April 12, 2017

"There they were, gathered around the fire at Tribal Council on Wednesday night’s episode of 'Survivor.'"

"One of the contestants, Jeff Varner, in a last-ditch attempt to keep himself from being voted off the show, turned to a man by his side. 'Why haven’t you told anyone you are transgender?' he said.""

That was a very intense episode of "Survivor," with everyone turning on the man who outed the transgender contestant and that man, Varner, suffering so much opprobrium that I would think almost anyone watching at home would be thinking: Never let that happen to you.

ADDED: The linked article, at the NYT, is extremely unfair to the other contestants on that tribe. The next 2 paragraphs are:
Zeke Smith, familiar to viewers of the previous season, went blank. His eyes lost focus, and it seemed, for a moment, as if he were disassociating. The thing that he had wanted to avoid was now about to unfold, on national television.

Mayhem ensued. Words like “deception” were thrown around. Repeatedly, Mr. Smith was accused of having misled his fellow tribe members because, yes, he was — or had been — trans.
Look at all the passive voice in the last 3 sentences! It gives the impression that a lot of tribemates turned on Zeke, but everyone was strongly supportive of Zeke. Varner, fighting for survival, called Zeke deceptive. Everyone else criticized Varner so severely that I said out loud "He's going to have to commit suicide." Varner was so deeply shamed that he apologized over and over and he too was extremely supportive of Zeke after he realized, under the pressure of all of his tribemates, that he had made an abysmal social blunder.

Mayhem ensued. Yeah: against Varner.

Words like “deception” were thrown around.  Only by Varner, and only trying to save his own skin. No one — absolutely no one — took the serious position that Zeke had done something wrong by following a personal policy of what I call gender privacy.

The antagonism against Varner — who is openly gay — was so intense and obvious that they didn't even need a vote to oust him. Jeff Probst (the host of "Survivor") simply observed that everyone already knew the outcome and all Varner's tribemates agreed.

You can watch the episode on line, here.

33 comments:

AlbertAnonymous said...

Good Lord. Who cares?

It's "Reality TV" which means it's about as far from real life as is possible.

Ugh.

madAsHell said...

I would have claimed I was trans-sexual.
I would then explain how I only watch lesbian porn, and I'm a lesbian TRAPPED in a man's body.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Is Survivor broadcast live, in real time?

If not, isn't it really the Survivor producers, not the other contestant, who are responsible for outing this person against their will?

Meade said...

I think that's right -- the producers were manipulative and exploitative of everyone for the benefit of the production. The producers of the show owe us all an apology for their cynicism. And I owe myself an apology for ever letting myself bother watching that show.

cf said...

AlbertAnonymous said...
Good Lord. Who cares?

It may be time carelessly spent, but for those millions this program washes over the example carves a notch into the psychic structure, so I must agree with Ms. Althouse's point that a particular conditioning is going on, and on and on.

George said...

Fascinating article by Jennifer Finney Boylan, herself a trans. Particularly her ability to weave in irrelevant criticism of Trump and the Republican party.

Did she write the article out of sympathy for Zeke Smith or because it presented another opportunity to have a shot at Trump/Republicans?

BDNYC said...

Wait, what? Since when have trans people been able to hide in the closet? That surgeon must be a miracle worker.

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..

Dan said...

The Survivor producers aired exactly what happened, period. They manipulated nothing. This began as a simple case of a player knowing they were going to be voted out and deciding to go nuclear at tribal council in desperation. That has happened many times. This time, the guy just went somewhere he should not have.

Of course, you can't have a thread about Survivor and not have it filled with the too--cool-for-school morons claiming it's all phony/manipulated/staged. The reality(no pun intended) is that Survivor is none of those. There is a reason why it is still going strong after eighteen years. It's one of the best shows on tv.

Etienne said...

If I can receive that show on my rabbit ear antenna, then I haven't found that show yet.

But would people in reality behave with the same grace as people on the reality show? Would you?

One of the thing I hate worse than anything is a manipulative bastard. I don't think that is uncommon.

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.

Danno said...

Jon, I'm with you on this. I think I might have seen about 10 minutes of an episode about 15 years ago and couldn't understand why people watch shit like this.

