Amy Stern (bigbrotherreads) wrote,
Amy Stern
bigbrotherreads

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"In Survivor, close gets you nothing."

The thing about watching enough reality television is that you start to lose perspective. For example, you may be completely aware of what you're looking for, and have a detailed outline spread out across the floor by your computer next to where all your DVD player remotes are (hypothetically of course), but after a certain amount of time- or possibly just after reaching saturation point- you really can't think of anything except how it's even possible that Stephenie LaGrossa's French braid is always so neat.

No, seriously. Every hair is always in place. Now that I've found confirmation that Jeff Probst's caps all have the Survivor logo, this is my new focal point. She has neither a brush nor a mirror, never mind anything in the general vicinity of "soap," and it's not like she has an unlimited supply of hair products. Plus she's also spending her time, you know, running around surviving. I can use a brush, a comb, two mirrors, half a dozen elastics, and an hour of my time, and not only is my braid lopsided, but within twenty minutes (entirely spent sitting still), half of it's already fallen out of the hair tie.

(I'm fascinated at the way that I can, at this point, fathom things like a 24-hour eleven-mile trek through the Guatemalan jungle, but Steph's hair is the unscripted media equivalent of a unicorn to me right now.)

This past week, I realized I actually haven't finished a lot of seasons of shows. I have started every single one, and watched the majority of nearly all of them, but I haven't seen the end of Survivors Africa, Marquesas, Guatemala, or Panama. I haven't watched the last episode of a few seasons of Big Brother, as apparently I decided that if I don't see it, it didn't happen, no matter what I've heard.

On the other hand, I also tend to go in knowing a ton about what I'm going to see. I don't just mean I check up on who the cast is ahead of time. I watch with in-depth recaps open in one tab of Firefox and the Wikipedia entry for the season in another, so that I can follow exactly who's going to go, when, and why. Frequently, I don't start watching the episode of Survivor I'm going to watch til it's finished, just so I can know ahead of time who to not get attached to. (Big Brother is a slightly different case, because for all episodes that aren't live, I already know what's going to happen, because it has happened in the house.) I don't really know how common this approach is, although I would again point to the Henry Jenkins chapter in Convergence Culture on spoiling Survivor.

All of which is to say, I'm going in this season blind. It is KILLING ME. I'm not finding out who's voted off- or even what tribe loses the challenge- until the episode airs. I'm not scouring the internet for the odds on various players making it through unscathed. I'm not scrutinizing blurry screencaps from promos to see who's going to be left when that part airs, and I'm not studying post-show pictures to see if someone lost a ton of weight. (Or, well, I'm not visiting the forums that do the scrutinizing and studying FOR me. Practically the same thing!) I am doing this for one reason: I want to see how well I can read the editing without knowing what's coming. It's the voyeuristic Survivor version of putting my money where my mouth is. If I believe there's a lot in the editing, shouldn't I not need to know what's ahead?

I'm two for two so far, which pleases me, although I feel like I'm at a slight unfair advantage because Jeff Probst keeps blogging about how this is the season of blindsides, which made me aware that the person expected to be voted out wouldn't be going home. It's kind of like how, during Micronesia, I kept waiting for the incredibly idiotic misuse of immunity, and it skewed how I interpreted where events would lead.

I've been enjoying the blindsiding in the game, but I think the blindsiding of the audience is kind of tacky. The vote in ep 2 was 7-1. From the editing I assumed it would be a 5-3 vote, because we had not even been given an indication that people planned to tell the other half of the tribe. Withholding information from the audience is frequently a necessary tactic in making the episod seem like there's more than one possible outcome for Tribal Council, but this episode made me feel like, in the game between the producers and the audience, the producers weren't playing fair. And I am writing all of this out, even though it's not interesting or useful for the project, because the idea that the editing is, on its own, a separate game from the GAME game- that's something I want to explore. If the game played with the contestants is just the undercurrent to the game played with the audience, then-

I don't even know what then, honestly. I think I'm just kind of entranced with the idea at all. I've been arguing that the show is interactive virtually nonstop, but this level of interactivity is one I hadn't really been considering.

I need to reread that Henry Jenkins piece again.


I don't know why everyone says critical theory is so challenging. Interrogating the text with Baudrillard and Foucault is much easier than trying to figure out how Steph does her hair.
Tags: convergence culture, reality: edgic, reality: survivor: guatemala, reality: survivor: toncantins
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