When Survivor hit TV for the first time years ago, I think I was in high school. Everyone was caught up in this brand new TV program format. People were talking about it non-stop and it seemed that everyone was watching it.
Except me apparently. I worked at a pharmacy and one day between customers, I skimmed through a newspaper. One columnist wrote with disdain about this TV show. His take on it was something along the lines of: “In a world where people actually struggle every day to simply survive and feed their children, and where some still starve to death or don’t make it to end of the day for some other reason, the West feels compelled to stage such fake scenarios and call it entertainment.” As you can tell, he was pretty disgusted with the whole franchise, from which has spun many other reality TV programs.
So I never watched it. Reality TV really isn’t my thing. Okay, well, one exception. My husband and I watch 19 Kids and Counting. As a new mom, I find Michelle Duggar inspiring. If she can do it with 19 kids, I can surely make it through sleepless nights with my one, sole, tiny human.
Anyhoodle. The whole reality tv-fake-surviving-entertainment brand just isn’t for me. It just feels like it’s mocking true hardship, suffering and loss of life. I don’t know. Maybe I’m reading too much into a TV show.
And then I came across this article which describes a new TV series which seems to be largely based on The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games describes a horrific, unjust world full of horror and suffering. And now we have a TV show that seems to be based on it. For our entertainment. Yay.
Discovery has dubbed Survival Live “the first-ever live broadcast survival show,” and in a longer synopsis on Entertainment Weekly, the network called it a “24/7 real time, multi-platform viewing experience where viewers will play a large role in each survivalist’s success or failure. The survivalists struggle will be streamed live, day and night, from the moment they are abandoned into the remote wilderness with only the clothes on their back. Viewers will have the ability to check out the survivalists biometric data to see who is physically struggling, and can elect to help them out. The survivalists will be able to build a relationship with the audience by talking to them through the cameras. That relationship could be the difference between failing to succeed on the first week or making it the full 42 days. To prosper, these survivalists will need the audience in their corner if they want to stay alive.” The final sentence of that release is so ominous, it seemed to indicate that this whole thing was an April Fools’ joke; I’m still not entirely sure it isn’t, because I’m pretty sure we were just informed by Discovery that we — the hypothetical audience — are actually responsible for keeping these reality show contestants alive…
And they’ll have to prove many: Not only must they make fire, find food, and go out searching for the nearest source of fresh water, they’re going to have to gain our sympathy so we will in turn allow them access to things like food and personal care items. The “biometric data” will, one can assume, allow us to see who is in dire need of water, who has lost the greatest amount of weight, and who is having a Lisa Whelchel–style emotional breakdown and really, really needs a hug. You will sit in your warm bed, in your temperature-controlled home, eating a bowl of Fritos with the works, and you will deny her a hug because she has not worked hard enough to make you like her. I repeat: These survivalists will need the audience in their corner if they want to stay alive.
So the network won’t let people die or kill each other in Survival Live, but at what point does this whole type of franchise become disgusting anyway? Are we there yet? I just read a book about the early church and persecution and people being thrown to the lions as entertainment. People would cheer as they watched gladiators fight to the death. Fun times for the crowds.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, and part of this is due to lack-of-sleep-caused-by-an-adorable-newborn, but I thought I would raise it and ask for your feedback. Do these types of shows devalue life and suffering? TV viewers eat their Fritos and decide who “lives/survives” or who “dies/leaves the island”. Just based on whether they found them sympathetic? Whether they liked a contestant or not? “I like you, so you ‘live’!”
Or am I being too sensitive?
Andrea adds: If you are too sensitive then I am too. I have never been able to stomach “reality” TV.by