“At least I’m not Steven Assanti.”
I remember telling that to my best friend, Carlos, during my most recent period of unemployment. I had gone back to watch the “star” of My 600 lb Life saga from episode one after seeing a few clips on TikTok as more people became aware of general Assanti madness. It’s a spectacle, it’s easy to see why people would get caught up in the drama and insanity of the Assanti family.
We’ve discussed my feelings on the show that features people that are morbidly obese and enabled by family and abandoned by society and the incredibly blunt Dr. Now. These people are filmed as grotesque social outcasts, languishing in food, abusing their families and their bodies are subjected to a leering camera and production crew that seems to take sick pleasure in making these individuals bathe and be nude on camera.
But recently, my feelings on the show have changed. I have not watched entire seasons, mostly empathetically and occasionally repulsed and disgusted. No, now I’m watching only a few key episodes all with patients that are objectively failures. James King, Cindy Vela and anything Assanti. I don’t want to admit how many times I’ve replayed each of these episodes, sneering with smug glee at these people whine, cry and complain about how much their bodies hurt and how bad hospital food tastes.
I relished in my superiority over these people struggling with trauma, food addiction, mental health issues and more all the while being at my heaviest, still suffering from depression and anxiety and eating like absolute trash. The emperor had no clothes and yet, he felt superior. This felt particularly cruel considering that I was unemployed at the time and while a job and income do not define a person, I had no high ground to stand on morally or physically if I wanted to try and place my candle anywhere near the participants of this show.
And yet I felt superior enough to savor watching these individuals fail. I felt better about myself knowing that despite my weight, I could still fit in my shower and that despite my mental health issues I could still podcast and write and do all the things that I thought defined me in the place of gainful employment. I could tie my shoes and pick up my own fast food and at my lowest points, that made me feel superior.
Morbid cringe: a nearly terminal spiral of watching cringe content and taking intense relish in it. ContraPoints talked about it during her video on the topic of cringe and I always thought I was too good for morbid cringe. I wasn’t a Christorian, I wasn’t an anti-SJW; surely, I cannot be someone who takes such pleasure in watching people at their absolute worst. I’ve watched hours of car crashes, Karen videos and even previously My 600 lb Life and felt compassionate cringe or even empathy, lamenting for the othering the morbidly obese face as my own mother was morbidly obese. But there’s been something about this recent layoff that turned my heart from kindness and optimism turned cold and cruel. I’ve always relished in schadenfreude, the savoring of other people’s demise or misfortune, but this; this has been entirely different, entirely new. I have become a worse version of myself: someone actively throwing tomatoes at the person in the stocks rather than simply being in the crowd.
And I hate that person I have become.
Unplugging has helped. Not sinking back into those circles where I’ll sit and binge this media for hours at a time. Realization helps as well; there’s nothing like looking in the mirror to see that you are in fact no longer Jekyll but Hyde. And having the humility to admit I’m wrong does not come easy; it’s bitter work but needed to save whatever is left of me. Because I should be aware of how precariously I dangle towards being a person others are mocking.