by Madeline Iva
It’s been around three years, but I only recently discovered NAKED AND AFRAID through an article about ‘The Women of Naked & Afraid’. My first thought was: Women naked and afraid? WTF?
HOW THE SHOW WORKS:
Then I found out that it’s not just a woman who has to strip down and be alone in the hostile wilderness, she also has to have some stranger dude along with her so they can be naked and afraid *together*.
We’re experiencing a whole new world of gender equality—a show in which BOTH men and women get to reveal their butt cracks on national television.
For a moment I thought that being paired with a complete strange naked man was what made the women contestants afraid. But no, it’s not nearly so f***ed up as that. Or…is it?
YEAH, YOUR MOM WAS NAKED BEFORE MILLIONS OF TV VIEWERS
So what type of woman does this?
The women from the show Naked & Afraid were interviewed in People Magazine. Do they get to use tampons? Hell yeah.
“How do your kids feel about you being naked on national television?” One women talked about her tweener son’s response. Let me interpret his comment: “Yeah, mom, you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do and *sigh*, I’m just a kid, I don’t get any say, so–whatever. Can I go now?”
I get the feeling that a fair amount of the women on this show need some fast cash.
SURVIVAL SCORES/COMMON GENDER TROPES: Contestants get an initial Primitive Survival Rating (PSR). It’s based on what they bring to the situation–like camping experience and a love of skittles. It gets reevaluated at the end–almost always upwards a notch or two.
I’d say about half the women come from the army, police, or are marathoners, hikers, while a few grew up in semi-wilderness places like Alaska. The ones with the lowest PSRs inevitably state in some chewy twang that they are in it out of pure cussedness. The people in their lives think they can’t hack it. (Read grandfather, father, or whatever patriarchal sexist male is down on them.) Alas, gran-pappy may have some insight. These women start out full of sass and then crumple almost immediately. One tapped out after four days because, as she so eloquently put it, “Bugs are crawling up my va-jay-jay.”
And the dudes? Survivalists – not all of them, but a fair heaping. Hunters, etc. Men who just don’t feel right if they haven’t killed something lately. (And these women aren’t afraid? Gah. One guy shows his partner how the snake’s heart still beats after it has been decapitated and flayed. Another guy talks about eating the bird’s guts–cause that’s where all the nutrients are. A third guy twists off a bird’s head and then sucks hot blood from the neck. Then he says “I didn’t know I was going to do that.” Finally, there is the guy who rejoices in smashing rats and talking in little rat voices to their carcasses. Creeeeeeepy!)
The common issue with a lot of these men are that they’re ‘cocky’, or ‘arrogant’ and express some pretty serious hang-ups like “I learned early on that the only one I can depend on is me.” Most of these women wouldn’t have lasted through a blind date with these guys, but they’re willing to be with them naked and hungry for 21 days. How much are they paying these women?
9 out of 10 of these creepy survivalist guys make it to the end and admittedly, make it fairly easy for his partner to get to the end as well. These guys are not the spooners in the shelter at night. But when things get tough, the tough do not like to go it alone. The more troubles they encounter with their ‘useless’ partner–a flooding river say, or freezing temperatures–the more tightly bonded they seem to be by the end of the show. In the end, they may be able to kill and eat things all by themselves, but that won’t stop them from breaking down and crying like little babies without a woman there to say “Nut up, dude,” and keep them sane.
Here are some common gendered tropes we see on Naked and Afraid:
–Man hacking at something with the ubiquitous machete –
–Woman lying about looking limpid. Woman crying.
–Man shouting into the dark to the f***ing wild cat/alligator/boar/unknown beast to stay the f**k away.
–Woman off vomiting—usually because she’s the first to succumb to dehydration.
–Woman covered in blisters from whatever f***ing poisonous thing is about two feet away from their camp.
–Man failing as a hunter (often).
Usually you see a woman having suggestions and the man regarding these ideas as utterly useless. In these situations, the woman often hides her irritation. Sometimes she’s right, and sometimes she’s wrong, but I’ve yet to see a show where the guy suddenly says “Oh my god! What was I thinking? That’s a brilliant idea!” Or a show where the guy suggests something and the woman says “Yeah, no, that’s dumb. We’re not doing that.”
HOW THIS SHOW PUTS THE ‘REALITY’ IN REALITY TV:
There are just some things you cannot fake.
It’s not called Naked and Alone. Many a show includes the call for Medic! Frankly, I’m surprised that no one has died yet.
