My friend Larry Edward’s has a piece in the U-T slamming reality TV shows.
As a fan of Survivor, I thought I should respond.
Yes, such shows are considered harmless, if not mindless, entertainment. Yet, they mock the memories of true survivors – survivors who didn’t have any behind-the-scenes overseers on hand to rescue them from any genuine threat to their otherwise comfy lives.
Larry admits he’s never watched Survivor, so I offer him this challenge — come down from your ivory tower, Larry and starting with the next season (it won’t work to enter mid season), watch an entire season of Survivor.
The reason I offer the challenge is that without ever having watched the show, his own challenge to the producers lacks credibility. Survivor makes no pretense to being anything other than a game show. It is all about surviving the game and winning $1 million. It is not about surviving in a Donor-pass type real life struggle. There is no comparison. To say Survivor mocks real-life tragedies, then you must level the same criticism at “Robinson Caruso,” or “The Swiss Family Robinson,” or even “Lord of the Flies,” because off those “entertainments” offered alternative realities. Each of these works of literature are a form of escapism that exploit the misadventures of real people.
I didn’t watch the first season of Survivor because I thought it beneath my dignity, but my boss convinced me to give the second season a try, and I was hooked. The show is full of strategy and intrigue, and though it is a game, offers a revealing glimpse of how real people, real personalties, make deals, lie, aim for nobility and dignity and deal with adversity in some fairly strenuous conditions. Yes, there is a certain bit of unreality when you know that CBS always has a safety net nearby, but that safety net seems to be rarely used. Only once, when a contestant was badly burned, have the producers stepped in an altered the course of the show. Other wise, cuts and bug bites and the inability to easily secure water or fire or (especially) food are left up to the tribe and the individuals to deal with as best they can. The game looks neither easy to play (I challenge Larry to give it a try himself), nor entirely put on. Yes, it’s not like being stranded for real on some snow-capped mountain, but it is not totally devoid of real survival issues either.
My wife is also now as equally hooked on Survivor for many of the same reasons. So, Larry, you see, the show really does appeal to some pretty smart people.