April 13, 2017

"It was as if he had been preparing for this absolutely unpredictable, completely public, and incredibly vulnerable moment for his entire life. His composure was astounding."

"And when he connected the entire event to the word metamorphosis, I distinctly remember thinking — how in the world did you just do that?"

Says Jeff Probst in an interview about last night's episode of "Survivor," which we're already discussing in a post I put up right after the episode. In the comments on my post, there's an accusation that the show is scripted and some blaming of the show for setting Zeke up. I think Probst's interview deals with that. Here's his response to the interviewer's question about how Zeke — the outed transgender — had thought about what might happen in the course of the competition:
I met Zeke in casting and loved him. I still have my original notes from that meeting. He was very engaging, gifted in his ability to manipulate with his words, and he wore this crazy Hawaiian shirt and had poofy hair. We knew we were doing Millennials vs. Gen X as a theme and we wanted him on the Millennials tribe immediately. It wasn’t until after he left that I was told he was transgender. From that point forward we agreed that if his story was to be told, he would be the one to decide when, where, and how.

As for someone else bringing it up, Zeke was fully aware someone might suspect it or bring it up and he said, “I will deal with it as it arises.” And I have to add it was never a question of Zeke being worried his story would come out. Zeke is a massive Survivor fan and his point with us was very clear — he wanted to be seen as a Survivor player. Not the first transgender Survivor player. I really respected that distinction and I understood it.
Back at my post from yesterday, Scott said:
Reality my ass.. It was purposely scripted and staged. METAMORPHOSIS was the puzzle word in the immunity challenge. Watching tv anymore is like watching productions from the Soviet Union Central Committee.
I responded to that:
The whole season is titled "Game Changers." It's the basis for the selection of contestants — all have played before and supposedly done something game-changing — and it's been a continual theme. How would the players solving the puzzle have understood the puzzle they were doing otherwise?

Also, Zeke played before and was never outed and never chose to reveal his secret. We watched the other season and we never guessed. We believed we were looking at a not-terribly-masculine gay man. I'm sure Zeke was cast both times because of the potential for this interesting aspect of his life to become part of the story, but it never happened in his first season, and I think the way it happened here was Varner's doing.

Is it possible that the producers consult during the show with the contestants and egg them on to do something they believe will make good TV? Yes, but they can't script this stuff. These people just aren't good enough actors and the risk to the show is horrible.

If you watch the clip and see how the other tribe members react, you won't believe it's fake. Melodramatic acting is pretty obvious, especially in amateurs.
And Jon Burack said:
Amazing that anyone watches these shows. Nothing in this discussion, including Ann's comment, gives me any sense at all of what attracts people to these shows. I realize, it's a facet of the culture of which I will go to my grave totally ignorant and totally indifferent. I am content with that.
I gave a 4-point argument for watching the show:
1. Interesting characters who really want something but must work with each other (and against each other) to get what they want. Concentrated human behavior.

2. Beautifully photographed and edited. Both the natural setting -- with landscapes and plants and animals -- and the human interaction and narrative.

3. Relaxing familiarity but new things always happen too.

4. It's similar to sport events. Why should anyone care who wins? It's not like a war, where it really matters who wins. But that's what makes you enjoy watching. It kind of doesn't matter at all who wins, but you can psychologically engage with the fight and care even as it actually doesn't matter. I mean ask yourself why you ever get engaged with any narrative that doesn't involve your own personal comfort and happiness.
Meade reacted to my point #4:
"It's similar to sport events."

Okay. Sort of like sport events that are manipulated to make political statements and teach moral lessons.
Also at my old post — a criticism of how dishonestly the NYT writer described what happened.

50 comments:

Once written, twice... said...

Ann's reality TV fandom rotted her brain when it now comes to serious matters. Hence her love of Trump.

rcocean said...

So, now that we have all the transgenders and Gays out of the closet, is there anyone left?

If so, lets get them out right now.

