I’m not a pervert and certainly don’t go around watching television advertising the nakedness of the people on it, but sometime last week I got sucked into the Discovery Channel’s well established show Naked and Afraid. It’s actually a perfect name for it, given the participants are dropped off in a remote part of the world and left to survive naked for 21 days with nothing more than a burlap bag, a machete, cooking pot, and in some lucky cases, a fire starter. While not all of them are necessarily afraid when they begin the challenge, you’d be surprised how quickly terror and discomfort take hold. When that happens, some people usually “tap out,” or call it quits, in a matter of days while others rise to the physical and emotional test to survive the full time. This is actually the most fascinating part of what I’d call this early human social experiment: who has the mental ability to hang in there.
Given the creature comforts we’ve all grown accustomed to, some stars of the show seem to be able to put all the modern day conveniences – like having a toilet, air conditioning, and quite literally, the need for food – completely aside in order to last the whole time. Imagine spending your morning sitting in a sticky hot jungle, being bitten by leaf-cutter ants and needing to build a shelter off the ground, while you’re buck naked and your private bits are exposed to the elements. Oh, and you haven’t eaten in a few days. That’s basically each episode’s norm, and some people are somehow able to take it, while others can’t.
The shows real pull, aside from the hard-to-look-away spectacle of two naked people struggling in a jungle, is that it’s never the person you think will give up. What happens is always a genuine surprise. And after watching nearly ten episodes over the past week, including their XL challenge that has eight people surviving together in the African bush, I am often shocked by who breaks first under challenging situations. To my utter delight, the more episodes I see, the more I am awed by some of the survivalist women who completely take charge with a positive attitude. These women aren’t afraid to cut the head off a snake and skin it up for dinner. They’re not inhibited by ego and the need for being told they’re doing a “good job” – which is often where the men genuinely struggle. On an episode I watched yesterday, the woman, Melissa, gathered and built the shelter, found tree resin to start a fire, kept the fire going in torrential rain, climbed trees to get fish bait, and kept her male, ex-military partner going the whole 21 days. Meanwhile, the entire episode, the male partner was lamenting how bruised his ego was that he wasn’t contributing enough. Needless to say, Melissa was the one who found herself on the All Stars team and not her partner. I guess some can make lemonade with the terrible situation, while others completely fall apart.
If you’ve never seen the show, check out a teaser for one of the recent episodes here:
Want to know what it’s like to really be on a deserted island? Check it out:
The funniest result of my recent fascination with this show is how Jon, my parents, and close friend are all now watching it too! Jon, in particular, delights in shouting at the television where the pairs are making errors in their survival plans – “YOU NEED A SHELTER!”. But I’d like to see Jon in the Amazon trying to survive with all those mosquitos! It would be a Day 1 tap out. And if you’re wondering about me, if I think I can survive, naked and afraid, out there in the jungle for 21 days? Well, I don’t think it’d be easy, but I think if I really wanted to I probably could (famous last words). But, much like I feel the locals must think when they pick up the filthy, naked contestant at the end of the episode in their pickup truck: why the heck would I want to?
For now, I’ll stick to watching Naked and Afraid from the comfort of my cozy couch!
You can find Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel! Watch all the episodes here with a cable subscription or order a few of all 9 Seasons on Amazon here. And for a quick laugh, this SNL skit had me in stitches! Have you ever seen an episode of Naked and Afraid? What did you think? Are there other television shows have you unexpectedly enjoyed? Share with me in the comments below!
Images courtesy of The Discovery Channel, and promo image via Release Date TV.