Meanwhile, the contestants tap out and the voice-over is like: “Can his partner survive sixteen days naked and alone?” She’s not naked and alone–there’s a camera crew following her all day long.
However, I don’t care if four or five people are following me during the day–it’s at the night that the real fun starts. Howler monkeys are the serial stalkers in the wild–hooting through the long hours of total darkness, promising death, terror, and blood. Yi!
A camera crew somewhere off in the dark isn’t going to prevent that curious hippo from stampeding your shelter and killing the squishy folk inside. Not only did the hungry hippo visit contestants in the dark, it ate one of the show’s cameras as a midnight snack. I know, sounds funny, until four tons of hangry is aiming at your frail little dehydrated body. Then it’s not.
But aside from that—people are naked on TV—ya can’t fake that. It’s so interesting that they added a little jewelry to the experience. Like the contestant is saying: I’m not a naked perv—I’m a hippie! (Though maybe it contains some kind of tracking device?) And how interesting/bizarre that Discovery Channel is doing this. Do they need a spike in their ratings or what?
ULTIMATELY, WHAT IS THIS SHOW ABOUT? Man vs. Nature? Nah.
The average person will die without food after 21 days–the length of the contestant’s stay in the wilderness. However, they won’t last a week without water. So, inevitably contestants are placed near water and given a machete–though not always a fire starter. If you’ve watched Bear Grylls at all, you know the three main things you need to do in the wilderness: STAY WARM, STAY DRY, STAY HYDRATED – This show is not really about that so much. Half the people don’t know what they’re doing.
For instance, because they couldn’t get a fire going, this one guy said “f**k it,” and drank from a waterfall. The next day, since he seemed okay, his partner drank from the waterfall too. It’s only then that a voiceover tells us, “Cholera bacteria can take five days to make you ill.” There’s a perverse sense of dark humor at work here. We’re meant to watch people be idiots and suffer–no doubt about it.
Most contestants seem to understand the need for water, but they often don’t work hard enough on their shelter to stay warm and dry the whole time. Rain creeps in, the fire goes out, and ruh-roh! without a fire, the animals draw near, mosquitos bombard them, and it’s freezing cold. All three are an invitation to sleepless nights and misery.
So is this show about Narcissist Nudists vs. America’s Blatant Appetite for Voyeurism? Yes indeed!
Or is it about stupid people? Maybe. Or maybe it’s all about expecting the unexpected–like the guy who brings forth his one survival tool: duct tape.
I don’t think contestants do this show to see if their Primitive Survival Rating improves. They do it to have done it – or to get bizarre marriage proposals.
SO WHY IS THIS SHOW SO ADDICTIVE? In the same way that watching HOARDERS motivated me to clean my house and be thankful I wasn’t as bad as that guy, this show makes me thankful every day that I don’t have bugs crawling up my va-jay-jay.
Not to mention the extreme gratitude I now have for chairs, houses, clean running water, a fridge, clothing, safety, fruit, all the snacks, air conditioning and ALL THAT OUR PUBIC HAIR DOES FOR US.
Mostly though, this show inspires the would-be survivalist in me. I want to learn how to make a bow fire, i.e. learn to start fire by rubbing two sticks together. Like, I’m seriously thinking about going out into my yard and trying it. I don’t want to eat critters or cover myself in mud, but I’d love to build a raft, or an above ground shelter, and learn some orienteering.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING:
- HOW BEAUTIFUL THAT ISLAND PARADISE LOOKS: HOW ROTTEN IT IS TO LIVE IN. After watching the show I have a real appreciation for the unappreciated sh** photographers must go through. It’s not just venomous snakes, scorpions, and alligators everywhere, it’s the various giant beasts who view you as their reality entertainment for the night. But wait–there’s more! The trees and vines, bark and sap can sting you, melt your skin, scar you, cause you hideous rashes and pain. Add to that the crazy weather swings where the temperature is sweat box hot in the day, but swinging down to below hypothermia levels at night.
- THE BUGS ARE REAL. VERY REAL. A lot of the time in Africa you see N & A’s starving contestants standing around instead of sitting. Why are they standing, you ask? Because the ticks will swarm them if they lie down. After watching this show, I feel like the glorious African Savannah is just one tick carpet. This one extremely cute guy named Michael said there was a day time set of bugs to deal with and then a whole other set of bugs came out at night. Ugh, ugh, ugh!
And finally, I learned that out in the wilderness 3. CUTE CRITTERS ARE ALWAYS THE FIRST TO DIE. :<
You may be naked, but don’t be afraid of following us at Lady Smut!
Madeline Iva writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out November, 2016.