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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Naked and Afraid"

The TV show Naked and Afraid is an intriguing concept: putting two people into the jungle and seeing if they can survive for 21 days and reach a certain destination point. (I think many of us have wondered how we'd fare in similar circumstances.)

The show is also marketed well: though it has nothing to do with sex, its title implies that it does, and it's always a man paired with a woman, who meet each other for the first time in a remote location, stark naked (they are strategically blurred onscreen).

All of the people who volunteer for the show are always self-styled survivalists, or wilderness experts. But a lot of them in fact seem to be no such thing. A fair number of them, especially the women, seem to rely on their partner to do most of the work.

The show is most interesting as a study in psychological endurance: how long will people go sleep-deprived and food-deprived before they give up, or at least become dispirited. (It doesn't take long.) While it's not clear how much real danger the cast members are in, they are inevitably tested to the limits of their endurance, and all lose weight during the 21 days.

Watching the show, it's hard not to wonder how the human race survived the Stone Age.

A more accurate name for the show would have been Tired and Hungry and Dirty. But that wouldn't have had the allure of Naked and Afraid.

It's hard not to wonder what the sexual dynamic is, at least at first, between the two castmates. Surprisingly, it's almost nonexistent, at least after the first hour or so. The presence of the cameramen must quash whatever friskiness they might have initially felt, then, soon enough, they're basically starving, filthy, and covered with mosquito bites, none of which exactly encourage romance.

On top of that, the man and woman sometimes end up resenting each other.

But by the standards of reality shows, it seems quite real, and that's what makes it interesting. The cast members' discouragement doesn't seem faked, and you don't get the impression that the cameramen are feeding them MetRx bars on the side, or that they're sleeping in posh hotels when the cameras aren't rolling (as Bear Grylls evidently did in Man vs. Wild).

That original "reality" show, Survivor, was summer camp by comparison.

The show is worth a watch, just don't expect titillation. It's more about the soft porn of watching other human beings break down.


Chris Mallory said...

"Watching the show, it's hard not to wonder how the human race survived the Stone Age.'

You have to remember, the Stone Age humans still had thousands of years of knowledge and tools at their disposal. It wouldn't be much different from taking a Stone Age tribesman from the Amazon or the Outback and dropping them in 21st Century Los Angeles. The tribesmen would be dead or in jail in 3 days.

John Craig said...

Chris --
All true. And they had tribes, so could benefit from teamwork.

Still…glad I'm living in this day and age.

Steven said...

I recommend 'naked and marooned' (US: naked and castaway)with Ed Stafford. He's a British ex army officer who went to live on a small tropical island for 60 days with no clothes or supplies. He has to find a water source, build a shelter, withstand severe hunger, work hard just to keep getting the bare minimum, and come up with a gameplan to do better, all while coping with nearly going potty from lack of social contact.

I liked this a lot more than naked and afraid and it might restore your faith in humanity.

Ed Stafford also has the distinction of being the only person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, through coca regions where he could be mistaken for an American agent and killed, tribal regions where he could be mistaken for a prospector and killed, and hundreds of miles of dense jungle where there is a fairly long list of things that could kill him. Suffice to say, if Jack Bauer ever met him, he (JB) would absolutely shit himself.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Is that shown n the US? What channel? That does sound more left, they've left out the sex appeal angle an d60 days is much more of a test than 21 days.

Steven said...

Its a discovery channel show. It sounds more left?

here's the guy:

John Craig said...

Steven --
Thank you. I'll keep an eye open for it. I saw part of that walking-the-Amazon show one time. Amazingly audacious and brave feat.