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Why do I love “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life”?

2010/05/09

No, I’m really asking you. Why do I love to watch Kirstie Alley’s newest reality television offering, Kirstie Alley’s Big Life? I can’t figure it out. The show isn’t good, or even bad-good enough to enjoy for its bad-goodness. I’m usually pretty skilled at affecting that irritating-in-other-people ironic enjoyment at these type of things. Heck, I kept watching Grey’s Anatomy even after it got all terrible and such. But when it comes to Big Life I manage to derive a genuine sense of satisfaction.

And there’s a lot to hate about Big Life. Besides the fact that it’s basically one big advertisement for Alley’s new weight loss product, Organic Liason (the show constantly references the product, and the product’s offical website refers back to the show), there are some problematic representations of queer people, and, uh… fat people. The show isn’t exactly fat phobic; after all, Alley doesn’t claim to speak for all fat people, just herself. She says that she feels less confident and sexy at her current size, and wants to help others who want to lose weight. However, and I feel this way about most weight-loss shows, there is a certain element of fatsploitation present. I get it, I get it, the show is about being fat, so I can’t complain that the show subjects the large body to our gaze, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel good about it.

Equally worrisome is how Alley’s personal assistant’s personal assistant Kyle is edited. Kyle’s character on the show seems to fit the mould of the stereotypical gay boy. No, not the fabulous kind, the other kind: he’s the sassy sidekick, a little bit dumb, and safely asexual. In one episode, he talks about going to his high school reunion and asks Alley if she’ll be his date. This conversation took place during a couple’s massage he shared with Alley, perfectly playing the role of surrogate boyfriend. Naturally, he’s single and never displays any desire to actually be with a man… at all. He spends all his time in the company of women, and never really has any meaningful interaction with the show’s other male characters. During the latest episode in April, a rather hunky (or at least hunky because he’s from exotic Australia) male joined Alley’s team, and Kyle’s reaction was a mix of hostility and jealousy. Fortunately, the show is sympathetic in its portrayal of Kyle: he’s a lovable doofus rather than an incompetent screw-up. 

My main issue with Big Life, however, is the fact that it’s even on. Didn’t we already watch Alley be fat on Fat Actress? How many times can we watch one person lose weight? Once, I get (kinda). But twice? How many times does Alley get to be famous for hating her body? Is it really all that different from us gawking at Heidi Montag’s multiple cosmetic surgeries? I really don’t mean to go on a diatribe here, but I really don’t see the difference between Alley being famous for being fat and Heidi being famous for being famous. At least Alley got famous beforehand for actually doing something.

But  all of that doesn’t even come close to answering my question: why do I love to watch Kirstie Alley’s Big Life? Why am I willing to overlook what I hate about this show? Alley’s voice-over narration is contrived, and can’t help but show how the show is that awful “scripted but pretends not to be” style of reality television. But for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I will be tuning in for the ONE HOUR SEASON FINALE in about one hour’s time.  I’m hoping the clouds will part and suddenly all will be revealed to me, but I somehow doubt it. Instead, I will probably watch it, laugh occasionally, and then forget about it after the season is done.

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