I used to love Survivor. In fact, in public gatherings I often felt compelled to defend it and would sometimes go so far as to declare it ‘the best reality t.v show ever made’. I liked Survivor not least because of its sleek production. It is a beautiful show to watch. The colours and scenery are always pleasing to the eye, and the camera crew really know how to capitalise on that—panning out to capture the views of the oceans and green lush landscapes and catching insects and reptiles go about their daily existence. Survivor’s camera crew can make the falling of a coconut a beautiful event.
I also loved Survivor because it seemed to me to be a brilliant showcase of the human psyche – the American psyche specifically. Yes, I realise it’s a reality tv show and that what we see is in fact not reality. But the emaciated and hairy contestants that emerge at the end of the 30 days demonstrate that they do at least go through some physical discomfort.
The way that some contestants go about trying to get others on their sides, and the way that others don’t even try is, I think, fascinating.
I have not seen Survivor for a few years. I don’t know why—life got in the way and I found better things to do, I’m sure. But for some reason I have allowed Survivor Samoa into my life (I think it’s because it’s holiday season and I am being lazy and slothful), and though it remains compelling viewing, I am disappointed with particular elements of they human psyche that I have witnessed in this series. Perhaps they were there before but I was insensitive to them.
To put it simply, I am disappointed with the lack of sisterhood between the female contestants and the misogyny of all the contestants. Why is it that the women are the first to go? The stock response to this is because they are physically weak. Of course women are typically physically weaker than men, but I have some counter-responses to this. Firstly, some of they men on Survivor may look incredibly muscular and have a great deal of strength, but many of these men turn out to be lazy and half-hearted in the physical challenges. Think Jaison in this series. I can’t recall his name, but there was another man in a previous series who was also prone to giving up when things got rough. Put simply, some of the men on Survivor get away with being lazy just because it is assumed they are strong and powerful. Women, on the other hand, have to constantly prove their physical strength because it is always doubted—no it is more than doubted, it is often simply overlooked.
My second counter-argument, and this is more important I think, is that not all the challenges in Survivor are physical. Actually, I get the feeling from watching this series that they are finally attempting to address the problem of gender discrimination (against women) in challenges by, for example, having the women compete against each other, rather than everyone competing together. Regardless of this, contestants still seem to carry an assumption that physical strength is the most important thing a team or an individual can possess. This is disappointing and perpetuates the idea that physical strength will always win over any other type of strength (like memory, puzzle-solving, endurance, among others), and that therefore men are better than women.