JAI HO PRESENTS:
Survivor is Almost Irrelevant: The Season at a Glance, from a Contemporary (Amateur) Cultural Theorist
I'm a lifelong fan, but...Survivor's really gone downhill. It's almost irrelevant. It's not much better than Jersey Shore or Rock of Love.
Survivor used to be about building a new society, working together/apart, exploring a new culture, a true journey. TV was changed forever when we saw Rudy and Rich form an unlikely partnership, the Kucha tribe abandoning everything to take care of Michael Skupin when he fell in the fire, Big Tom dancing about not having to share his bacon. Remember Sandra negotiating with locals in the Panamanian village? Sean and Paschal riding the elephant? Tina and Colby counting kangaroos on their final day in Australia? The past few seasons could have taken place in Key West, for all we know. If anybody would've fallen into a fire in Samoa, God help them, because some people in the cast would've probably roasted marshmallows over the corpse.
Here's where I am. I do not care about Russell, Brandon, or any of the Hantz family - they make me ashamed to live in Houston. I do not care about Coach's religious delusions, or Christianity or prayer circles for that matter - if I wanted to watch a Christian TV show, I would turn to TBN or Joel Osteen or something. I do not care about Ozzy being Jungle Boy - if I wanted to watch that, I'd go watch the Discovery Channel. I do not care about Jeff Probst berating and yelling at the contestants to dig deep and act like a therapist at "tribal" (when did they drop council?) and playing favorites, I didn't think that this was Dance Moms or anything with Dr. Drew in it.
The older series (Borneo - Pearl Islands) were more about character development, the contestants, social dynamics, camp life, interesting and different challenges (not just puzzles/hold this stuff/summer camp obstacle course) and Jeff wasn't a narrator, he basically explained challenge rules and read the votes. Note that Phil Keoghan has been on The Amazing Race for almost as long as Jeff has been on Survivor yet his role is essentially unchanged, just explaining challenges and greeting teams with minimal interaction with them and/or the audience.
These past seasons have glorified men as hyper masculine heroes and put down women as either loudmouthed bitches, skanky flirts, or invisible coattail riders. I'm surprised no women's groups have brought this up. Maybe they just don't care.
In broader terms, the societal significance of Survivor has worn off. Reality TV dominates the airwaves, and maybe it's time for it to retire. It would mark the end of an era, but very few TV shows have lasted longer than Survivor currently has - even highly popular, top rated Friends decided it needed to wrap it up after ten years.
This season was painful to watch. Mikayla (the girl who Brandon claimed was "tempting" him when all she was doing was building a shelter, fully clothed) should sue CBS for defamation of character. I think she's going to have trouble finding work after the way she was portrayed on TV, and she has practically nothing to show for it. She didn't even get to speak at the reunion, along with Semhar, Papa Bear, Elyse, Albert, and Rick, whereas Ozzy babbled like an idiot for 10 minutes and Russell got his say even though he played no part in this season. In the early seasons, everyone got a chance to speak, even if it was to say "I got a new job" or "I learned a lot" or "I have ten toes." The majority of the women this season were largely undervalued - at the reunion, Probst barely acknowledged Sophie (the freaking WINNER) and all but ignored Christine, who rivaled Ozzy in Redemption Island wins, and Edna, who had some great moments on the show.
I also found Brandon and Cochran problematic. Brandon is a 19 year old. Despite the fact that he has two children at age 19 (which I find appalling, given that he doesn't seem to have much education and a skewed world outlook which he'll be passing onto them) he was nowhere near mature enough for the show. He should have been at home, playing with his friends, trying to raise his kids with his wife, and make sense of his life. When I was 19, I would not have been mature enough to participate in Survivor - very few 19 year olds are. Notwithstanding, he's a total creep who has a violent history of gang violence and domestic violence, and displays deranged behavior, thinking that by saying "sorry" and referencing Jesus gives him reason to bully people and treat them like crap, and then demand sympathy in return from those same people. He should not have been cast. Cochran - oy - it seemed like he had no clue what he was getting into. Yes, it's a game, but if you're really the superfan you say you are, where's that cunning? where's that strength? and did you forget that everything you say is being recorded? Cause he said some stupid stuff. He should have stuck with being the genuine person he was with Dawn and original Savaii, he was tolerable then and had he stuck with Savaii and maybe won an immunity or two, he could've possibly beaten Whitney or Keith in a potential Savaii final three.
One bright spot: the winner, Sophie. She reminded me a lot of Kelly Wiglesworth from season 1, who came so close to winning. She was strong, won some pivotal challenges, and didn't really do anything on camera that I found objectionable or "bratty," especially given the people she had to put up with. I admire her being open to changing herself, but I would've told Whitney to screw herself because unlike Sophie, she's not contributing anything to the image of women on Survivor. Sophie was strong-willed, physically strong, and had she been male, Probst would have declared her the "best winner ever" and "all star material." Women today are made to feel that if they put themselves in the middle, they are manipulative, but if they stand on the sidelines, they are cold and unfeeling. It's the same deal with Hillary Clinton - when she cried after winning a primary, she was weak; when she didn't cry, she was deemed "frigid." I think Sophie deserves every cent of the million, especially for figuring out a completely different way to win after 20-odd seasons. People wonder why she wasn't seen more often; most likely, there was no footage of her badmouthing others because she was smart enough to plead the fifth. She most likely had as many bad thoughts about the others as Coach, Ozzy, Albert, or Brandon; it is a testament to a strong will to be able to keep those thoughts inside instead of acting like the camera is an extension of your brain. In earlier seasons, there would be segments on playing around at camp, talking about random stuff, singing, or reminiscing about home, instead of the constant challenge talk, immunity idol searches, and strategy talk. Not so much this season. Unlike Ozzy, I think Sophie was not a brat, was interesting, and would've been a blast to hang around with. She reminds me also of a real life friend of mine who has a rock-hard exterior and a sour expression when she's working, but when you start talking to her, she becomes a fun goofball, dishing out funny stories and listening to yours, and trying hard not to giggle too loudly to draw attention to herself - in short, a really cool chick who most people find standoffish because they don't know how to approach her. Social skills come in many different shapes and sizes (think haha funny vs. sarcastic dry wit funny vs. over the top crazy funny vs. charmingly amusing) I have a feeling Sophie would be similar. Congratulations Sophie, do something great with the money and your life, and make some new friends that were not on this season of Survivor.