Saturday, March 12, 2011

Survivor Redemption Island E4: My God

"It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you—whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?" - Ayn Rand, How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society

"I'm doing this for my god," Matt

In reality--and his Christianity--Matt was referring to the supernatural conception of god, the first mover. Reality television is rarely real though, and the comment was edited in to convey a different conception of "god." This Redemption Island duel was different, as it was, for the first time, a face off between tribes--tribes that have been edited to represent opposing forces. It's a clash of the titans, both literally and metaphorically, and its of the utmost important that we take a stance on it.

When Matt said "my god," the editors wanted us to think about Rob. You know, the same guy Matt praised right before that guy blindsided him out of the tribe. Yes, his god is an awesome god. Except that's the entire point. When did Rob go from being a big villain to a big hero? Where are the confessionals from Andrea and Kristina about how much of a power monger Rob is? Where are the confessionals from Ashley, Grant, and Natalie about how much of a malevolent dictator Rob is as he disregards their opinions and makes them vote out Kristina instead of Phillip? They're conveniently left on the cutting room floor.

The lesson here is that, if you let them, the editors can make or break your conceptions of these characters. It's the same lesson Purple Kelly learned in Nicaragua. It's the same lesson Rupert learned in Pearl Islands and All-Stars. The editors will make a player into the character they need to in order to tell the story they want to tell. Do you really think Purple Kelly was irrelevant and had no impact on the game? Be real, they were punishing her for quitting. Do you really think Rupert was an epic hero in Pearl Islands and a doofus in All-Stars? Be real, they needed a foil for Jonny Fairplay (because every great villain needs an epic hero to battle). This is the point we would do well to learn.

The editors can make anyone a hero or a villain, but they only do so based upon how they expect you to respond. That's right, you are the one who is really in control of all this. The editors create heroes and villains not based upon what they thinks makes someone good or bad, but upon what you think makes someone good and someone evil. They do so in order to get you to continue watching. This process of pandering actually begins long before the editing. It goes into designing twists and casting the players. All of these decisions are made to keep you tuned into the show.

(Note: I don't think the editors and producers have ever completely pandered to the audience. If I did think that, I wouldn't watch the show. However, that topic is a much different column that I don't want to delve into right now.)

The lesson for us is to take seriously the immense responsibility we have--the responsibility to ourselves. What kind of show do you want to watch? Figure out your answer to that question and decide who your heroes and villains are, not based on the editing, but based on their statements and actions and your knowledge of reality. Now, there is a bit of a problem here, as out of the immense amount of footage that is captured, we're only shown a sliver. What we witness is necessarily limited. However, since we know that, we can factor that into our evaluation of the players. Admitting your own limited perspective is a big step towards expanding your perspective.

To get a better grasp of what I mean, take this entry from Mario Lanza's Funny 115 2.0. By turning Courtney into a "word assassin," the editors were looking to do one thing: turn her into an acceptable loser in the F3. They knew Todd won, so they needed to give you a reason to accept Courtney losing, so they turned her into a villain. Otherwise, you would have remembered her as the precocious underdog who overcame her physical shortcomings to excel in the game. They made you forget all that though by showing her "mock" another underdog--the not-too-pretty, not-too-athletic, not-too-intelligent Denise. I never saw Courtney as a villain though because I never saw her comments as mocking.

(Note: The worst "hit job" by the editors in Survivor history is the Thailand recrap, where they turned Clay Jordan into satan's spawn so you would accept him losing to a near-sociopath.)

Courtney's comments were just. To understand why, I had to look beyond the editing at all the other factors involved--competition, the game of Survivor, welfare, politics, government, natural rights, honesty, self esteem, and the nature of man (to name a few). I won't go into the details of my rationale (that's another completely different essay), but not only did I not find Courtney's comments to be villainous, I found them to be heroic. Why? Because, in short, it's never just to reward weakness and inability, and I want to see a Survivor in which strength and ability are the indicators of success.

(Note: Strength and ability are in no way limited to physicality.)

Ultimately, that is what you need to decide. What Survivor do you want to see? Based upon your answer--and only your answer--you can then pick your villains, heroes, and gods. Survivor has never been a frivolous game of messing with people's heads and/or living in the wilderness. It has always been--and always will be--a battle of morality that speaks as much about people in the way they play it as it does in the way that they watch it. That's why, when I watch, my god is Boston Rob Mariano.

Rob is the Survivor I want to see for the following reasons:
1. He always uses his mind.
2. He always enjoys himself (positive perspective, humor, and outgoing).
3. He calls it like he sees it.
4. He is honest, with himself and others--treating them as equals. (Don't believe me? Watch this Funny 115 1.0 entry.)
5. He always gives his best effort.

My point is not to get you to worship at the same altar as me, but to get you to take advantage of the opportunity the editors are giving you and worship at the altar of your choosing--not theirs. If you can't consistently, honestly, and intelligently defend your god, then you're not being just--and that hurts yourself. This is a matter of good and evil, and there's only one way you can help good win:

Think about it.

(Yes, this column is a moral statement on many levels. The inconspicuous absence is intentional, deliberate, and well though out.)


Scott Fisher said...

Insightful article on Survivor editing and how it influences perceptions. At the end of the article you mention "good and evil", which brings up the topic of ethics and rules to live by. One person's rule might be evil to one and good to another, so how do you solve this dilemma? Stefan Molyneux explains the answer in his book, Universally Preferred Behavior, available for free download at Stefan is keenly aware of Ayn Rand and has improved on her thoughts in many ways.

AMAI said...

Nice take on the approach to editing, placing the viewer in the driver's seat, SM. Glad I stopped by to read this.