Fatsploitation and Perception

A while back, Childhood Obesity News mentioned the case of Connor McCreaddie, a British boy who, at age eight, weighed more than 200 pounds. The child welfare authorities attempted to remove him from his mother’s custody and place him in foster care. The TV show about this conflict attracted so much attention that according to some observers, it almost single-handedly invented the fatsploitation genre. A contemporary tabloid publisher referenced the “feeding frenzy” that occurred as media producers everywhere searched for an even more obese child to capitalize on.

Journalist Nick Harding defined fatsploitation as the type of entertainment where the morbidly obese “are wheeled out on reinforced gurneys for our entertainment.” That’s not quite the same as a sober documentary in which the expectation is impartial reportage of historical events, without interference or influence from the filmmakers.

Of course, this very high standard is not always attained, but trying for it is still miles away from the foolishness and fakery that are the hallmarks of “reality” shows. Still, Harding says of the fatsploitation cheap shots, “if no one watched them, they would not get made.”

Minds are invaded

It has been suggested that such wide exposure to the most egregious cases has led to members of the public having counter-productive thoughts like, “As long as I’m smaller than that guy who the fire department had to demolish a wall to get into an ambulance, I’m okay.”

For a while, the level of awareness raised by the media was helpful, but eventually reached the point of diminishing returns. Harding quoted Professor Paul Gately, technical director of Carnegie International Camp, the respected youth weight loss program:

Programmes that concentrate on the extreme are pure entertainment and not relevant to 90 per cent of the public who see the very obese and say, “I’m not like that, I can have another cream cake… I am not that bad, I can carry on along the same path”. When they finally realise it is time to act, it is far too late.

Due to this distorted perception, adults not only see themselves as okay but…

75 per cent of parents with overweight children define them as “just right”, and half of parents with obese children classify them as being in the normal weight range.

Technically, such parents may be correct. How are they supposed to perceive their own child as dangerously obese, if most of the other kids in the class are even heavier? Perhaps “normal” is a word whose usefulness in this context has come to an end. But that is for another discussion.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Unhealthy appetite: Is ‘Fatsploitation’ fuelling the obesity crisis?,” Independent.co.uk, 10/23/11
Image by HS You/CC BY-ND 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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