Bill Peschel said...

Survivor doesn't interest me (never watched it), but everyone's reactions do.

Ann, for mentioning it.

The New York Times, for covering it.

And then this pairing, above:

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..

Dan said...

The Survivor producers aired exactly what happened, period. They manipulated nothing.

Bizarro world.

rhhardin said...

I start losing track when the pronouns get thrown around.

I want the original gender as a fixed marker to follow the guy around, so it's not pea-under-the-shell in every story.

rhhardin said...

Also I'm not clear if transgender is the one where you lose your dick or is it just the pretending one.

rhhardin said...

Is xi the pronoun or the Chinese president.

rhhardin said...

What you have, in a proper story, is a guy with no dick taking hormones. I can follow that.

Don't mess with the pronouns.

Ann Althouse said...

"Reality my ass.. It was purposely scripted and staged. METAMORPHOSIS was the puzzle word in the immunity challenge. "

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.

Ann Althouse 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."

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 said...

"Yes, but they can't script this stuff."

No, but they can totally control the edit.

Mike said...

Really? No Laslo here yet?

Meade said...

"It's similar to sport events."

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

One Eye said...

Lmao that Jeff Probst is playing the high and mighty card.

The guy has made a living exploiting the worst of human behavior and decides that THIS crosses the line?

The other commenter got it right - Probst and the Survivor people outed this guy to the world. Disgusting.

FYI, I haven't watched since the first Boston Rob show.

raf said...

Demonstrates and communicates to the public that 'gay' so so over. 'Trans' is the new victim supreme.

Original Mike said...

I watched the episode. There's no other way to put it: The NYT is lying. This is old news. What's interesting is why are they lying? My guess is to promulgate the narrative that trans people are a persecuted group.

Original Mike said...

"2. Beautifully photographed and edited. Both the natural setting -- with landscapes and plants and animals ..."

Their video photography of the night sky is spectacular (it helps that they have the southern hemisphere milky way to work with). When a planet is in the FOV you can tell exactly which day it was filmed on.

Original Mike said...

"Lmao that Jeff Probst is playing the high and mighty card.
The guy has made a living exploiting the worst of human behavior and decides that THIS crosses the line?
The other commenter got it right - Probst and the Survivor people outed this guy to the world. Disgusting."


Yeah. The thing that got me was the look Probst threw Varner when he snuffed his torch. My reaction was, "You bastard."

Fernandinande said...

Were there any midget lesbian Papuan cannibals on the show?

Original Mike said...
I watched the episode.


Those whose brains are about to die, we salute you!

ConradBibby said...

It's a little hard to believe that a player would have gone on the show, two seasons in a row, no less, intending to keep it a secret from the public that he or she is transgendered. Zeke must have either planned to reveal this fact in some way or at least accepted the likelihood that it would be revealed by someone else. And the idea that Zeke's family and friends were unaware is of course preposterous. For these reasons, while the on-set reactions of the other contestants may have been authentic and spontaneous, the manner in which the whole thing played out on TV amounted to fiction.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Althouse said...That was a very intense episode of "Survivor," with everyone turning on the man who outed the transgender contestant and that man, Varner, suffering so much opprobrium that I would think almost anyone watching at home would be thinking: Never let that happen to you.

Yes, of course, that's the entire point. Expressing anything other than celebratory zeal regarding transgenderism (or finding "deception" in someone hiding their status re: transgenderism) is a fatal social sin, akin to vicious racism or violence against children or something. Anyone so guilty must be punished as harshly as possible. He's lucky he could only be voted off (and not beaten to death).
Golly aren't Probst and his producers so great and morally upright to make sure that lesson was crystal clear for everyone--the CBS smug levels must be downright suffocating right about now. I hope everyone does more interviews to preen and make sure the world understands how righteous they are.

jaed said...

Out of curiosity, how did Varner know that Zeke was trans in the first place? Did Zeke confide in him, or what?

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rsbsail said...

"You can watch the episode on line, here."

I have never watched an episode of Survivor, and this only reinforces my desire to NOT watch it. Not because of the transgender aggression, but because it is so damn stupid. Who gives a rat's ass?