I hear or read this phrase, or something like it, at least once a week: “It would be great if [insert climate-change-related global catastrophe here*] occurred because then I would have a greater chance at survival; the population problem would be fixed.”
And, this phrase, or something like it, crosses my path about once a month: “I would love it if [insert climate-change-related global catastrophe here*] occurred because then life would be like Naked and Afraid; the population problem would be fixed,” said by people who have seen the show on TV.
So, I thought it was time to address these comments, which alas, have been said to me by classmates, housemates, followers via social media, etc.
First of all, if climate change continues and we experience a runaway greenhouse effect which heats our planet up drastically, we are probably all screwed. At some point, when there just aren’t enough plants photosynthesizing our CO2, the atmosphere becomes unbreathable to oxygen-breathing eukaryotes like humans. So while we are watching the CO2-breathing, oxygen-creating eukaryotes like photosynthetic plants die off in droves from pollution, deforestation, tree-killing insect epidemics, and natural catastrophes like wildfires, we are watching the beginning of an end that we truly never want to see.
Don’t believe me?
Once upon a time, this planet was inhabited solely by prokaryotes, and oxygen would have been considered too corrosive for the majority of life on this planet. Now, we have evolved over billions of years to adapt to the atmosphere which we currently breathe, and we are observing this atmosphere change in a much more rapid way than we as life forms can adapt to (“we” meaning homo sapiens).
So my point here is, the entire planet would be affected. You won’t be running around in a loin cloth like Tarzan, being followed by a producer and camera crew. You’re not going to be heroically monkeying through a lush jungle full of fruit trees and fishing with a spear so you can gloriously show off your kill, retaking shots for better angles, sound bytes, and to avoid the accidental shots of modern civilization in the background. There won’t be a civilized, homeostatic future to return to at any point that you wish to give up, and there won’t be a time frame in which you know if you make it, you will be rewarded with food platters, pats on the back, warm showers, (and possibly also a lifetime of defamatory false-light editing and cyber bullying, if you are really lucky).
No. More likely, if you manage to live on into a hot and barely breathable atmosphere, your days will be unfortunately numbered. If billions of other people, plants, and animals are dead or close to it, you will most likely be searching for a gas mask or oxygen tank. Fruit trees will likely be dead, especially since the bees are rapidly dying off and pollination is becoming less likely.
God help you if a wildfire breaks out nearby. Have you ever lived somewhere with wildfires? The smoke will make you cough black. And of course, there won’t be federal or state funding backing up firefighters to extinguish that fire. Better run, and run fast. Break an ankle or leg? Forget it. You’re BBQ. If you know how to hunt or trap, and there are any fish, lizards, rats, birds left, and they aren’t so toxic that they will kill you or make you ill, you will be lucky, because chances are at some point you will want some bartering chips for all the other remaining survivors who, now that society has devolved into chaos and anarchy, want to eat you.
You probably will be looking for light-weight protective gear which doesn’t make you melt from heat and covers your face and skin from the caustic air and acid rain which is falling from the sky.
If you aren’t hiding in a bunker from nuclear fallout, that is.
What will happen to all our nuclear power plants when the world goes dark? Their cooling systems, what will prevent everything from melting down?
Ever lived out of a car before? Gone a day without food or water? Man, car starvation will seem dreamy when shit hits the fan.
And that job that you no longer have, because everyone you know is dead and society has finally fallen? That job you used to wish you could etenerally avoid, if life could be easy like you imagined it was from watching reality television shows about people “surthriving” in all their naked glory? Boy. You will be wishing so hard that you had that job again. And your house, your friends, your family. You will be wistfully remembering the days when you struggled to pay rent or bike to work because you couldn’t afford gas, because back then the air was breathable and people weren’t trying to eat you.
You may in fact be wishing you were a prokaryotic single-celled organism, like a cute little archaic bacteria, because at some point, those are going to be the only organisms that can survive in our altered atmosphere.
So my point here is, instead of sitting at home, watching TV and wishing for global destruction of the majority of the human race, in some Adam and Eve fantasy that results in you miraculously not dying too, perhaps you should consider the following: What can I do to help save the planet? What can I do to help prevent our entire species from killing itself off, as well as the majority of life on Earth?
These kinds of questions are important. Sitting at home, watching television programming, blasting your air conditioning system, eating meat every day (btw it takes 441 GALLONS of water to produce ONE pound of boneless beef, and therefore 110 gallons of water to produce a one quarter-pound hamburger), and hopping in your gas-guzzling SUV to run petty errands in your own neighborhood — these kinds of daily habits are ruining the planet you so desperately wish you could one day magically inhabit by yourself, but in a way that is more how it was over 150 years ago.
Part of me thinks, this is us all bearing witness to humanity killing itself off. Perhaps this largely held belief that it would be great if most of the other people on the planet were dead, because our species is like a parasite to Earth, is just the reality of our collective consciousness acknowledging this fact. However, this in itself is also a form of collective suicide, so long as we continue to daydream longingly of an end that preserves only ourselves while literally sitting back and doing nothing to prevent mass extinction.
And that, my friend, is a sad thought. That the people sitting in their air conditioned homes, eating steak and potatoes every night, fantasizing over reality programming, while largely continuing to contribute to climate change, are inevitably the ones who can’t wait for everyone to die.
I think it’s fascinating that within 48 hours of the Women’s March on Washington, Trump has signed an executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule on abortion. More than three times the amount of attendees showed up to the Women’s March at the National Mall, as were there the day before in support of Trump’s presidential inauguration. What more could a man who disrespects women do in retaliation of this sequence of ego-bruising events?
But that was predictable. What really baffles me is how many women are protesting the protest, putting down the point of the march or the intent behind it, and labeling the 5 million marchers—the most any group has shown up in solidarity in the history of peaceful U.S. protests—as anything but strong. As someone so succinctly put, these women should be THANKING all their female predecessors throughout history who have put their lives and bodies on the line to fight for their basic human rights and equalities. For if any woman feels too privileged to stand up in solidarity of women’s rights (or any of the other major themes in this march: global warming, LGBTQ rights, disabled people’s rights, poor people’s rights, veteran’s rights, etc…), I would hope that they would be aware of why they have these privileges now, in the year 2017. And I would hope that they would have compassion for all the millions—no, billions—of other women who have less than they have. And I would hope, more than anything, that they would give those women who are suffering, those women who are less privileged than they, a platform, a voice with which to change their realities.
And this really applies to fucking everyone, myself included. We need to accept others’ differences, and sometimes that is hard. Sometimes that irks our egos or shakes our realities. But neither I nor you, nor anyone else has to or should accept the differences that embody literal tyranny and division. For instance, we should accept that people have different sexual identities. That does not hurt anyone. That does not affect anyone but that single person. But we should not accept those who want to impose their religious beliefs on people to suppress their differences. I do not accept nor do I support a president who threatens to revoke basic female rights to reproductive choice, for whatever reason he is doing it. The Global Gag Rule will similarly revoke any financial support to organizations that practice abortion in other nations.
My reason for believing in a woman’s right to choose is simple. It is more humane to ensure that every human being has a decent life, complete with food and shelter, than to force humans to create more humans with no means to care for those new humans and/or themselves in the process.
Fuck. I mean, my best childhood friend was adopted from Brazil as an infant. Who knows what kind of life she was rescued from, but Brazil has one of the worst human trafficking problems in the world. Instead, she got to live a decent life in America and continues to do incredibly well for herself.
If you are against abortion, are you for adoption? I mean, have you EVER in your life even donated money to any homeless cause or children’s rights cause? Do you actually care? Or are you trying to kamikaze into extinction by creating a one-path situation for all women, wherein they must have every child they accidentally become pregnant with? And if they are raped? And if they might die from health complications? Or if their child is definitely going to be born with a terrible disease or disorder based on say, drug addiction or genetic predisposition? And then what of all those new humans who are born, what of all those other kinds of diverse people that will be created and what will happen to their lives? And what about climate change and overpopulation?
