uncle. Then you take away the father figure...

I really believed in the last story we would see a little more separation between Harry and Ron and Hermoine. I know at the "end" Harry is alone, but when I imagined what would happen in book 7 - I imagined a moment where either Ron or Hermoine would have to make a choice between each other - or Harry. Their love of each other being bigger than their friendship with Harry.

So that in the end it would be Harry alone to face the evil.

Great stuff. Great story telling.

And I'm sorry - I know people think Reality TV can be mindless/silly/demeaning... but it also can create great drama in the right circumstances.

You all should have seen the Biggest Loser season w/ Tara. This girl was a force of nature who became more powerful with each pound she lost. I LOVED her.

Eileen said...

It's definitely the classic chick lit structure. Take it all away, strip her bare, make her figure out what she wants and how to get it and wrap it up.

Oh, and be funny while you do it. :-)

Maureen McGowan said...

The issue I have with The Biggest Loser is that people get kicked off. It just seems to go against the purpose of the show to me. It just seems so slimy. Not only are they putting these people through a ridiculous regime they couldn't possibly replicate on their own, they arbitrarily rip them away from it.

Really bothers me.

That said, the one season I watched I did get hooked. Trying to make sure I don't get hooked again.

LOVE Legally Blonde. You're so right about them brilliantly stripping away everything she had so she could discover the person underneath.

Alli said...

Oh yes, that is a perfect recipe for a good story!

Ladies, someone mentioned the "throw them in the dumpster" post the other day. I loved that and really would like to have it at hand when I need to "make 'em suffer". Can anyone point me to it? I did a search on this blog, I know it's here, but I just can't seem to find it.


Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - I agree. I was in tears this season because the kicked 2 couples off before they had a chance to start.

There they are, hoping this will change their lives (and let's face it get skinny in the fastet possible way) only to be denied before they could start.

I bawled. But I'm guessing that's why they do it.

And Alli - that was me. In my last manuscript my heroine was a germaphobe. At the end of the book (in order to save her life of course) the hero tossed her into a trash dumpster.

Molly ran w/ it as a metaphor because that's what we should be doing with all of our characters. Showing their greatest weakness... then forcing them to confront it.

Alli said...

That's it! Yes, I have decided to write that on a post-it next to my computer to remind me to be nasty to my characters. ;-)


Bonnie Staring said...

I think what keeps me coming back to The Biggest Loser is how the show strips away the contestants' excuses and allows them to see that not all problems can be solved at the drive-thru.

And maybe, just maybe, I can see how trying to lose weight and trying to get words on the page can be very similar. Especially if snack foods are involved.

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