Flashback: Survivor

In anticipation of the shutdown of Apple’s MobileMe service, I am re-posting some of my old blog entries before they become harder to retrieve.

This entry was originally posted on March 11, 2004.

In the first season of Survivor, two of the more interesting people who were on the island together were Susan Hawk, a truck driver who came in fourth in the contest, and Richard Hatch, who would go on to win the game, at least partially due to his machiavellian style of playing the game. The two of them returned to the show in the eighth season in the “All-Star” version of the game.

Two things are noteworthy about Richard: first, he is gay, and second, he had a tendency of walking around the island naked. I’m not sure why he chose to walk around the island au naturel — maybe that’s how he’s most comfortable, maybe it’s to intimidate his competitors, maybe it’s something else — but the fact remains that this was his tendency. In the first season, he would comment that a “fat naked fag” is funny, but a “fat naked fag with a million bucks” (the prize for winning the show) is even funnier. At least one jury member in the first season agreed with that assessment.

Susan is an equally intriguing figure. A tough girl who, when she voted for Richard in the first season, did so out of anger towards his competitor, Kelly Wiglesworth. Susan’s commentary was a bristling attack on Kelly, replete with venom and more than a little bit of spite. Yes, Kelly was responsible for voting Susan off of the island, but I don’t personally believe that her actions justified the anger vented towards her.

Fast forward to the “All-Star” season. The immunity challenge on February 26, 2004, involved the castaways racing across small balance beams, collecting flags. Richard, being his usual self, was naked, and he had a direct frontal contact with Susan at one point. Richard’s team lost immunity and he was voted off the island.

Susan, on the other hand, retreated into a shell, saying little, if anything, until host Jeff Probst asked her about it. The confrontation with Richard clearly was taking an emotional toll on her. When asked, Susan let loose on a tearful, angry rant about feeling violated, embarrassed, and ashamed. She then left the game of her own volition.

Susan’s reaction was comparable to that of someone who had been raped. Although I don’t believe that Richard had intended for the incident to have had the impact that it did, that doesn’t alter the fact that, well, it did have that effect. I also don’t know if, had it been someone other than Susan in the confrontation (although still a woman), the net result would have been the same. The truth of the matter is: this is what happened to Susan, and we do not have any right to begrudge Susan for how she feels or felt as a result of this trauma.

One organization that I strongly believe in, is an organization called the Rape, Abuse, and Incest Nurturer’s Network, or RAINN. On our televisions, the incident only took a couple of seconds, if that long. I don’t know what truly happened, other than direct physical contact. I don’t need to know. I do know that Susan would do well to contact RAINN and talk about it.

There is a psychological theory that I despise: it’s the notion that every man is a potential rapist, and every woman is a potential rape victim. Whether you perceive rape as a crime of sex or a crime of power, it’s irrelevant. I hate the generalizations behind it, I hate the fact that it basically puts half of the population on guard from being a victim of the other half of the population, who might as well be behind bars before anything even happens. Sure: there’s room on both sides of the equation to be careful not to allow themselves to be in a situation where, on account of their gender, they could fall into the notion, and I accept that. That doesn’t alter the fact that one of my biggest fears is to be falsely accused of rape. If I were nothing more than an irresponsible bunch of hormones walking around, it might be a different story, however I reject the notion that I could possibly rape anyone — for any reason, or under any circumstances.

In addition to that, I also dislike the use of the word “victim.” The victim replays the incident over in (his or) her mind, asking what they could have done differently for it not to have happened, when, sometimes, the answer to that question is: nothing. There’s a very strong need to tell yourself, that, when you are the victim of anything, that it’s not necessarily your fault that it happened, and to learn from the mistakes. In the world of people who have been raped, this means moving away from being a “victim” to being a “survivor.” Once the person who has been raped has been able to accept the fact that whatever happened cannot be changed, that they might be able to learn something from the trauma, and to pick themselves up and move on, they become a survivor.

Isn’t that ironic, for the name of the show where this happened?

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