Peeps! How have I missed the boat on the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid for four whole seasons?!? It is my new obsession. Here’s why.
First, the story of how I came to finally jump on the bandwagon of this mega-hit. In San Francisco for the weekend, I turned on the hotel T.V. When I’m sleepy, I will normally gravitate to something familiar so it can lull me to sleep (I’m ashamed to tell you how many re-runs of Real Housewives episodes I’ve watched due to this). However, the hotel T.V. was heavy on news channels but not so much on Bravo. So, finally, bored, I gave Naked and Afraid a chance.
Here’s the premise if you haven’t seen it: one man and one woman who don’t know each other accept a challenge to go to some remote, inhospitable corner of the world and survive with no gear, food or water (other than what they can find, hunt or make). Oh, and with no clothes either. You’d figure the show might play up the salacious angle of that, but, actually, it’s kind of refreshing how you stop paying attention to the nudity about 2 minutes in. (Helped, no doubt, by the fact that all the fun stuff is blurred out).
Within days, most participants are reduced to their most essential selves: whiny, angry and prone to blaming their counterpart for the lack of a key resource. It’s a fascinating psychological study. Most people tend to aggrandize their own contribution, take for granted what the other person is doing and turn into petulant children when the their plan isn’t followed. There is a lot of “I told you so,” and feeling superior in one-on-one interviews. In one particularly egregious example, a woman who spends all her days in the hot sun trying to purify water with a magnifying glass turns on her partner, calling him fat, lazy and smelly. (There is certain sense of justice when she passes out from spending too much time in the blistering heat and has to be Medivac-ed out of the place, and the man she treated so badly saves her magnifying glass for her).
The thing that fascinates me about Naked and Afraid is the same thing that makes me fascinated by post-apocalyptic novels: what would we look like with all the trappings of society stripped away? What are we at our essence? Are we as generous and kind as we like to tell ourselves we are? If resources are scarce, would we thrive or die out? Barring the ability to access historical footage of how humans evolved, this show is a glimpse into just what a miracle it is that we survived to become what we are today.
I’ve always wanted to test myself against the elements that way, although, be assured, I would probably would have been the cause for the extinction of the species had it been left up to me. Just as I was imagining auditioning for the show, I got hungry. I was in a suite at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco, a luxurious, beautiful hotel in the heart of one of America’s best cities. I picked up the phone and looked for the room service extension. Unable to find it, I called the front desk and asked to be connected.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Andreu, we no longer have room service. You may place an order in our restaurant and pick it up. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
I was tired and I’d had a long day of sitting on an airplane and then navigating the city. It took all my strength not to burst into tears at the fact that I had to walk down the hall and to an elevator to pick up my expertly-prepared meal instead of having someone roll it right to my door and put it on a table for me.
So, lesson learned: it’s fun to watch shows about survival, but I’m not exactly cut out to survive in anything other than suburbia.