Trump is fully aware of these actions he is making, and in revoking things like the Affordable Care Act, women’s reproductive rights, the right to a free press and free speech…he is creating a disharmony so great, that we will have to rebel.
Shit, he wanted tanks and missiles at his inauguration. He wants to be a dictator. He wants to personally choose all the reporters at the White House. His administration has started just outright renaming every deliberate untruth (aka lie) they say as an “alternative fact.” Also aka a lie. Or what they were previously calling “post-truths.” Why are you falling for his crap? What farm did you come from, and why has no one ever sheared the wool from your beautiful eyes?
Which brings me to the next point: Trump’s retaliatory executive order in response to the Women’s March, is an aggressive, unconstitutional reaction caused by his hurt ego. We should all remember what a fraud, what a trickster, and what an egotist he is in the coming years. And we should never, ever, normalize the bigotry he exhibits. He is not my President, he is a threat to democracy.
So here is what I propose: let’s look at the last few days as a historical moment for us, and give thanks and praise to every person who marched for human rights. I hope every woman with any sense of dignity and self worth continues to be inspired by what has transpired, and continues to remember that she is supported by other women and does indeed have a voice, a chance, in life. We Will overcome Trump, and we will change the world, one uterus at a time.
May 24, 2017 editorial comment: I’ve added visuals (photos, articles, screenshots, etc) to accompany my writing. I don’t know why I didn’t just do that originally. However, some of the screenshots are of correspondence between the producer and me after he read this article. Hope the visuals help you as a reader better understand what actually happened and why you shouldn’t believe what you see on TV. It’s programming. (Think professional wrestling or literally any other reality show on TV). Peace—
I want to be as clear as possible: I try to live my life as honestly and kindly as possible. Anyone who knows me really well knows this. As I have said before, I am honest to a fault. I am not perfect. No human is. Faking the blackout in the Naked and Afraid episode in Brazil in a lot of ways went against all my morals, yet at the time it was really my only choice out of a situation which was far more detrimental to my being than anyone could ever possibly gather from watching the television show. However, on hindsight I still truly believe I did the right thing. I am writing this so that I can clarify how fake the show is, as well as reiterate how detrimental media can be to the lives of people who are exploited and are left with no opportunity to defend themselves. It is my hope that in writing this for you all to see, that I can let it go and move on with my life. My happiest days are those that have nothing to do with social media, let alone talking or thinking about Naked and Afraid. I live my life as a healer, a massage therapist, and a gentle companion to my dog and friends. To be seen as a pariah in the eyes of strangers and some acquaintances alike, because they saw a fictional account of a real situation and think they now know me, is beyond frustrating. So here you go…
I was contacted by a casting director for Naked and Afraid. I had never heard of the show prior to that. I don’t watch reality television, nor do I own a television. At the time, I was homeless and living in a truck with my service dog.
Okay…I know, enough cute animal photos…back to what happened….
I was visiting my mother whom I had not seen in 6 years. It was about 20 degrees and freezing fog in Colorado. A job seemed nice. I was doing full-time school online, working on my Theatre degree.
By the way, I actually received a scholarship for Theatre and Opera 14 years ago, to the University of Vermont. I never ended up going because I didn’t know how to come up with the $10,000 of estimated living expenses as a 17 year old who received no parental support, so I moved to Japan instead. I then travelled west to become an herbalist, wildcrafter (someone who turns plants into usable products), and licensed massage therapist, as well as to pursue my many outdoor interests. I would not return to finish my college Theatre degree for another decade, at age 27.
*So, unlike the other participants of this show who call themselves actors because of this one contract, I actually have been a trained actor and model since I was a child. I modelled for an agency known as Rascal’s in New York City starting at age 7, and was in at least one play or musical per year through graduating high school. I then became a professional nude rock climbing model for a publication known as Stone Nudes by age 20, and have participated in music videos, TV (Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and live theatre (Shakespeare and contemporary) as an adult. I participated in youth theatre companies and graduated from a prep school with a double concentration in the performing arts and liberal arts. My latest role was this year as Louise in The Singing Telegram, one of 9 vignettes from Cariani’s dark comedy, Love Sick. Theatre, music, and dance have been ingrained into my life. (Playing dead or close to it in Brazil was as difficult as getting my father to carry me to bed as a kid, except while being groped, given stomach thrusts (not shown on the episode), and injected with an IV).
Within 10 days of being initially contacted by the casting director, I was flown down to Burbank. I was kept in a hotel to do a series of interviews and psychological testing, and told I was not allowed to leave my hotel room unless accompanied by whomever was guiding me around on their schedule. I spent less than 24 hours at the Marriott. I completed a 567 MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) multiple choice test which was then analyzed by a psychologist and a machine, met with the psychologist, met with executive producers, and met with a doctor in a hole-in-the-wall clinic in Burbank. The doctor’s clinic was off-site, and I was informed that I was the only participant who was brought off-site. The clinic had a main entrance, but I was brought through a back door and then was examined by a doctor in a tiny office that was covered in thank-you photos signed by a slew of the most famous celebrities in the world.
I was also told that no other participant had ever made it down to Burbank so quickly, that usually it took months, about 6. Not ten days.
I know some of you are wondering why I would be asked to participate in this show. Well, I am guessing because I have been studying plant medicine for over a decade, and because I am an extreme athlete. I am a long distance swimmer, backcountry snowboarder, and rock climber.
I also signed pages upon pages of contractual agreements, agreeing that the show had permission for “eternity” to use the footage from the show, in any way they wished, that I could not sue them, that I could die, and that they could defame me in any way they wished by portraying me in a false light. I never thought that this would later bite me in the ass.
I was hired. But then something happened: I was informed that my white blood cell count was extremely high. So I detoxed. I ate all-organically, stopped smoking weed and tobacco (I was an occassional fan of the occassional spliff), stopped drinking any alcohol, exercised and did yoga, started swimming 2 1/2 miles a few times a week. And my wbc lowered, gradually. I drove myself to blood clinics at least four times to send the show an update of my wbc. At its lowest, it was still 10,000, which is usually the high point for most people. My guess was that I either had something seriously wrong with me, or it was the fact that I have two autoimmune diseases, which cause high wbc’s.
So this period of time delayed my flight to who-knows-where. Initially, they wanted to send me to Brazil. But the delay resulted in another woman getting sent there. She and my partner met and she turned around without filming. So this again delayed the show. Simultaneously, the World Cup was going on and so visas and plane tickets were slow to obtain. By the time I was cleared to go by the doctor, the initial shoot time for the episode had been delayed by weeks, if not over a month. I was sent a bottle of Malarone, an anti-malaria medication, by the doctor’s clinic in Burbank and told to start taking them two days before flying to Brazil.
On the flight to Brazil, or in the hotel, I got head lice. I arrived there and felt the beginnings of an itchy scalp within one night, about two days before starting the show. I immediately told a medic, who upon examining me said I had literally just gotten head lice, probably on the airplane. I was given lice shampoo and used it twice before we began the show. To be as safe as possible, I shaved all my body hair from the neck down. I prayed that this wouldn’t cause an early tap-out.
My partner and I each brought four survival items with us to Brazil, which is standard for the show (reminder: the early seasons such as this one only allowed one item per person, not one and a half). He brought four knives, and I brought a water filter and three knives. Production decided against the filter and asked each of us if we’d be willing to bring a fire starter. I agreed and said that my father had recommended a magnifying glass right before he passed away. The producers loved this concept, as well as the potential story line that they could then follow. So they sent a production assistant to town to find a magnifying glass. The PA returned with one, as well as a flint on a key chain, and I was told to pick one. Obviously, the glass, as the key chain flint was a joke.
Yes, magnifying water with glass uses the sun to kill microbes. To be more exact, it scrambles the DNA of bacteria and viruses. Protozoa can not be treated this way.
