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"Below The Yellow Line": Competitor Discourse on NBC's "The Biggest Losrer"
Unformatted Document Text:  19 doing this, we would be well served to examine what each type of discourse says about the competitors as well as the framing it presents for the viewer during the weigh-ins. Fear/doubt discourse was the most prevalent from the competitors on the show. This should not be surprising as the fear of failure and inadequacy are driving concepts for the show. This is exacerbated by the weekly elimination of contestants and the completely competitive construction of the show. Furthermore, the fear/doubt discourse was largely focused on the yellow line, another show construct. As the arbiter of achievement, the yellow line takes on special semiotic meaning to the contestants. This holds true for the viewers at home as well. Since the most intense part of the show is the weigh-in, it becomes a moment of reckoning for both the viewer and the competitors. However, how does this framing possibly help those at home struggling with weight issues? It is our contention that is does not. The yellow line, unavailable to those at home, is only for the competitors. Furthermore, it serves to frame weight in a strictly competitive manner in relation to other individuals. For most, weight loss is a personal, individual effort and they have no yellow line to be judged by or anyone else to compete with. Therefore, the yellow line, to which the fear/doubt discourse constantly refers, makes for great TV and stressed competitors but serves no purpose to home viewers except to reinforce weight loss as a competitive endeavor. Success/pride discourse was the second most expressed. Once again, for competitors, it remained separated from any health concerns or lifestyle issues. On The Biggest Loser there is rarely any discourse about “changing one’s life” or “healthy lifestyles”. However, there is a substantial amount of discourse that revolves around the numerical drop in weight from the last weigh in. It is our contention that the success/pride discourse, while narrowly focused, does help motivate at home viewers through an attachment that is developed with the competitors. The

Authors: Dunning, Eric., Alsip, Mary Katherine. and Bissell, Kim.
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doing this, we would be well served to examine what each type of discourse says about the 
competitors as well as the framing it presents for the viewer during the weigh-ins.
Fear/doubt discourse was the most prevalent from the competitors on the show. This 
should not be surprising as the fear of failure and inadequacy are driving concepts for the show. 
This is exacerbated by the weekly elimination of contestants and the completely competitive 
construction of the show. Furthermore, the fear/doubt discourse was largely focused on the 
yellow line, another show construct. As the arbiter of achievement, the yellow line takes on 
special semiotic meaning to the contestants. This holds true for the viewers at home as well. 
Since the most intense part of the show is the weigh-in, it becomes a moment of reckoning for 
both the viewer and the competitors. However, how does this framing possibly help those at 
home struggling with weight issues? It is our contention that is does not. The yellow line, 
unavailable to those at home, is only for the competitors. Furthermore, it serves to frame weight 
in a strictly competitive manner in relation to other individuals. For most, weight loss is a 
personal, individual effort and they have no yellow line to be judged by or anyone else to 
compete with. Therefore, the yellow line, to which the fear/doubt discourse constantly refers, 
makes for great TV and stressed competitors but serves no purpose to home viewers except to 
reinforce weight loss as a competitive endeavor.
Success/pride discourse was the second most expressed. Once again, for competitors, it 
remained separated from any health concerns or lifestyle issues. On The Biggest Loser there is 
rarely any discourse about “changing one’s life” or “healthy lifestyles”. However, there is a 
substantial amount of discourse that revolves around the numerical drop in weight from the last 
weigh in. It is our contention that the success/pride discourse, while narrowly focused, does help 
motivate at home viewers through an attachment that is developed with the competitors. The 


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