Five full minutes after sitting down to write a story about why Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian is a no good, very bad show, I still hadn’t found a first sentence. That’s because there is no one sentence — nay, paragraph — which can wholly summarize why Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian is hateful, base, and boring garbage. There are so many reasons, the mind reels. Still, having watched the first episode, I can only conclude that this show will be shredded to ribbons by media critics as well as body positive finger-waggers (like yours truly). But I am also just as sure that the show will be watched by millions. It will be popular amongst hate-watchers, sincere Kardashian die-hards, and more importantly, people who believe on some level that their worth is inextricably linked to their physical appearance. And let’s be real: That last group is basically all of us. That’s why it’s worth sitting down and pointing out precisely what is wrong with Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian and why you absolutely should not watch it. So strap in, people.
1. You’ve already seen it.
Hey, remember The Biggest Loser? And Extreme Weight Loss? And My Diet Is Better Than Yours, and The Swan, and Shedding For The Wedding, and Dance Your Ass Off, and Celebrity Fit Club, and Thintervention with Jackie Warner? This show is all of those shows. Here’s how it goes: Not-so-thin person volunteers to be transformed, goes on extreme diet, works out like crazy, and loses a certain amount of weight — and then everything in their life is all better, forever! Of course, in case you missed the dozens of news items and features written on this topic, it doesn’t actually work this way. Cast members on these shows have revealed that the reality behind these “reality” shows is both more extreme and a less fun to watch than what you see on camera. (One woman spent entire days walking on a treadmill. Try making good television out of that.)
The only part that’s true to life is the fact that people who lose weight on these shows typically regain it, and then some. Last year, a study of former Biggest Loser contestants reported that not only did the cast members regain the weight within 6 years, but that their metabolism and appetite hormones appeared to have been permanently altered by the extreme and sudden weight-loss. Of course, this merely echoes the myriad other reports and research indicating that attempting to lose weight typically does not work in the long term. For weight-loss, I mean. It definitely can be effective at causing long-term hormonal, metabolic, and behavioral changes (not good changes, to be clear). Again, I feel like that’s just not must-see TV.
2. The producers are not even trying.
The first Revenge Body cast member we meet is Will, a gay man living in Los Angeles, who’s just been dumped because, as he puts it, “My boyfriend told me that he wasn’t attracted to me anymore.” He continues via voiceover as we watch him sit in a dark, nearly empty apartment eating Chinese take-out. “And I knew I had gained weight. But it didn’t know it was like that bad — like I wasn’t attractive.” (Cue: sad, plinky piano score.)
Will’s pain is obviously real and fresh. He tears up almost every time he mentions his ex, Kyle. That’s why it’s even harder to watch this show try to twist his actual sadness into TV sadness. He stares in a mirror, hand on his stomach saying, “I don’t like what I see at all. I see a fat, lonely person.” In the next shot, he is lying in bed — I swear to god — spooning a giant stuffed animal. If not for that plinky piano music, you’d surely be able to hear the producer off-camera saying, “That’s great. Now, yeah, just snuggle up to the teddy bear and think about how alone you are. Can you maybe give the teddy bear a kiss?”
Look, we’re all aware that producing reality TV is a dirty business. Will is an adult and he signed up for this. But that teddy bear didn’t ask for this bullshit.
3. Unless you really, really like Khloe Kardashian, you’ll be bored to sobs.
Before meeting her, cast members stand around freaking out about the fact that they’re about to meet Khloe Kardashian. (“It was just one of those moments that you never forget in your life,” Will says.) In theory, she’s meant to be sitting down with cast members to talk about their story, but a good portion of this interview is about how much they love her and how amazing she is and how real she is and how she is just, so, I can’t even, she’s so beautiful.
“So, why are you here today?” Khloe asks Will. She does let him speak for a minute, during which time his actual human emotions come through again, as he says, “When I met Kyle, I found more than what I already had. I didn’t know there was more. He changed my life.”
But of course, this is really all about Khloe. “I really know exactly how you feel,” she replies. “I know you don’t think I do — but I do.” Will is still crying, by the way.