Matthew Sablan said...

"And when he connected the entire event to the word metamorphosis, I distinctly remember thinking — how in the world did you just do that?"

-- Yeah, they may not have scripted it to happen, but they laid a trail of breadcrumbs.

Once written, twice... said...

Of course Ann thinks a reality TV star is a fine choice for president.

Balfegor said...

he wanted to be seen as a Survivor player. Not the first transgender Survivor player. I really respected that distinction and I understood it.

Given that the most prominent transgender people in the US today are either kooky rich people (like Martin Rothblatt or Bruce Jenner) or depraved criminals (like Bradley Manning or Pablo Gomez, who isn't precisely transgender, but rejects English gendered pronouns), it's not all bad for transgender activists to have someone who seems reasonably normal. That's how homosexuality got normalised -- it wasn't the gay pride parades with creepy fetish wear and all that, but homosexuals going to work like anyone else, visibly living ordinary bourgeois lives.

rcocean said...

Sorry, didn't see how much more there was. Survivor certainly is a fascinating show. What is it, 17 years? Frankly, I'm always skeptical of reality shows, even when they say its not "scripted" that doesn't mean they haven't mapped it out. Its like talk shows, they're not usually scripted, but they discuss beforehand what the host will say and what questions will be asked.

AprilApple said...

I stopped watching shows like Survivor because they are so heavy scripted and manipulated.

Look how clean shaven everyone is. They starve everyone, but they let everyone shave and brush their teeth off camera. If it were real, these people would be powerfully smelly and hairy.

AlbertAnonymous said...

Wow, I didn't give a shit about this yesterday, and now the good Professor has written, what, 7000 words on it? Good Lord. Who Cares!

Paddy O said...

"Okay. Sort of like sport events that are manipulated to make political statements and teach moral lessons."

So, ESPN and the Olympics. And the NFL.

Fly Emirates!

AprilApple said...

Once bitten, twice the loser. - Go hump a cardboard cut out of corrupt Hillary and write her foundation a check. She needs more money.

Bill Peschel said...

I've learned to accept what other people love and move on, pausing only to parse out what it is about it that they love.

(For the record, my wife and I were big fans of "Project Runway," going so far as to check out the DVDs and watch some of the seasons a couple times.)

I also understand why AlbertAnonymous and OnceWritten feel they have to savage Althouse. More's the pity.

Kathryn51 said...

Tried but never able to stay with any season of Survivor.

Now, Housewives of Beverly Hills? Haven't missed an episode. The Divine Lisa Vanderpump; Lovely Mom Kyle. Even Alcoholic Kim. Love 'em all. No gays, no transgenders - just a lot of rich, bitchy ladies.

Amadeus 48 said...

One's gender identity is much more interesting to oneself than it is to others. Do I care if Zeke is a product of transgender surgical hocus-pocus or a mildly effeminate gay man? No, I don't. This show is manipulative propaganda. I got it. I don't care.

AlbertAnonymous said...

Bill,

"Savage" Althouse?

Sebastian said...

"Do I care if Zeke is a product of transgender surgical hocus-pocus or a mildly effeminate gay man? No, I don't. This show is manipulative propaganda. I got it." This is what's slightly puzzling about AA's fascination. I guess anyone has to shut off the BS detector sometime. Like it gets shut off when Tony K's legal brilliance is at issue.

Static Ping said...

Never could watch Survivor for more than a few minutes before deciding I had better things to do.

This was probably scripted in the sense that the producers wanted this to happen. It's still scripted if the only people who know what is going on are the producers and their agent. The honest reactions from everyone else are gravy. That's assuming they are honest reactions; these sort of shows have been known to alter what happened to make a better narrative. It's fake reality.

Ann Althouse said...

"Look how clean shaven everyone is. They starve everyone, but they let everyone shave and brush their teeth off camera. If it were real, these people would be powerfully smelly and hairy."

