Taylor, BC

village on a dietI have probably watched more television since returning home then I have in the past ten years. 

My years of television absence was largely the product of laziness in the sense that I was too much of a couch potato to actually go out and buy a television set, opting instead to watch downloaded films, shows and DVD’s on my notebook.  I believe that is quite common among people who say they don’t watch television.  Perhaps in the physical sense they are not watching television, but they are still putting the hours into their programming.  I’m quite impressed with the new HD/Plasma sets and if I ever find employment one of those babies is on the buy list.  Far more civilized to watch a good film on a good system.  Notebook entertainment is for airports and dorm rooms.

Most of television remains crap, however.  That is something that has yet to change.  If it isn’t a commercial about toothpaste, then is a commercial about a hair product.  If it isn’t a commercial about breakfast cereal, it’s a pretentious Apple advertisement followed by a pitch about Dodge trucks.  All tied together with an endless supply of cheaply produced, five-minute famed laced reality programming.  I didn’t know what a Snookie was six months ago.  I sure do now.

I watched an episode of CBC’s Village on a Diet yesterday evening and was strangely amused.  Reality weight-loss is not a new medium with incredibly fit and confident fitness instructors screaming insults at incredibly overweight and depressed people all for the benefit and visual enjoyment of the viewer.  I generally view reality television as an ironic medium which provides viewers either a cheap ego stroke (gosh, I’m so relieved I’m not a messed up teen mom, I feel normal) or a cheap ego bash (why can’t I build things like Mike Holmes, he’s a normal guy like me, right?).

In many ways, Village on a Diet does not deviate much from that formula.  It essentially showcases the Northern BC town of Taylor as they work toward losing a ton of weight.  Taylor was specifically chosen as 60% of the population is overweight or obese.  Guided by a couple of fit-as-hell VAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAncouver  trainers, and a team of smug psychiatrists, dieticians and doctors, the blue-collar Taylor folks are put through a series of challenging diets, exercise regimes and lifestyle changes.

What I find interesting is that the health situation in Taylor is essentially representative of small town Canada, especially a northern small town (not that far from where I am).   Limited food choice, automobile dominated culture (despite being totally walkable), hard living (drinking, drugs, alcohol), limited and diminishing health services, aversion toward change and a deep distrust of outsiders…especially from the city.  I chucked when the owner of the local pizza joint told Vancouver super-chef Jonathan Chovancek to ‘fuck off’  and that he ‘didn’t know anything about the people of Northern BC’.  It’s a typical attitude that anyone from the north, including myself, is guilty of, yet it I thought it was interesting that such regional attitudes would burst to the forefront in a show about weight loss.

Some circumstances are not their fault.  Taylor sits in the middle of a food desert with the nearest decent groceries available in Fort. St. John.  Fresh produce is quite expensive in northern communities and not everyone is benefitting from the gas boom in the region.  What is available is often of sub-par quality relative to larger centers.  While food security is a growing concern among decision-makers at most levels of government, it is essentially a closed book in small towns.

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