They had us start in the afternoon, informing us that we were to spend the night on the way to the permanent location somewhere in the dunes. This was supposed to be more entertaining for the viewers. We were also told that we would have to redo a lot of Day One’s shots, as Day One and Day 21 were very “Hollywood,” complete with retakes to get perfect shots and cameramen and helicopters flying around. So we did our thing and spent the first night in the dunes with no shelter and no time to set one up. My partner and I couldn’t really sleep that well so we spent most of the night talking and at one point were huddled back-to-back practically sobbing because the wind and the fine quartz sand in our eyes hurt so bad. Then it would rain off and on because the coast was only miles from us, and coastal storms would bring torrential rain to the dunes on a daily or every-other-day basis, which is where the lagoons came from.
On Day 2, we were exhausted. We’d just been exposed to the elements purposefully to give everything more of an edge. We were hungry. And I was taking Malarone, which causes quite a few serious side-effects, so extreme that many people opt out of taking it and risk the chance instead of getting Malaria. Malarone causes intense, lucid nightmares, nausea, weight-loss, dizziness, moodiness, dehydration, emotional swings, and hyper-photo sensitivity (sensitivity to the sun). My partner, however, was never told he should take Malarone. Instead, he had managed to finagle a twice-daily administered Adderall prescription.
So on Day 2, we were told that we needed to camp in a certain part of the oasis, if you want to call it that (please don’t for a second think that an oasis equates to heavenly and fulfilling). My partner and I spent several hours building our shelter together. The film crew set up a tripod and later edited the footage to make it look like he built the shelter by himself, which is not true. We spent hours collecting materials and making cordage together, then tying the cross beams together. For days following that, we were always working on perfecting our shelter together. The floor was very slanted, and I spent about an hour using my legs to flatten it out, while he rested, prior to even building the walls. But the episode’s narrator says he built it while I fell asleep in the sun, which was not true. We each took about an hour off from building the shelter. The show never showed me working on it by myself. Later, the show added a clock at the bottom of the screen to make it look more factual, like he had built it by himself in a certain amount of time, though the footage is actually cut and spliced to make a time lapse. So the clock is just an ingenious way of making it look more realistic, because a person will watch the scene and see the seconds moving, even though my partner is jumping around. They are VERY GOOD at manipulating footage.
On a daily basis, the contestants are asked to step aside to conduct On The Fly interviews (OTF’s). In our case, we would need to trudge up and over a sand dune every time this happened so we could get away from earshot of our partner. Every time I was interviewed, I was asked questions about my father who had passed away a few months earlier. I was asked pointed and personal questions. I was also told to repeat my words every time I referred to the magnifying glass as “the magnifying glass,” and told to repeat and call it “my dad’s magnifying glass.” This was something I agreed to at first, because I have studied theatre my entire life. So to me, I was appeasing the producers by showing them what a good actor I was, which they were asking me to do. But over time, this was a very emotionally unnerving act that actually affected me very deeply, as my father’s death was so recent and I was still deeply mourning.
Side note: Though we were a couple hours drive from town, the town was only miles away over the dunes. Every night, a part of town had a block party and would bump really loud beats which carried over the dunes. You might think this would be cool, which it was at first. But then we realized that the DJ would play the same beat for hours on end, so we would hear this techno or reggae beat off in the distance for hours at a time. The music never stopped before 4 am. So between the music and my partner’s Adderall-induced chattiness, I literally could never find a place with quiet unless I wandered off by myself. This is kind of an odd thing to occur whilst out surviving “in the middle of nowhere.”
On a daily basis, the producer asked my partner and I to talk about growing tensions that he could observe. He said it was obvious. The producer knew very well that I was pissed that my partner was taking amphetamines and sitting on his butt all day. He would sit there and talk a lot. He would get quiet only hours after each time he was given a pill. Meanwhile, I was administered Malarone every morning, along with a 5-calorie piece of Magic Toast (some Brazilian cracker made with lots of air). I also got a bladder infection on Day 2, and was given a week of Ciprofloxacin to take care of it. That sometimes came with a sip of water.
Now, before I go on, I want to discuss the meds. One of the producers kept telling me that I didn’t need the Malarone, and that no one else there was taking it. She told me that I should stop taking it and that if I did, I also needed to say into the camera “I am choosing, by my own choice, to stop taking Malarone because….” However, I was not comfortable with this. I wondered why I was told to take it and my partner was not. I did not know how it would affect me if I stopped taking it, if it would make me more prone to Malaria because of the sudden cessation. The water was also rife with cysts, which are not killed by UV water treatment (only bacteria and viruses are). Knowing that Malaria is caused by a protozoa, which is what cysts are, I took my chances that perhaps the Malarone would help protect me against them. There was so much animal feces in the lagoons (mostly rodent and pig poop from nearby farmers) that every single cup of water had at least one cyst floating in it. And that stuff can get in your brain, which is serious. So I decided not to stop taking it, and see what happened. I will never know if any of that was deliberate on production’s part, but I do see an obvious gross oversight that my partner was never told to take Malarone while I was, and that the Malarone itself came from the show’s special hole-in-the-wall doctor in Burbank. I actually said I would stop taking it if I did not have to say into the camera that it was entirely my own choice, but they said no.
So, after a week of being asked to talk about why my partner was bothering me, but not in a way that actually had to do with why I was mad because production was tired of hearing me complain about his amphetamines, I caved. I guess my partner was also getting the same kinds of questions in his OTF’s, which we discovered later (so yes, the production team is trying to get us to react to each other). On Day 8, after the producer had said several times that I should confront my partner, I did. This resulted in a long conversation, which led to an argument where we were both saying horrible things to each other. Keep in mind that we had been eating very few calories on a daily basis, probably less than 200 a day, and the human brain needs about 400 calories a day in order to not cannibalize itself (I had no fat reserves left, and yes this is what happens when ketosis is prolonged, your body eats its own muscle and organ tissue). We had headaches, and we weren’t getting electrolytes either because the berry bushes were all unripe as a result of the whole episode being delayed for so long. The coconuts were all harvested by the locals, who had rights to the land and would often be nearby playing soccer or hanging out in the lagoon. There was nothing. The locust that my partner gave me was after I had gone hunting for locusts for days, and it fell on a cameraman who gave the locust to my partner and told him to give it to me. This same cameraman was also constantly feeding us ideas to make things more interesting.
So the argument that gets shown isn’t an argument at all, it’s just a tiny spliced part of an entire conversation that led to a two-way argument, and it’s just the part where I am retaliating to my partner and calling him names. He had just called me a bunch of names. But what is shown makes me look like I just verbally accosted him for no reason. Then the show cuts to a commercial and returns and shows the same scene all over again, just to remind everyone how evil I am by calling my partner fat and stinky.
After this argument occurred, the producer was ecstatic. He told me on a daily basis that he loved it, that Discovery would love it, and it would definitely make the cut. Basically, he had convinced me to get into an argument and then reminded me daily that it was going to be used.
I remember feeling so fucking used after that argument happened. I was so hungry, too. I went to the lagoon, where I went on a daily basis to forage. I had had a dream about finding a bird’s nest with three eggs. So I go, and I hear these birds chirping and I see a nest in a tree coming out of the lagoon. I climbed the tree and there was a nest with three baby blackbirds in it. One crawled out and the other two stayed. I was so ravenous, delirious, angry, like a wild animal. I used a small stick and my fingers to snap the necks of the two remaining birds, all while their mom was behind me, flapping her wings in mid-air and squawking at me. It was the most horrifying thing I have ever done. I wanted to die. I hated killing these things without a knife, but I knew I needed the calories because my brain was getting cannibalized. They wouldn’t completely die. It was so heartbreaking. I brought them back to camp, trying to drown them in the lagoon while I was walking, feeling so guilty that their death was not quick. I brought them back, finally dead, and the cameramen stopped filming my partner trying to make a charcoal tattoo and came over to me as I cleaned these things with my bare hands and a twig. They looked like two little mini chickens, so perfect. I skewered them on a stick and used the glass to cook them. But here was the problem: the sun went down there at 6 pm, as it was right on the equator. When I got these birds, it was well past 4 pm. So in the time I had with the sun, they only cured about half-way. They obtained this nice reddish-brown color on the outside but the inside was still raw. I tried desperately to start a fire with the magnifying glass, but the wind had picked up and the sun was setting. A fire meant digging a hole in the sand to block the wind and the sand was wet from a recent rain. I tore apart my palm leaf shirt for kindling and it kept almost happening. So many sparks, it was so close. The cameras were right there, too, in my face, and the cameramen witnessing this almost happening. But I failed. So I wrapped the birds in several layers of palm leaf and buried them in the wet sand, about three feet down, in an attempt to save them through fermentation, as more rain was coming. The next day, they smelled rotten. They ended up being the bait in a fish trap I wove, which was also never shown.