You're right that you don't watch the show, because all of that is wrong. The men all have beards growing, and there is often talk about how bad everyone smells.

The accumulating grunginess is part of the fun of watching.

So your test of whether it's real is passed.

Mom2Es said...

Also, Zeke played before and was never outed and never chose to reveal his secret. We watched the other season and we never guessed.

Zeke was never officially outed on the show itself, but there were rumors swirling during Zeke's first run on the show. A regular poster in another forum I frequent called it early in season 33.

Plus, if the show producers didn't want to participate in "outing" someone, then they were free to edit the tribal council differently rather than showcasing it for half the show.

AprilApple said...

Ann - a few years ago I tuned in, and yes there were a few beards growing, but all the women had shaved pits.
I'll take your word for it, but I'm still not interested in reality shows.

AprilApple said...

Until the women have gross hairy pits - I'm boycotting! ;-)

Kevin said...

"Sort of like sport events that are manipulated to make political statements and teach moral lessons."

So it's like watching ESPN.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've learned to accept what other people love and move on, pausing only to parse out what it is about it that they love.... I also understand why AlbertAnonymous and OnceWritten feel they have to savage Althouse. More's the pity."

AlbAnon and OnceW are being silly. Maybe they eschew TV other than prestige shows but I suspect they have their relaxing/guilty pleasure shows, which includes all sports and most of what passes for news.

I like to watch about an hour of TV at night. I max out, but I like an hour. I like something that's familiar but has some intellectual challenge to it. On Survivor there's more happening that you can take in and figure out. You could re-watch the show and notice a lot. You can talk about it and come up with a lot of interesting insights afterwards, which makes it a cool show to watch with somebody else. You accumulate knowledge about the show and there are a lot of comparisons and insights. It can be fun to talk about. More fun than discussing what your colleagues are doing to sabotage you at work or whatever.

Mark said...

Zeke wanted to be seen as a Survivor player. Not the first transgender Survivor player.

But Zeke was really neither. She was first and always a token political prop who was and is being used to promote an agenda, rather than being seen as a real person.

Ann Althouse said...

"Now, Housewives of Beverly Hills? Haven't missed an episode. The Divine Lisa Vanderpump; Lovely Mom Kyle. Even Alcoholic Kim. Love 'em all. No gays, no transgenders - just a lot of rich, bitchy ladies."

See? That's what I mean. Different people have different TV that does it for them.

I've never been interested in watching those shows. That's a different category of reality TV, where there's no structured competition, just peeping in at people. That's like "The Real World" and "The Osbournes" -- shows I used to love. I can enjoy the type of show, but I'm just not interested in rich women. I watched an episode of the Kardashians once.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann - a few years ago I tuned in, and yes there were a few beards growing, but all the women had shaved pits."

I've seen armpit hair on women on the show, but I assume they use a hair removal method that works over a longer period of time, that takes the hair out by the roots.

Ann Althouse said...

"But Zeke was really neither. She was first and always a token political prop who was and is being used to promote an agenda, rather than being seen as a real person."

How do you explain the fact that in the first season with Zeke, we never even heard one thing about it?

All the contestants have a lot of interesting things about them, and Zeke had a collection of things, including personality traits. You obviously don't watch the show. Zeke has come across as a real individual over many episodes.

Ann Althouse said...

"So it's like watching ESPN."

Yeah, that's what I said (here in person). And it turns out Meade meant that.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

So nice to have some parts of the world of entertainment as a separate realm, apart from the sociopolitical narratives our betters in the Media want to make sure we consume. You will be made to care.

I watched a bunch of Survivor seasons (a girlfriend loved 'em) and while homosexuals were usually overrepresented (as with most TV/movies) I can remember several "villans" who were gay, so the show at least had some nuance on that front.

Any comment that could be taken as insulting to homosexuality, of course, was highlighted and strictly punished (using the social power of "the game"), so the show's a good lil' liberal in that sense. Same-same for transgenderism, apparently.

