For a society that has it all, one of the biggest reality show crazes is centered on those who must do without. It’s ironic that centuries after the discovery of fire and decades after massive technological advances, humans revert to obsessing over strangers encountering the same harsh conditions of wilderness.
Reality TV is based on the human desire to know more about other people. Thousands of Americans sit at home and insert themselves into other people’s lives, sobbing about break-ups and laughing at jokes that aren’t even theirs.
And while wilderness is a completely different end of the spectrum than, say, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the aspects are the same.Instead of living through the glamour of airhead socialites, people can watch attractive women and ruggedly handsome men tough it out in the depths of the jungle. It’s all for the same purpose: shallow entertainment.
Shows like Love in the Wild, Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild, and, of course, Survivor, bring in a new aspect of adventure and human instinct as entertainment.
But is it really a survival show?
First of all, every one of the contestants is at least slightly attractive. If networks know what the people want, then what the people want is a tribe of hot bodies in various stages of nudity.
In addition, there are inevitably several love triangles developed throughout the series. Whether its purpose is to find a soul mate or just make it through a month without microwaves, if there is a collection of multiple people as contestants, hook-ups are imminent.
While maybe it is the atmosphere of desperation jump-starting the human instinct to reproduce and save our species, romance seems forced and fake on this kind of show. I believe that throwing twelve strangers into a bad situation may force them to at least be friends, but I doubt that most sensible humans would be daydreaming and picking apart flowers as a he loves me/he loves me not strategy in life-or-death circumstances. Personally, I think it would make a lot more sense to be doing something useful, say, hunting or building shelter.
Speaking of “life-or-death,” how dangerous are these situations? Picturing the scene of the series, I am constantly reminded that these people are far from isolated. While the girls complain about lack of hair-care products and boys mourn missing football season, cameramen stand around, most likely snacking on protein bars and tweeting from their smartphones.
In the case of any emergency, contestants are immediately rushed to the paramedics on site, or flown home if they can’t take the pressure of survival.
This eliminates any sense of urgency or real desperation. It’s not an authentic and necessary survival, because the competitors can opt out whenever they feel like it. The shows are consequently artificial, with soap opera drama and gossip to rival that of Mean Girls.
It has been established that reality TV is very rarely legitimate reality, but survival shows especially cross the border into a fantasy, only instituted for the public to live out their glorified views of life in the wild.
And contrary to popular belief, wilderness may not always consist of skinny dipping with bronzed personal trainers.