After that, I started going to the lagoon every day to look for food. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a long distance swimmer, so movement through water for me is very effortless, much less calorie-dependent than walking on fine sand dunes in the sun. I would search for berries. I found a total of 5 coconuts in the lagoon during my time in Brazil. The first two were found on the same day, after basically being told where they were by the producer. I had to wonder how he knew, but it became obvious to me later as I repeatedly saw members of the crew with wet shorts. The first two coconuts were shared with my partner. If you don’t believe me, check out my Facebook, as there is a photo there of us sitting on the mats I wove eating coconuts together. That photo was only a day or two after our big “divorce,” as they named it.
I also found moriche (in Brazil they are called buriti) floating in the water on two occasions. Most of those were shared with my partner until I had finally decided he was on his own, which was another concept purposefully brought up by production and the cameraman who liked to give us ideas. The orange stain on my mouth during the “tap-out” scene is from buriti fruit. It’s super high in beta carotene.
I also started collecting one of the types of unripe berries and putting them in a basket I made, in the shade, and discovered that they ripened to the point of fermentation that way.
I performed a 24-hour toxicity test on the cacti which was growing around us. This involved not eating anything else and meticulously waiting through each step of the test, before we concluded that it was edible. Again, this would have been prime material for educational purposes and it was all documented on camera— but if it isn’t clear yet, they deliberately omitted every bit of actual survival-related footage in exchange for creating a fake storyline based around drama. Instead, they just show a quick shot of Matt cutting a cactus down and eating it as if it were his own private food source. No mention of me making sure it wasn’t poisonous for him.
I made charcoal and started putting it in between my teeth (there were no hollow reeds sturdy enough to make a straw) while sipping water from the lagoon that had not been treated with UV. This way, I could avoid the sun to purify my water (and on that note, I actually was carrying a palm to use as a shade device in the early days when I was using the magnifying glass to treat the water).
When my partner and I split up our shelter, I opted to dig myself a grave-shaped hole, which is funny in a way because I did actually feel like a dying animal. The hole was about 7 feet long and a couple feet deep, and I covered it with a palm frond roof so that I could lay in it and stay dry and safe from the wind. It actually worked really well, too bad they never showed that either.
The producer told me several times that I had done more than any other female had ever done on the show. So later, after about two weeks when I started to say several times that I wanted to tap-out, he also informed me that if I consciously tapped-out the story would be completely altered and would be, and I quote: “that toad’s story.” He warned me about this. Keep this in mind.
The main reason I wanted to tap out was because I started to lose control of my bladder. My metabolism was way too high to start out (my partner had it right with gaining a bunch of fat beforehand). I was too fit. This is actually why I appear very chubby later in XL, because I purposefully gained over 30 lbs of pure fat and slowed my metabolism way down before going to Colombia.
So, I was peeing myself. I would drink nearly a gallon of water a day at times, but it just trickled out. I would sit there in the sand next to the camera crew and my partner sometimes, listening to him chit chat with them, and drink water and pee straight into the sand. I was really a mess. I wanted to tap out. Seriously, I needed to tap out. And yet I felt so used, so manipulated. To the very core. Everything. Made. Me. So. Pissed.
And then the producer told me that he would let me redeem myself by making a televised apology to my partner for calling him fat and stupid and smelly earlier. But he wanted me to wait until the next day, when the lighting was good. When the crew left, I had a personal talk with my partner, told him how I felt, that I was sorry, and that we were going to have a stupid redo of the apology the next day for the camera crew, which was ridiculous. I wanted him to know that I was really sorry, especially for the fact that we had to do a televised apology the next day, and was just trying to be real with him. So we forgave each other the day before what was televised.
We filmed our apology on Day 16 (the show says 15) and then I went searching for coconuts to no avail. I returned, and then the crew left for their late lunch break. While they were gone, I realized I needed to get the fuck out of there. I was terrified about the next few days, mostly because my body was shutting down. My muscles were so cramped that it would sometimes take me an hour to move from laying position to sitting or standing, and then I would get dizzy. The only real place where my muscles did not hurt was the lagoon, where I could suspend myself in water. So while they were gone, I walked to a spot in the dunes to lay down, I actually let myself fall down, and just stayed there for about a half an hour. Nobody came, so I walked a little closer to camp and did the same thing. My partner called me, came over to me, and called the medic on the radio.
I pretended to be basically catatonic. I let my body go limp, because honestly it was pretty close to that point anyways. They had been checking my blood sugar at least once a day, and it was wavering around 40-60, which is incredibly low for a person. I was pretty close to going into a coma for real. So being limp and playing dead actually felt amazing, in that I was going to get to leave there and I didn’t have to take one more fucking step in that fine, fine sand. I had taken enough extra steps for these people, both literally and figuratively.
I remember feeling one of the female PA’s divine breasts on my head as she held me and they administered an IV in my arm in the dunes. The medic was pushing on my chest and I let myself cave in and let them just keep doing whatever they needed to do, including allowing all the air to come out of my mouth when they did this. I just let my body do what it did being completely limp. Then they got a stretcher out after making the final decision to get me out (which took quite a bit of questioning and requestioning between the producer and the medic). I remember the boom technician was walking on my left side as I was laying on the stretcher, freaking out about the IV that kept coming out of my arm as the poor camera crew carried me out of the dunes, which was quite a hike from where we were camped to where the jeep could get to.
Then the entire ride to the hospital, over the dunes and through the jungle, over the ferry and through the village, they were totally focused on getting the right shots. I remember trying not to laugh when the producer asked if the camera was rolling before going on about what was happening, then he said something like “I think I just lost a piece of my soul.” I remember hearing what a great job the camera guy was doing as he was hanging out the open-sided jeep and filming the epic tap-out. Someone kept pinching one of my nipples.
The producer was joking about pizza and beer. I just did my best to let my eyes roll back and keep a straight face. And the poor medic, who could never say my name right, I felt the worst for him. Because, he was really a good guy, so sweet, and I truly felt bad hearing the fear in his voice that I was almost dead.
When we arrived at the hospital, they moved me inside and then the local doctors stuck another IV in me. Only this time, they missed my vein (I was really dehydrated). My arm started to swell up like Akira. This had happened to me once before, when I was an 18 year old living in Japan and had thumb surgery without anesthesia. It’s excruciatingly painful. That was when I opened my eyes and let myself just fucking scream. It was really a scream that I had wanted to let out for weeks, 16 days to be exact.
They kept me in the hospital overnight, wearing a diaper that I kept peeing in and in a room with other patients and a nurse who was blowing snot rockets on the ground and picking her wedgie and then touching our IV’s again without washing her hands. The show says I walked out of the hospital within hours, with a smile on my face (which was from the producer saying a joke to me at that moment, the following day, to get me to laugh for the camera). If you can keep in mind that the sun goes down at 6 pm, the footage is obviously flawed, as I would not have walked out of the hospital a couple hours later in broad daylight. No, I was picked up by the producer the following day, after a full night of glucose and saline IV’s and two pints of beef stew, which I actually inhaled in the hospital bed.
