If you’ve watched an episode of My 600-lb Life, you’re probably very acquainted with those shower scenes that typically start off each episode. In order to capture the bleak reality of being someone who’s 600+ pounds, the show gives an unedited view of what it’s like to wake up, take a shower, and get dressed. The cameras follow each participant into the bathroom as viewers get an up close and personal view of what the process is like. For some who are too large to fit into a shower stall, they have to settle for sponge baths given by loved ones and family members. Although the show is being honest by depicting extreme obesity in its rawest forms, some fans think the scenes are a little degrading.
“I would be cool with not seeing the shower scenes,” a fan on Facebook commented. “I wish they would get rid of them,” another fan wrote on Twitter. “Best part about ‘My 600-lb Life’ is how everybody’s ashamed of themselves, but then TLC is like ‘Why don’t you get naked & shower on camera?'”
In fact, the infamous “shower scene” is such a staple of every episode, that many fans have started treating it as a joke. “It’s not the first minute of an episode of ‘my 600 lb life’ without a shower scene,” one tweeted. “Are you really watching 600 lb Life if you don’t watch the shower/bathing scene??” another wrote on Facebook.
But the gratuitousness of the scenes is only one part of the issue. Fans also find that making participants strip down on TV, especially when so many patients admit to feeling so ashamed about their bodies that they don’t even leave the house, is exploitative. You can’t deny TLC producers are relying on shock value when they record intimate moments like patients getting their butts wiped by loved ones or getting their folds powdered by caregivers. “There was one episode where the lady being featured was taking a shower and she sat on the edge of the tub for a minute and they focused right on her butt,” a fan on Facebook wrote. A Reddit user commented, “The showering scenes kill me. I’m sure when the show first came out, they were enticing for viewers with that morbid curiosity. Now it just makes me sad and I feel like it is unnecessary for the story.”
Other fans have directed their anger directly at the network, especially because it’s obvious participants are being asked by producers to do the scenes. “TLC is disgusting,” a fan tweeted. “Showing people bathing on ‘my 600 lb life’ to humiliate themselves for life-saving surgery.” Another wrote, “@TLC …why do you film every person on my 600-lb life taking a shower? It’s actually dehumanizing. You wouldn’t show a thin person bathing.”
To make the situation even more strange, a fan on Facebook noticed that all the participants have see-through shower curtains, which fans think producers buy so that they can get a clear shot of the subject in the shower. “It seems like everyone on this show has a see-thru shower curtain,” a fan pointed out. “I feel like that’s part of the contract,” another one shared. “Like they make them do that. I feel it’s too much (sic) intrusive. Personally I [fast] forward thru those parts. It makes me sad and uncomfortable.”
But probably the biggest question fans have about the scenes are why participants would agree to do them. After all, many of the people featured on the show have admitted to feeling ashamed of their bodies and expressing how sad they feel when people gawk and stare at them while they’re in public. So obviously filming a scene where they’re completely naked on TV, where millions of people gawk and then later sadly bully them on social media, couldn’t possibly come with a decent incentive, right? Well, perhaps not.
According to Bettie Jo Elmore, who appeared on Season 3, she revealed in a now-deleted Facebook Q&A that TLC pays participants extra money if they agree to be filmed in the shower. Many fans on Reddit have confirmed this and said they saw the Q&A themselves. We reached out to Bettie Joe for comment, but she didn’t get back to us in time for publication.
Others have said the bathroom scenes are a requirement from TLC producers, which Nicole Lewis confirmed in an interview with Rover Radio.. “Oh my goodness, I was definitely embarrassed,” she said about her infamous scene where she had to be hosed off in the backyard because she couldn’t fit in the bathroom. “I knew I needed help and my main focus was to do it for my children. When they came to my house, they were like, ‘OK, we have to do a shower scene and do real-life stuff for real and for you to be a part of this process.’ And I sat and thought about it for the longest time and it was either me not let them do that and not get the help and possibly not be around for another year or just let it happen and get the help from the doctor.”
Season 3’s Pauline Potter also agreed that, while some scenes she had to film were humiliating, the show was a way to achieve her weight loss dreams. “I thought, OK, I’m already this size, I might as well take advantage of it to get my story out there,” she told Dr. Drew. “So I knew it would be a little bit degrading. I knew I would get negativity back from it, but it was the risk that I wanted to take to get my story out there so that I could get some weight loss help.”
Others have admitted that, despite how uncomfortable the bathroom scenes are, they deliver a greater message. “I do find the shower scenes helpful in understanding what it’s like to be unable to do a simple basic thing like taking a shower without massive pain and discomfort,” a commenter wrote. “Also seeing how hard it is for them to reach and clean themselves…they always need brushes on long sticks and have a hard time washing their hair because it’s difficult to lift their arms etc. How would I understand all this if they wouldn’t show it?”
Yes, the show is realistic in its depictions of its participants, and yeah, that’s kind of the whole point, but after six seasons, many fans feel like enough is enough. “I feel like the show strips them of the last amount of dignity they have,” a fan wrote. “They’re taking advantage of their desperation to have free weight loss surgery. How dehumanizing.”
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