Following last week's America's Next Top Model elimination of London because of a 10lb weight gain, I decided to write another post about fat aversion on TV when I came across an announcement for an upcoming show on Oxygen titled Dance Your Ass Off. The show is being dubbed The Biggest Loser meets Dancing with the Stars, and the new reality drama's plot is this: ten women and men between the ages of 21 and 40 get assistance from expert nutritionists and professional dancers in order to compete against each other week after week in a dance competition. The ultimate goal is to lose the most weight. Dance Your Ass Off doesn't debut until June, but tabloid media are already making jokes by calling the show "flabulous".
Dance Your Ass Off will be hosted by Tony award winning actress Marissa Jaret Winokur (pictured above), a curvaceously sexy lady who is best known for playing Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway production of Hairspray. Winokur is no stranger to the reality TV genre; she came in 4th place on Season 6 of Dancing with the Stars. The fact that Dance Your Ass Off will be on Oprah's Oxygen network gave me a fleeting glimmer of hope that the people featured on the show might not be exploitatively portrayed as overly emotional food consumption machines to be poked and prodded by malicious challenges the way they are on other weight-loss shows—such as being tempted each week by trays of high-calorie, low-nutrition junk food. Surely the queen of daytime television, whose own weight loss and gain has been a painful public struggle for nearly three decades, wouldn't allow her network to participate in such hurtful humor... or would she? The casting call catch phrases ("shake and rattle your rolls," "drop the ho-hos and do the hustle," "put down the milkshake and shake what your momma gave you") erased my optimism.
It's unclear if the competitors' ability to dance will factor into the judging at all; it seems as though one competes solely through the loss of pounds. My doubt is further solidified by the facts that 1) pole dancing is one of the dance styles that will be featured on the show; 2) Crunch gym is a major sponsor (which no doubt means product placement galore!); and 3) one of the show's producers, Sally Ann Salsano, has been involved in other questionable projects—like A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (Parts One and Two), which plays on the stereotype that bisexual women are hypersexual and shows a whole lot of traditionally beautiful people making out amid the melodrama. "With Dance Your Ass Off, losing weight has never been sexier or more fun," Oxygen programming executive Amy Introcaso-Davis told RealityTVWorld. "It's high-cardio, low-calorie and outrageously entertaining—every woman's dream!"
I don't know about you, but that is certainly not this woman's dream. My dream is for television programs to cease treating fat people like a spectacle worthy of ridicule for other people's entertainment. I can't help but feel like Dance Your Ass Off is setting us up for yet another chance to reaffirm size privilege and laugh at fat people's expense.