When I was weighed the next day, I had had a loss of 16 lbs, but the reality is that I probably lost much more than that, as they had not weighed me upon immediately leaving the dunes. 18-20 hours of IV’s and two pints of stew, a bunch of cookies and crackers later, they estimated that I had a loss of 18 lbs, but we will never really know. In 16 days, either way, that is a lot for a small person like me.
So there you have it. I spent the next several days in a hotel, waiting for my partner to get out, eating cookies and doing diary cameras, feeling kind of guilty and incredibly relieved. My partner could barely walk when he made it out, probably because he was soldiering on with no nutrients and a bottle of amphetamines.
Then they had us reunite and filmed me talking about my response to the producers asking me “How does it make you feel knowing that your partner carried your father’s magnifying glass all the way out of the dunes for you?” To which I replied by turning on the water works.
I find it so funny, as someone who does not identify with any particular religion, that such a Christian-rooted sense of guilt versus honor seemed to be so deeply ingrained in the producers’ interview questions, especially considering that they were continuously asking me to use my dad’s name in vain, literally.
Why did I do the XL show?
So, after my episode aired that following September, I was getting all sorts of death threats and I was devastated from how they had portrayed everything. I honestly think that when they know something negligent has happened on their part, they will throw the contestant under the bus in the edit so as to control their ability to speak up and actually be heard on social platforms. This has seemed truer as time has gone on, the more I hear from other female contestants that they were being sexually harassed by their partners, complained to the producers, and nothing was done about it. If the contestant gets a bad edit, then in the case that they try to speak up, people see them as untrustworthy or evil and chose not to listen or believe what they say.
I went off on social media and said what really happened after my first episode. I talked about everything. Discovery retaliated by not allowing me to do the scheduled Facebook live Q&A, as well as threatening me repeatedly with lawyers. Then they showed a Bares All episode that used footage of me in the shower using lice shampoo, talking about lice, and audio that was recorded out in the desert months later. The audio was my response to a producer specifically asking me about why I shaved my pubic hair. The way they portrayed it on Bares All implied that I had pubic lice, or pubic bugs. I was mortified.
I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do to defend myself, and that Discovery could keep using the footage however they wanted to. If they felt threatened by me, they would surely keep sabotaging me like this with the pubic lice kind of stuff they were doing. Terrified, I wrote Discovery Channel an apology letter for speaking out on social media, saying I hoped there was a way we could all save face, and thanking them for the experience in Brazil (this is making me nauseous writing this).
Within a day or two, I received a request from the production company to partake in the XL episode. I found this to be both bizarre and creepy. I actually had the thought that they wanted me to die. But they were offering me $23,500 if I completed the challenge, which was more money than I had ever had in my life. As someone who lives at poverty level much of the time, this is really a difficult offer to say no to.
So I detoxed, gained weight, ate tons of food, slept a lot. Did some yoga, meditated. Worked. A lot. Saved thousands of dollars for rent while I was gone, as well as a dog-sitter. I also desperately tried to remove the red hair dye I had put in my hair to disguise myself in real life from all the people who were recognizing me. I showed up in Colombia the following February for XL. This time, I came armed with a doctor’s note for salt and electrolytes. I had been randomly pissing blood (and still do), most notably right before leaving for Colombia, and my doctor said it could have been from the severe dehydration I had experienced in Brazil, what with losing control of my bladder and such.
But the producers came into my hotel room a couple days before we started the show and told me that they could not honor my prescription. They said that we all knew that my partner in Brazil had bypassed the system with his amphetamine prescription, which was why they edited my episode the way they did, they said, and that my prescription would be equally unfair to the other contestants.
They gave me the option to go home, or do the show without my doctor’s prescription. This scared me, for multiple reasons. But I could not go home empty handed, if for any reason other than that I literally would not be able to pay rent if I did not try to make some money on the show. I had already been taken off my work schedule by my employer.
On Day 1 in Colombia, one of my partners informed me that one of the other contestants was allowed to take B-vitamins, specifically as a mosquito-repellent, and as a substitute for Malarone (she has confirmed this with me). Malarone again had been given to me and some–not all– of the other contestants. Then we discovered that our third partner had two bottles of homemade tincture that his brother had made him, labeled, “[His brother’s name]’s Blend.” He told us he also got to take this on his first challenge, and that it had a bunch of mosquito-repelling herbs, nice alcohol, and fish oil so he could get all his aminos. He was allowed to take this at-will, as it was always in our camp’s dry bag, off-camera, where we keep the radio and tampons and Malarone pills.
This infuriated me. I could not get over how pissed I was. Furthermore, on Day 1, right before I was dropped off and while I was still blindfolded, the field producer in the jeep with me told me this: “So I’m really sorry. Discovery decided against your fire starter, they said it was too high-tech and they wanted to give you a bow drill instead. I tried to go to bat for you, but they wouldn’t listen,” he said. It was a ferrocerium and magnesium flint, not that high-tech at all. This was unnerving, not because I now all of a sudden had a bow drill, but because we spend months beforehand talking about what 4 items to bring, and this discussion goes between the producers and contestants and is very specific. So the fact that this was being relayed to me as I was getting dropped off seemed a bit fishy and sabotaging to me. So I had my machete and a bow drill.
I had flank pain that was incredibly intense on Day 4, and said I wanted to tap-out on Day 5. The producer asked me to wait one more day before tapping out. On Day 6, we were awakened by medics who wanted to check me out. They looked at me and left to get me antibiotics, as I was in severe pain and had barely slept as a result. I was also offered a piece of cracker that morning to go with my Malarone, which had been overlooked on the days prior due to my choice to take it at night so as to avoid mood swings during the day. So I took a Malarone, and right about when it kicked in, my partner started to tell me that I was lazy and needed to do more (this part was not shown), which led to the “sabotage scene.” This scene again, involved an editorial muting of Luke’s words to me prior to me getting upset. Again, they edited the episode to make it seem like he just said one line to me and I reacted irrationally. He was actually sitting there for about 10 minutes, complaining as I was waiting for the medics to return with antibiotics.
So there you have it. When I revolted, it was not just against my partners. And I am not going to get into the details about that right now, it’s just not that important. I really wanted to throw the cameras in the river, too. I threw that shit in the river on Day 6—not Day 10 like they said—and got kicked off the show. I had been given the option to stay and find it, but really I did not want to go diving in the river that was supposedly full of anacondas. It just wasn’t worth it to me. Plus, I was over it. So there you go. Call it want you want. Call it a TV show. Call it a social experiment. The truth is, it’s much, much more than that. Much more.
Edit: I was told to immediately cease taking Malarone by the doctor in Colombia upon exiting the show. Apparently it is contraindicated for people with a history of kidney problems like I have.
I also would like to add, there were info tidbits demonstrated by Luke that I actually taught him and he chided me for until I left, and then he taught them as his own. One example is of him removing a splinter with a spinous thorn from a tree. I did this and he made fun of me for it. Additionally, they were using resources I was collecting and simultaneously complained that I was not doing anything, for example: all the vines we were using for fish baskets. I would put some down and leave to collect more, and they would be gone when I returned. On the topic of fish baskets, I had made a plethora of logical recommendations which the guys turned down until someone else suggested them, such as: I recommended we weave a large flat basket, instead of a funnel (we each made one), to scoop fish. They declined until a cameraman later said that was what the locals did. Etc.
Last college term, I wrote a 20 page research paper titled “Media Manipulation and Its Adverse Effects on Society.” It included two empirical surveys, one which surveyed fellow cast members from Naked and Afraid.
You can find it on this Word Press website.
Well, some time has passed. I’ve recently discovered that it was incredibly easy to coordinate a pro-Bernie road rally in South Lake Tahoe in less than two days from idea to manifestation. The numbers of supporters who are willing and Ready to get out there and spread the word, fight for our rights, and work together all the while are exponentially increasing by the day. Plus, we were donated organic pizza for our efforts.
Don’t let others tell you who you are. Don’t let them tell you you don’t have a chance. Don’t let them scare you into complacency.