4. No one here is a role model.
We know these shows are all about appearance, but they all proclaim to be about “getting healthy” and “being self-confident.” We’re supposed to relate to the subjects when they hate themselves (because we hate ourselves, too!) and then be inspired when they hit their goal weight and everything in their life suddenly changes for the way, way better. But there are no role models here.
The second cast member we meet is Stephanie, who describes herself as the DUFF in her friend group.
“What is a ‘DUFF’?” Khloe asks, after Stephanie concludes her (presumably) contractually obligated freak-out over Khloe Kardashian and how amazing she is.
“Okay, that’s really fucked up,” says Khloe, in what may be the only lucid moment in this entire godforsaken series.
Because it is fucked up. We see Stephanie hanging out with her lithe, blonde pack of girlfriends, describing herself as ugly and thus unlikeable. They take selfies and criticize her body and clothing. While getting dressed to go out, they look at her dress and say, “I think it’s too tight on your stomach,” and, “You really have, like, a shape.” Stephanie totally agrees, and helpfully spends the rest of the night holding a jacket in front of her stomach, lest she cause offense.
Look, if Stephanie wants to lose weight, okay. But that’s not the solution here. The solution is losing these terrible friends. Stephanie needs to meet new people, not please the shitty people she’s surrounded by. The same goes for Will. Losing weight isn’t going to un-break his heart and make his ex-boyfriend move back in. If Kyle would literally be willing to break the lease on his new apartment, lose his security deposit, pack up all his stuff for the second time in a year, and move back in just because Will lost 40 pounds — then Will has way bigger problems.
5. Trainers aren’t therapists.
Khloe sets up both Will and Stephanie with personal trainers. That’s great! Working with a trainer can actually be a life-changing experience, especially if you’re someone for whom working out is scary or unpleasant. A good trainer can teach you how to actually enjoy exercise and do it in a sustainable way. And rational exercise can certainly have a positive impact on your life. But, just to be clear, physical fitness is not happiness and personal trainers are not therapists.
I know it may be confusing given that every weight-loss reality show casts the trainers as demigods or father figures, capable of healing all your psychic wounds by shouting, “GIVE ME TEN MORE!” But yeah, your trainer is not your social worker.
Nor are they your dietitian, by the way (unless they are an actual registered dietitian, of course, or a PhD in nutrition science — which most trainers aren’t). Stephanie gets paired with Luke Milton, who seems like a super friendly guy and may even be a good trainer. Sure, I couldn’t find his credentials anywhere, but he is quite ripped, not to mention Australian. So. That’s something. I really wanted to like him because he is literally the only person on this show — slash, in Stephanie’s life — who’s being nice to her. But then he prescribes the following nutrition program to her: “If it’s had a life, it’s good for ya.” By this, he means plants, meat, and fish, which is fine. Really, I wish he’d just left food out of it because he’s not a nutrition professional. But, at the very least, I wish he’d been a little more clear on this point rather than relying on his very poetic generalization. It sort of sounds like a cannibal diet.
6. Your body is not a weapon.
Finally, it’s the entire premise of this show that makes it so unbelievably wrong. “Who do you want to get revenge on?” Khloe asks her subjects. Stephanie wants to get back at her mean friends, and Will wants to get back at his boyfriend. But neither of these situations really calls for vengeance so much as leaving behind the people that hurt you and moving on with your life. I understand that Moving On With Your Life Body isn’t quite so catchy a title, but your body is not an instrument of vengeance.
Will’s throws a cocktail party, hoping that Kyle will show up and, I guess, just burst into tears or propose. As ever, the revenge plan is a lot more exciting than the actual execution. I mean, this is a reality show, but Will’s relationship was real. Would you actually want your recent ex-boyfriend to turn up at the fake party you threw just for him, and then have the entire thing broadcast on E!? I’m fairly certain that if Kyle had actually shown up, then Will would have been the one to burst into tears. I’m telling you, people: THERAPY.
This is the only redeeming quality Revenge Body has going for it, and it’s entirely unintentional. This show underscores just how un-life-changing weight-loss really is. Neither Will nor Stephanie are transformed by working out and eating foods that “had a life.” They seem fine at the end, but they were fine to begin with. They were just going through totally ordinary, crummy phases of life: hurt, heartbreak, and insecurity. There is no escaping these things, and there’s no one to blame them on. Not even Kyle.
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