I got sick of the show when they kept bringing the same people back over and over again. And not interesting people, or the very-attractive women, either! The producers found Russell etc fascinating, I guess, but I didn't. Also when ALL of the talk/discussion/action is centered around the meta game, and the meta-meta game of "the show" itself it's much less interesting to watch. I missed the old seasons where half of the time the contestants were just struggling to get by (shelter, enough food, etc) and had to come up with creative ways to solve their actual problems of day-to-day life. The last few seasons I saw the show literally gave them a bunch of lumber and tools (one season it was the first reward, I think) and said "build a nice place."

Anyway it sounds like rightthink has been upheld, so good for them.

Remember what SouthPark taught: Stunning & Brave. It's the only thing you can think, and definitely the only thing you can say.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said... On Survivor there's more happening that you can take in and figure out. You could re-watch the show and notice a lot. You can talk about it and come up with a lot of interesting insights afterwards, which makes it a cool show to watch with somebody else. You accumulate knowledge about the show and there are a lot of comparisons and insights. It can be fun to talk about.

I do miss the Television Without Pity site. Their Survivor recaps and discussions were great. There's a site Survivor Sucks that has a pretty active forum but I didn't follow there much.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I find reality shows like Survivor and those idiotic fishing tuna, mining in Alaska types just idiotic. Yes. I know they aren't real. I know that all the "drama" and incidents are manufactured. And I really don't care about any of those people on the shows. They could all NOT survive, drown or freeze to death and I wouldn't care.

However, I must admit to my guilty pleasure of watching some reality shows. I know they are all manufactured as well but the types that I like have a concrete outcome that I am interested in.

Home remodeling shows. Cool. How will the house, project turn out.
Car restoration. Neat. The transformation from a rusty hulk to a restored or modified car.
Project runway. How can they turn this pile of random stuff into something.

The common theme on those is:
1. They are actually MAKING something.
2. The contestants need to have some level of real skill and creativity
3. I can critique the final product and say what I might have done differently and get some ideas on things that I may like to try.

Best of all I can DVR the shows and fast forward through the stupid staged drama, personal stuff like your dopey kids (yes Fixer Upper, I am talking about you) and advertising.

If people like to watch those other shows....more power to ya. Not my cup of tea.

Dangerous Dreamer said...

The fact that "metamorphosis" was the word that they needed to unscramble in the immunity challenge just prior to the tribal council tells me that if it was not scripted then the producers heavily influenced the outcome of the episode to create a "teachable moment" complete with the alleged conservative contestant "growing" and learning something about herself. I do not being manipulated like this and probably will stop watching the show because of it. I enjoyed it because it was mindless entertainment and it's now become just another agenda driven TV show. Thanks Jeff P.

n.n said...

From homosexual to bisexual to crossover, the transgender spectrum disorder. The worst they can do for individual rights is to create a perception that it is a progressive condition.

dwarzel said...

Yeah, you had to love that woman giving a five-minute speech and making the whole thing about her. Emotional growth, my eye; she was bawling because they'd gone the entire tribal council without paying her any attention.

Mike Sylwester said...

It would be awesome if "The Bachelor" ever turned out to be a transgender and if this were not discovered until the final three women spent nights with "him" in the "Fantasy Suite".

Jake said...

Ann:

Why do you feel the need to justify your viewing habits? Why so insecure?

Beth B said...

It's all so perfect, so pat. Dangerous Dreamer is right. This was nothing more than "A Very Special Episode" of Survivor. Pre-arranged doesn't necessarily mean scripted word-for-word. It's true, they aren't very good actors, which is why it didn't actually come off as genuine. If this wasn't a manipulated storyline, then it's at the very least exploitative. Neither reason makes me want to watch a second more of this dumb show than what I just looked at to make my assessment. Pass. Big pass.

MayBee said...

I love Survivor.

I always assume once they get cast on the show but before they filed they get cosmetic dentistry and laser hair removal if they want it.