Media manipulation is a serious problem in today’s society. Don’t believe what they feed you on the TV and radio. It’s dirty messaging.
Media Manipulation and Its Adverse Affects On Society
Media has played an important role in mass communication for decades. From newspapers to television, radio, and now the internet, we have enabled ourselves to readily transmit or receive news and entertainment at the blink of an eye. But has our ability as a society to discern facts from fiction dissipated with the rise of new technology? What are the long term effects of the media on the world population as a whole if what we see, read, and hear is deliberately misleading us? As media continues to be meticulously manipulated while simultaneously increasing in popularity and usability, people are facing some potentially serious consequences.
Particularly in the last decade, with the rise of social media hubs such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and various websites that allow internet piracy and free downloads of television shows and movies, we have shifted to a time where most information is free and accessible, privacy is nearly nonexistent, and the fine line between reality and fiction is repeatedly blurred.
The technology available to ordinary citizens enables the manipulation of truth, which is then spread as fact. There is often no independent corroboration of the facts in the rush to get the information out there. Information flows so quickly and in such huge quantities that all kinds of internet users — individuals, corporate executives, government officials, media editors, and television producers — have difficulty keeping up effectively (Mintz).
Have you ever heard the phrase, “ask Google?” We have entered an age where almost anything in writing can be found via the internet–but how accurate is it all? The fact is, anybody can post a blog or article these days, regardless of their credentials. Although this can be seen as a good thing (freedom of information, freedom of speech, etc), it also means that the average internet surfer is likely to be mislead during any query they enter into their search bar. One instance of this is when a person turns to Wikipedia for an answer. Though what they read may be correct, it can also be edited by anybody else who comes across the page on the internet. So what we see as truth or fact is actually a collaboration of different opinions, none of which are cross-checked.
Major news channels use candidly attractive spokespeople to gossip about reality show actors-turned-politicians while sipping from carefully placed Starbucks cups and getting financial endorsements. It is nearly impossible to watch anything on television without being bombarded with advertisements for pharmaceuticals and fast-food products riddled with chemicals, followed by commercials for products which supposedly cancel out the harmful (but never mentioned) side-effects of poor diets. We promote obesity by promoting outrageously high-fat and calorie foods, told that we need to be thin and attractive, and are offered more pharmaceuticals for our now overloaded minds which crave the things that kill us. Even the most educational programming is chock-full of commercials, and every commercial tries to sell something–an idea, a product, a mindset. It is difficult to imagine how a person who spends substantial amounts of time exposed to constant advertisements on television and contrived news sources could not be somehow mislead by it all.
To an outsider, America (as a microcosm of the world population) may well look like it is on its way to embodying the characteristics of the futuristic garbage planet in Judge and Cohen’s movie Idiocracy, a comedy where everyone watches the television, stupid people have taken over the planet, and the world’s President is a former wrestling champion who believes a Gatorade-like sugary drink called Brawndo is good for the dying plants because it has electrolytes: “what plants crave” (Judge, 2003). Reality shows, the new trend in television entertainment, abound with naked or obnoxious people in awkward and risky situations, are designed to create entertainment from “real” situations using manipulative editing and dramatic storytelling, leaving the viewer with the impression that they have watched “reality” but often hiding the meticulously edited truth behind the scenes.
While alluding to the cultural theorist Raymond Williams, Professor Edward D. Miller of the College of Staten Island, City University of New York says “the social possibilities, as Williams puts it, are left underexamined, while exhibitionist moments are shot in close-up, involving the audience in the emotions of the scene but not in the political dynamics of the event” (Miller). He quotes Williams’ theory that art begets art and technology begets technology: “The adaptation of received forms to the new technology has led in a number of cases to significant changes and to some real qualitative differences” (Miller). Hence, if today’s media will shape tomorrow’s, the extent of manipulative editing in the guise of reality may very well lead to an era of misinformation.
This misinformation era, however, is not accidental. Behind every advertisement is a carefully analyzed plan of action and often a political agenda. Miller points out that the US Army is one of the reality show Survivor’s biggest sponsors. Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, another survivalist reality show, uses the premise that it is a social experiment. So, we must wonder not only why shows are edited in certain ways but what is the initial message its primary sponsors are intending to portray. Reality survival show contestants often boast of their newfound personal insights throughout their raw experiences of suffering, an uncanny similarity to the idea that someone in the US Army will, too, become heroic through their suffering and survival instincts (Miller). “‘There’s a pioneer spirit that exists in these types of shows, a sense of being the master of your own destiny when you’re in a survival situation, that people really find appealing,’ says Brian Catalina, an executive producer of Ultimate Survival Alaska. ‘That’s a part of our cultural DNA that we’re not that far removed from’”(Peisner).
What the viewer sees when watching a reality television show, despite it being called “reality,” is the edited side of things. They are oblivious to the other hundreds, if not thousands of hours of footage that occurred in between the 20 to 40 minutes of episode time. Scenes are edited with techniques such as worst-side shooting, causal deletion, nonlinear events shown out of context, cherry-picked quotes, and dramatic soundtracks (Manipulative Editing).
Instead of offering diversity, these shows will put forward ideal types as everyday people. Moreover, whereas contestants or participants may not be actors (and hence always acting as if they were their real true and always authentic selves), editing will turn interactions and confessions into montaged performances, showing how hours of dull footage can be edited into dramatic sequences. In these sequences, not all aspects of the story are included, nor will all viewers find themselves in the characters on screen.” (Miller)
Actors are perceived as real-life people because they are playing the part of themselves, but viewers are rendered unable to comprehend what they see as dramaticized because they believe they are watching reality. Essentially, the viewer sees an idealized version of a real person in a real situation that has been edited into an entirely new story. While the actor/ reality show participant may have been genuinely suffering while filming, their reasons for suffering often are not honestly portrayed. For instance, as with worst-side shooting and nonlinear editing, a person could be caught on film in the middle of an argument but the entire argument could be omitted so as to just see the person reacting to the other person, making them look irrational. If the person they are talking to has their back turned to the camera, their words could be muted and an entirely different scenario could be portrayed to the viewer, vilifying the seemingly reactionary person on camera. The viewer sees a situation which they believe is real, unknowing of the carefully executed editing used to create a fictional story from real circumstances. As a result, public figures are made from fake circumstances using real people, and viewers are further misinformed about reality.
Simultaneously, as the new millennia progressed Hollywood, we saw the arrival of new myths, new heros, and stories that focused on fantasy and idealism rather than social or political commentary. Directors rarely make strong social statements because this would narrow their viewership, and they need as many supporters as possible in order to create the profits they desire (Mast and Kawin). So, if profits are the ultimate deciding factor in what directors put their efforts into, networks do not want to make bold political statements that would offend viewers, and politicians are willing to pay for advertising time, then clearly what we see on television is not only deliberate, it is financed by the few who can actually afford it, primarily the “one percent,” or the government.
In an anonymous and empirical survey of forty-seven people, conducted by the author of this paper (Bowen), when asked to use a scale of zero to ten (ten being most accurate) to rate their perceptions of various kinds of media portrayal accuracies, 38.31% of respondents answered that they believed that people portrayed on reality shows were portrayed with an accuracy of six to ten. Over 25% of respondents rated reality show personas as portrayed with a rated five accuracy and the remaining respondents rated portrayals as a zero to four accuracy. Thus, more than half of the respondents believe that reality show personas are at least fifty percent accurate in their portrayals (Public’s Perception of Media Accuracy). If this were used as a representation of the entire population, one might say that at least fifty percent of people believe at least fifty percent of what they see on television. If what is portrayed on television is not 100% accurate (which it is not), then the majority of the population is effectively being mislead.
