Amy Stern (bigbrotherreads) wrote,
Amy Stern

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You sold out your friends for a stack of greenbacks.

I've spent the past two days watching Survivor: All-Stars straight through, which is really interesting through the lens of Hunger Games.

This is the full paragraph of the quote I keep using:

Condensing several weeks into three hours is quite a feat, especially when you consider how many cameras were going at once. Whoever puts together the highlights has to choose what sort of story to tell. This year, for the first time, they tell a love story. I know Peeta and I won, but a disproportionate amount of time is spent on us, right from the beginning. I'm glad though, because it supports the whole crazy-in-love thing that's my defense for defying the Capitol, plus it means we won't have as much time to linger over the deaths.
(Chapter 27 / 362)


I'm sorry. I'm trying to look at this analytically, because I think Survivor All-Stars is one of the best examples I'm going to, and clearly I can't. Somewhere in the middle of rewatching this I got turned into a squealing fangirl. I was watching the commentary on the final episode, where the final four discuss their edits, and I actually tracked down the above quote because it's exactly what happened. It's what happened for the the contestants, and it's what happened for me, as a member of the audience.

I know a lot of people think the All-Star season wasn't the best, but it's definitely an emotionally powerful season, and personally I adore it. I can't separate out my own feelings, though. I made a serious effort to watch this one just for the Serious Academic Inquiry part, and to that end didn't even watch most of the episodes without commentary. And I still failed miserably at being detached, because Survivor is such an emotionally consuming show.

I'm an emotional person, generally, especially in response to media. I get invested in programs like this whether I intend to or not. So I recognize I'm not a perfect barometer for whether or not the show is successful at drawing people in. But then I have to point to the study from last year (link to the Washington post), which identifies the top twenty "audience attachment" shows of the 2007-2008 season. Survivor China came in 5th, and Survivor Micronesia FvF came in at #1. Grey's Anatomy, CSI, NBC Sunday Night Football- none of these match what is, when you get right down to it, the giving-a-damn quotient of the American viewing population between the ages of 18 and 49:
"What these scores are tapping into is not so much the number of viewers that are tuning in, which is what Nielsen is reporting. It's the commitment and loyalty that the viewers have to the show -- anemotional connection, not only in terms of future viewing . . . but strength of the emotional commitment of the core audience of the show"

I have friends who won't watch All-Stars anymore because they're pissed at what Rob did to Lex, and friends who watch the season finale over and over because Lex's "stack of greenbacks" speech is one of the funniest things ever recorded on film.

(It occurs to me, belatedly, that the "former players returning as a pack of wolves dedicated to picking apart the remaining contestants" is an apt description of most final tribal councils. If this is intentional, this is hilarious and awesome commentary on the way reality shows finish. If it isn't, I'm going to pretend it is anyway. 90% of the questions at any final tribal are either "So how awesome am I, really?" or "My question is that you suck." Why NOT make them genetically mutated half-human half-feral animals who want to tear the winners limb from limb? That's pretty much a tamer version of what Sue Hawk did to Kelly during Borneo.)

I've mentioned I love reality television, right?

The research is the easy part for me. I love watching the shows, and I love tracking down and reading theory. The hard part, for me, will be actually (attempting to? succeeding at?) interacting with people. After Jerri storms out of the All-Star reunion, Hatch and Probst talk about how it's hard to be both a memorable character and a three-dimensional human being, and how a lot of fans can't accept that people are both. These people are simultaneously, to me, larger-than-life characters and real people. It's the hook of reality television, which makes the dynamic so appealing, but it's also a weird line to tread. I don't want to be one of those crazy people who can't see these people as existing outside of 14 hours or so of slickly-edited video. At the same time, the idea of interacting- even via email- with a lot of the people on my ideal list of interviews is for me the equivalent of the main characters stepping off the page of your favorite book, just so you can interrogate them about what they thought of the plot.

Up next was going to be Vanutu and Palau, but I'm thinking I may go with some Amazing Race instead. Specifically s7. The two finalists of this season, rather than getting bitter and hating each other, go all around to foreign places? Sounds an awful lot like the only summary of the second Hunger Games book I've been able to find. I mean, except for the part where Rob and Amber aren't staging a revolution. They do wear some funny hats, though. So it's almost the same.
Tags: audience attachment, hunger games, reality: dvds, reality: survivor: all-stars
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