Richard Dolan said...

"The accumulating grunginess is part of the fun of watching."

To each her own, I suppose. Some years ago, a Russian company was visiting the Met for a three opera series of Russian works. We subscribed and, at the first one, were seated next to a mother and son duo. My wife smelt something odd and asked me to take the seat next to them (the son of the duo was next to me). It soon became apparent that the smell was coming from him, and that bathing was not part of his repertoire. Russian operas tend to be long, and by the end of the first act, the stench was just too much. We spoke to an usher and described the problem. His response was that they had been trying to find out where the odor was coming from, and apologized profusely for the inconvenience. He also said the staff would find us alternative seats far from the problem (they did). Fortunately for the next two operas, the problem duo could neither be seen nor smelled.

Accepting that, for some, "accumulating grunginess is part of the fun of watching," it all depends on how close to the source of the fun you happen to be.

MayBee said...

before they filmed*

Original Mike said...

Blogger HoodlumDoodlum said..."I missed the old seasons where half of the time the contestants were just struggling to get by (shelter, enough food, etc) and had to come up with creative ways to solve their actual problems of day-to-day life."

Me too. As someone who has done a lot of long duration backcountry camping I could relate to it. I find it less interesting than it used to be but it became "date night" at our house so it serves a useful purpose.

carrie said...

I am a big Survivor fan too. I don't watch any other network TV entertainment shows so it is hard to explain why I watch it--probably the same reasons as Ann. It is interesting to watch how people think, bond, scheme, deceive, bargain, and judge their own vulnerability.

Mark said...

How do you explain the fact that in the first season with Zeke, we never even heard one thing about it?

Probst: "I met Zeke in casting . . . It wasn’t until after he left that I was told he was transgender."

Probst may not have known immediately, but that he was told after the meeting shows that the producers did know from the start.

There was always going to be a Big Reveal, a big "A-ha. Zeke is transgender and you never knew. See? There's nothing 'different' about transgendered people, they are just like everyone else. It's a lesson that we should all be accepting."

Zeke's transgenderism was a major reason for her being casted in the first place. If not Zeke, then some other transgender. There was no reason otherwise for the producers and Probst to know beforehand in the first place.

Mark said...

Now, of course, we should all be more accepting and caring of persons who self-identify as transgender. We should be accepting and caring of them as a person, as a human being. And that means also, if we truly care, being charitable in way that is also objectively truthful.

Mark said...

I missed the old seasons where half of the time the contestants were just struggling to get by (shelter, enough food, etc)

Naked and Afraid started out that way. Then they started casting Survivor types, and the endeavor became not so much finding a way to live in that primitive state (as humans did for tens of thousands of years), but merely surviving the 21 days. Then when they had the group episodes, they added in all of that same social dysfunctionality as Survivor, with cliques and mean girls and millennial narcissism and all the rest.

Static Ping said...

If what Dangerous Dreamer says is true about the immunity challenge, this was definitely scripted.

David said...

I'm not saying it's not interesting. But it's not interesting to me.

I Callahan said...

Ann's reality TV fandom rotted her brain when it now comes to serious matters. Hence her love of Trump.

Once - do you always have to be such an asshole?

I Callahan said...

AlbAnon and OnceW are being silly. Maybe they eschew TV other than prestige shows but I suspect they have their relaxing/guilty pleasure shows, which includes all sports and most of what passes for news.

AlbAnon said "who cares"; OnceW said something about your brain rotting. One's being silly; another is being an asshole.

Robin Eatmon said...

In Zeke's first season he had a heart to heart with another player, a Boston cop, where they discussed both being gay...if I remember correctly. I don't remember any trans discussion in his first season.

stever said...

To the extent these shows have my attention they lose it when the contestants come into it it with a strategy that circumvents the basic spontaneity of the show. Repeat players are a classic example. Maybe that's a valid way to win but it's not a way to get me to watch.