One particular genre within reality television that has recently been put under the magnifying glass is that of “survival.” As networks strive to continue to push the envelope by creating increasingly dangerous and exciting television, production methods are starting to be questioned by not only the viewers but the actors or participants as well. Cody Lundin of Discovery Channel’s “Dual Survivor” says he was fired for refusing to partake in dangerous activities that his producer thought would be entertaining, and that “dealing with people who have no experience in [his] profession who are making a show on survival skills” puts viewers at risk (Peisner). Bear Grylls of the survival show “Man Vs. Wild” says, “The truth is, good survival requires you take no risks, stay put, make yourself safe, wait for rescue. But that’s boring TV” (Peisner). Hence, “survival entertainment,” as Lundin prefers to call the survival reality television genre, is not directed at teaching the public how to actually survive in life-threatening situations; rather, it is directed at ratings while possibly inspiring people to put themselves in life-threatening situations (Peisner). False situations are portrayed as real and educational, without long-term consideration towards the viewers who are being led to believe that the highly edited and dangerous scenarios are doable for them, or even safe at all. But it is not educational reality television at all, it is propaganda. It is a form of brainwashing which promotes the corporate mentality, directed at the entire population and orchestrated by the corporations and entities which fund the programs and networks themselves.
Even as the show is a fantasy about adapting to primitive life and becoming a native in a strange environment, it is an allegory about the individual in the corporate world. Such a person will eat a rat if he or she must. The viewer is given a simplistic reading of Darwin, one that justifies ruthless and selfish behavior.
Corporate ideology and its utilization of survival of the fittest have created a bizarre synergy… (Miller)
When taking into consideration that, if values such as the US Military’s motto “be all you can be” are being promoted through reality shows about survival of the fittest, while the shows are actually being funded by the US Military itself, it makes sense that this is deliberate. Large portions of the population can simultaneously be inspired to go on reckless adventures while obtaining unrealistic ideals of what it would be like to survive with close to nothing, all because they saw “real” people on a reality television show. As Miller says about Survivor, “participants argue that the challenge of the show has made them stronger and clearer about their place in the world…almost a golden product placement for one of the sponsors, the US Army, which suggests that a stint in the army is also about personal growth and giving a young recruit a leg up and not about defending global US interests” (Miller).
In another empirical survey, Bowen asked four other reality show participants from Discovery Channel’s show Naked and Afraid to rate how accurately they believed they were portrayed on television. One respondent answered “two,” another answered with “three,” and the other two answered with “five.” The same numbers were given when asked how accurately they believed other public figures are portrayed on television. Hence, of the four Naked and Afraid contestants, not including the author of this paper, an average of 3.75 out of a scale of zero to ten resulted in regards to their perceptions of how people are portrayed on television. When asked four separate questions regarding sense of health and well-being prior to and after filming, during the airing of their show on television, and after the airing of their show on television, every person responded with a decreased sense of health and well being as time progressed. The average sense of health and well-being prior to participating in a reality show, on a scale of 0 to 10, was 8.75, dropping to 7.75 after filming, 6.25 while their shows were being aired, and then slightly increasing to a plateau of 6.5% after their respective airings ceased. Hence, of four people who participated in the show Naked and Afraid, the average sense of health and well-being dropped by 22.5% after participating in a reality show, watching it air on television, and allowing time to pass (Public Figure and Media Perception Accuracy). For whatever each individual’s reasons were (health problems related to starving while filming Naked and Afraid, or being portrayed–or inaccurately portrayed–on television), each of the four surveyed reality show participants listed a long term decrease in overall sense of health and well-being after participation in the show.
Let us look at the types of manipulative editing techniques which were mentioned above: causal deletion, worst-side shooting, nonlinear events which are shown out of context, cherry-picked quotes, and dramatic soundtracks. In the case of causal deletion, editors can deny information or accentuate the negative (Manipulative Editing). Denial of information can occur when an action is portrayed as sudden when in actuality it was the result of multiple other instances or conversations which are omitted completely. This shortens the storyline so that it fits the allotted air time, but misleads the viewer because they no longer are privy to the actual reasoning behind the actions that are shown. Accentuation of the negative is when the producers and editors decide to only show the negative moments of a situation or person’s actions which were caught on camera (Manipulative Editing). If a person tends to become over-reactive when under stress, but is sweet and kind 99% of the time, it is likely that only the reactive moments will be shown because these are the dramatic moments which tend to make reality television interesting. Therefore, an entirely new persona is shown on television, one that may appear to be unpleasant 100% of the time, because only the negative aspects of their personality are shown. This is also an example of worst-side shooting.
Nonlinear events being shown out of context is a simple technique that allows the editor to truly cut-and-paste a storyline. In the case of Naked and Afraid, two contestants are placed in a remote location to survive naked and with limited survival tools for three weeks. Three weeks of camera time equates to a total of 10,080 minutes. The actual episode contains only 42 minutes, many of which are repeated scenes and stock footage of wildlife, so it would not be difficult to portray multiple scenes with vital soundbites or events in a nonlinear way. Contestants are often interviewed with pointed questions and asked to rephrase them in certain ways, so the reality show is actually shot for the purpose of creating a stockpile of footage which can be used in any way. A person may say, “I am so mad at that other person” during an on-the-fly interview on day 20, but the clip could be shown to occur on day 10 because it creates drama when immediately following an entirely unrelated scene. The viewer has no way of knowing there is a discrepancy in linear time, except perhaps if they notice that the contestant looks like they somehow gained weight while starving between day 10 and day 20.
Another technique that is often used in television is that of using voice-overs. Contestants or actors from any given show may be asked to participate in an off-scene voice recording session in which they repeat certain lines multiple times. Sometimes these lines are things that were actually said while filming and were not adequately caught with the sound recording equipment. However, while in a studio and doing voice-overs, it is easy enough to ask the person speaking to use different kinds of vocal inflections, thus adding to the tableau of sound bites which can later be integrated into the television program. If the actor who is speaking has their back turned, hiding their mouth from the camera, it is possible that the words being said are not ever actually said in that moment. Or, a person could be speaking with their back turned from the camera and their words could be muted, making it look like they are not speaking at all. With all of these editing techniques, cherry-picking lines is not very difficult to do.
Dramatic soundtracks and sound effects are integrated into nearly everything on television today. Pretend that you are watching a scene in which a person is about to reel something in from a river on a fishing line. You might hear a variety of music accompanying this scene. If the editors choose to play a light-hearted bluegrass or country song, the result would be that the anticipation of whatever is being caught has come with a sense of relief or joy. But if a darker tune, perhaps an epic piece from a classical composer like Wagner, for instance, is played, the scene would then be associated with fear or excitement over something which could be dangerous. Is the fisherman about to catch a catfish or a shark? The music can make you think either about what you are seeing. Dramatic sound bites can also be paired with scenes in a way so that the viewer associates the two things with each other (Manipulative Editing). For instance, if a person is talking about the beauty of the place they are in and the camera shows a scenic panorama, the viewer may think that what they are seeing is a beautiful place. If a person is talking about the danger of the place they are in and the scene actually portrays stock footage of a grizzly bear or anaconda, the emphasis of danger is shown through the wildlife. This can also be used to create public perceptions of public figures. In the final episode of Naked and Afraid XL, wherein twelve contestants reunite in Los Angeles after attempting to survive naked in the Orinoco Basin of Colombia for 40 days, this technique was used. Towards the end of the reunion episode, called “Dirty Dozen Return,” one contestant says, “Be prepared to confront ALL your demons,” as the camera zooms in on the author of this paper’s face, which happened to be giving a certain look that might be perceived as looming or negative (Garfinkle, “Naked and Afraid XL: Dirty Dozen Return”). When in actuality, the moment that is shown on the contestant’s face was not actually captured while the other contestant was speaking, it was a deliberate cut-and-paste of her facial expression, paired with the spoken words, taken from ten hours of studio footage. This may have been because the show deliberately vilified the author of this paper in their portrayal of her in response to her throwing her partners’ tools in a river, which had resulted in her getting kicked off the show.
