We in the "intelligencia" have nothing nice to say about “Survivor,”
June 9, 2000 12:59 PM   Subscribe

We in the "intelligencia" have nothing nice to say about “Survivor,” but "the masses" can't get enough of it. Yet I watched this weeks episode and was riveted, so I’m turning in my intelligencia club card. And I reject the two lines of criticism that I keep hearing, (1) that the show isn't "real" and (2) that the contestants are losers who can't even start a fire. (more >>>)
posted by grumblebee (10 comments total)
(1) Eric Mink of the New York Daily News points out that "In the competition, the 15 participants ate live beetle larvae fat, caterpillar-like bugs. But they did so not because they'd become desperately hungry or weak from malnourishment, which would have been a truly dramatic situation, but solely because contest rules require their participation in all such stunts under penalty of expulsion." But this IS a dramatic situation. Imagine I invented a story in which a character was told he could have a million dollars if he ate a handful of live bugs. He's an incredibly squeamish guy, but he is also greedy. What will he do? Will his greed conquer his nausea or vice versa? What would you do in his situation?

When posed as fiction, I'm sure most people would agree that this is a dramatic situation. And it's essentially the SAME situation as the one on Survivor. The only difference is that, apparently, the producers are claiming Survivor is real--not fiction. If they are making a fraudulent claim, then it is fair to criticize THEM. But they (the producers) are not the same as their SHOW, which is a story. And it can be viewed as such, regardless of whether it's true of false. Would The Godfather suddenly turn into a bad movie if Francis Ford Copella claimed that Vito Corleone was a real person? Would Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire suddenly become a bad book if it turned out that ancient Rome never existed and Gibbon made it up? No. It would no longer be a good HISTORY LESSON, but it would still be a good STORY.

(2) I would be a mess if you put me on a tropical island. I've never been camping, and I don't know how to start a fire. I'm NOT proud of this. In fact, I think it's kind of shameful, but I also think I am pretty typical of a lot of Americans. Of course, Survivor could have been a show about trained marines or veteran campers. Instead, it is a show about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. How will they cope? How will they relate to one another? To me, that is real drama.

It is also nice to see a show with a real AGE RANGE. I get very tired of "The Real World," because everyone is 20-something, and I feel like I'm back in my college dorm--a place where I never want to be again.

Is it bad to post something this long? I guess I'll find out!
posted by grumblebee at 12:59 PM on June 9, 2000

Wait, so people still watch TV these days? Well I'll be damned. ;)
posted by vitaflo at 1:14 PM on June 9, 2000

Of course the show isn't 'real'! It's not like anyone's life is ever in danger and how 'real' could you be with Tv cameras pointed at you all of the time? People act completely different than they normally would when they know they are being watched. That's my objection to these shows, they are packaged as reality when they are, of course, just entertainment.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 1:20 PM on June 9, 2000

I give, I watched both last week and this week's episode....and enjoyed them. I didn't watch them, live, I had them recorded for me and thus I get to skip some of what Eric Mink dislikes.

Survivors is so much better than RealWorld, or RoadRules. Both of which I catch myself watching - simply to see the stupidity. Bottom line for all 3, its about entertainment.

posted by jamescblack at 1:25 PM on June 9, 2000

Postings that read like this are more entertaining than a sharp stick in the eye...

no comment
posted by Jeremy at 1:54 PM on June 9, 2000

Mr. Skullhead:

But these are still real peoples' lives, regardless of how we're able to see them. It's how real people respond to the given situation: Being on an island, being recorded, competing for 1 mil., with specific rules.

Would they act the same off film? Probably not. It's even a study of how people react to having a camera on them all the time.

One thing that interests me is how differently they'll respond to the cameras in the coming weeks. That alone is a social experiment.

I'm with grumblebee, assuming I was ever actually allowed to have an intelligencia card to begin with. :-)

To get meta, I'm also in favour of long posts, especially the way you did it grumblebee.. a teaser then detail.
posted by cCranium at 1:57 PM on June 9, 2000

The British version was all the more entertaining for its farcical qualities. About a week into the programme (they were all "marooned" on a Hebridean island) most of the participants were back on the mainland in a hotel, or being treated for the flu. The tabloids had a field day.
posted by holgate at 2:54 PM on June 9, 2000

In 1727, Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels, which begins, "THE PUBLISHER TO THE READER: The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between us on the mother's side..." More recently, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Arthur Golden's Memoir's of a Geisha both start with a prefix supposedly written by an expert who proclaims the validity of what follows. Golden's "expert" is a professor of Asian Studies at NYC, and in a recent talk I attended, Golden admitted that the university had been getting many phone calls from people interested in interviewing the professor.And I'm sure you're all familiar with Orson Welles's radio adaptation of War of the Worlds, which scared thousands of Amerincans into thinking Martians were about to land in their backyards.My favorite is-it-real?/is-it-fiction work is the poem that precedes F. Scott Fiztgerald's The Great Gatsby. Written by the famous Thomas Parke D'Invilliers, it goes "Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;/If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,/Till she cry 'Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,/I must have you!'" Guess who Thomas Parke D’Invilliers really was…Then there's In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and Dutch (the Ronald Regan story) by Edmund Morris. Are these books fiction or non-fiction?And what about the 7-up series of documentaries by Michael Apted? Are these fact or fiction? Hasn't Apted altered the subject's lives by filming them every 7 years? Isn't he creating a dirty test tube?What, in fact, about ALL documentary films and non-fiction books? Don't their authors muddy the waters simply by selecting to include certain facts while leaving others out?I see Survivor as part of a long continuum of the real fading into the semi-real fading into the metaphorical.I also see it as akin to improv theatre, in which a basic situation is sketched out beforehand (i.e. you must eat the bugs or you lose) and then the "actors" can do anything they want--as long as they stay within the boundaries of the sketch.
posted by grumblebee at 7:19 PM on June 9, 2000

Let's make a distinction between the reality of the show and the reality of these people. The show is bogus in it's attempt to convey the reality of "surviving."

Intellectual that I am, I, too, have left my brain at the door on Wednesday nights. The people are real and I am enjoying watching their interactions. Basically, this is a good soap opera. And watching it is a good way to deflect the realities of my hohum existence. ;-)

posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:36 AM on June 10, 2000

By the way, are we the Intelligencia? I mean, honestly? I thought I was a smartass with a big mouth and a computer. If I knew I was expected to be the modern Montaigne, I would have tried to class my posts up a bit more, and I definitely would have watched the typos a bit more.

Nit mach mure, dhough.
posted by Ezrael at 7:09 PM on June 10, 2000

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