Unfortunately, the editing techniques which have been mentioned (and there are many more) can be applied to anything on television–not just reality shows. When the four surveyed reality show participants from Naked and Afraid were asked how accurately they believed the news is portrayed on media, they responded with “zero, two, three, and five,” resulting in an average of 2.5 on a scale of zero to ten. When the forty-seven non-participants of any reality show were asked the same question, two respondents skipped the question while the remaining 45 respondents averaged 2.22 on the same scale of zero to ten (Public’s Perception of Media Accuracy). So while it may be clear that a public figure who has experienced manipulative editing personally may have a more discerning perspective over reality portrayals than the average viewer, it seems that most people are aware of the manipulation which occurs in the news, regardless of personal experience in the Hollywood industry.
Because there is no cross-checking of information before anything gets aired on television, what results is often an intentional and misleading portrayal of news in a way that deliberately promotes the Republican agenda, funded by the Republican party. Jon Stewart (the ex-host of The Daily Show) says, politicians with big money can set the media agenda by controlling it. As Trier, editor of the Media Literacy department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote, “in the 2007 interview, Stewart echoed his view that mainstream media was being (or was allowing itself to be) manipulated by presidential administrations” (Trier). As mainstream news channels such as Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel no longer have to portray the news in an accurate manner, people are becoming increasingly dependent on comedy shows such as The Daily Show and Colbert Report on Comedy Central for their information. Such shows, which focus on the fallacies of Republican-funded mass media, make it a point to clarify these fallacies but while keeping the comedic appearance of satire. Because it is delivered as satire, Comedy Central has–ironically– found a way to point out the truth without getting sued by the politicians it makes fun of; in turn, viewers see “comedy” and interpret it as they wish. So, even if these satirical news shows are delivering fact over fiction, they can not actually come out and say this directly, because they are not an actual “news” channel.
In his article “The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism,” Baym says that “the boundaries between news and entertainment, and between public affairs and pop culture, have become difficult if not impossible to discern. At the intersection of those borders sits The Daily Show With Jon Stewart…although the program often is dismissed as being “fake” news, its significance for political communication may run much deeper” (Baym). In a cross-sectional study of The Daily Show and Colbert Report viewers which focused on avoidance and motivation behaviors behind watching the show, results “suggest[ed] high levels of political interest, attention, and knowledge among viewers (Young & Tisinger, 2006). Additional research indicates high levels of internal political efficacy among [The Daily Show] viewers and low trust in political institutions (Baumgartner & Morris, 2006).” (Young) So, as the media continues to manipulate the truth for viewers and viewers slowly become more skeptical, satire increasingly becomes a truer version of the news than the news which claims to be true.
We can also take a look at the agricultural industry and its effects on obesity for more examples of media manipulation and its negative effects on society. In the documentary Fed Up, they discuss how the US government played a large part in omitting daily sugar recommendations on nutritional labels because of the increase in use of refined sugar in food and dairy products. The “got milk?” campaign is shown to have been created for profit and not actually for health benefits. The American Medical Association worked directly with the Bush administration in deliberately omitting health recommendations for sugar because they were making so much money on obesity, diabetes, and other food-related diseases that they decided it was in their better interest to mislead Americans into poor dietary habits (Fed Up). Meanwhile, because of the low-fat and fat-free health fads which arose in the last few decades, extra milk fat was made into cheese products and redistributed through processed and fast foods (so that it was not wasted). These processed and fast foods are not regulated by the FDA with the same rigor as unprocessed and natural foods and often contain extremely unhealthy and unrealistic levels of sodium, sugar, fat, and calories. This leads consumers towards an incredibly unhealthy dietary concept. And all of these things are advertised on television.
Take McDonald’s as an example, which lists the nutritional facts for their foods online. One Bacon Clubhouse Burger contains 740 calories, 370 which are from fat (64% of the recommended daily value based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet). This one single burger also contains 62% of the recommended daily sodium intake, 41% of the recommended daily cholesterol intake, and fourteen grams of sugar, more than half the sugar of what is recommended per day (McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items). If a person were to combine medium french fries and a medium Coca Cola with their Bacon Clubhouse Burger, they would add a sickening 540 calories, an additional 24% of the daily recommended value of fat, and 55 grams of sugar. One medium-sized Bacon Clubhouse Burger Value Meal therefore contains 1,280 calories, 88% of the daily recommended value of fat, and 70% of their sodium intake. This same meal contains 69 grams of sugar– a whopping 276% of the recommended daily value (McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items). If a person increased their meal to a large or extra large value meal, they would probably exceed all of their dietary recommendations for the day in just one meal alone.
The recommended daily intake of sugar is 25 grams, or less than 10% of one’s total energy consumption, according to the World Health Organization (Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children). But, this is not listed on nutritional labels because most processed foods contain such high levels of sugar that the FDA would have to relist their entire food pyramid recommendations in order to create a balance for the sugar levels that we already are used to consuming. Additionally, most food companies (the majority which are owned under the umbrella companies Monsanto and Phillip Morris–the owner of Marlboro cigarettes and Kraft Foods) would have to create new recipes for all of their unhealthily sugary food products. One might wonder why this has not occurred yet. According to the World Health Organization, “increasing or decreasing free sugars is associated with parallel changes in body weight, and the relationship is present regardless of the level of intake of free sugars. The excess body weight associated with free sugars intake results from excess energy intake” (Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children). In an age when obesity is an increasing concern, “More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese,” and “about one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese,” we have to wonder why this major omission of nutritional information continues in our society (Overweight and Obesity Statistics). According to the World Health Organization:
After extensive discussions, it was decided that excess weight gain and dental caries should be the key outcomes of concern in relation to free sugars intake. Risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD is often mediated through the effects of overweight and obesity, among other risk factors. Therefore, measures aimed at reducing overweight and obesity are likely to also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD, and the complications associated with those diseases (“Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children”).
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that “Since the early 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4 to 35.7 percent in U.S. adults age 20 and older” (Overweight and Obesity Statistics). Furthermore, a myriad of health problems have been directly associated to being overweight, beyond CVD and diabetes. According to the World Health Organization:
Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as:
cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012;
musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).
The risk for these noncommunicable diseases increases, with an increase in BMI.
Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects. (Obesity and overweight).
In conclusion, the effects of media manipulation on society as a whole are so vast that we may not be currently comprehending the whole picture. But, if we know that media manipulation has an adverse effect on those who participate in the making of reality shows, leads viewers towards dangerous situations without educating them properly, twists the truth so that it deliberately propagates specific political agendas through news and entertainment programs alike, and promotes obesity and related disease through unhealthy promotional advertising, why are we continuing to allow ourselves to lose touch with reality? At what point do we stand up and demand reform–or, will we just sit idly by and allow ourselves and each other to continue to be brainwashed every time we turn on the television? It seems as though the powers that be, those who can afford to pay for production and advertising, are not looking out for the general welfare of society as a whole. Contrarily, we have allowed for corporations to become more important than people because we allow them to direct our attention towards the things that make them more money while at the expense of our health, knowledge, and integrity. While on one hand we are evolutionarily progressing towards the expansion of knowledge through our scientific pursuits as a species, we may also be regressing in our ability as a species to discern facts from fiction.
It is my hope that we turn our attention towards this issue and proactively take back our right to information–our right to accurate information, to be exact. Perhaps we could reform reality television so that a disclaimer might always be shown, explaining that what we are seeing is actually entertainment. We could follow Cody Lundin’s phrasing and call survival reality shows “survival entertainment.” The simple wording that we use may be all that needs to change. We could call the news what it is–news opinion, entertainment, or Republican entertainment. We could call reality television what it is–reality entertainment. When a network says a thing is fact and has no meter with which to measure its accuracy, we are allowing that network to lie to us. We are allowing television programming to literally program us. As the great jazz musician Miles Davis once wrote, “knowledge is freedom, and ignorance is slavery” (Davis, 1989). Let us, as human beings who all deserve to be free, put a stop to the media’s enslavement of our minds. Let us seek out truth in everything.
Baym, Geoffrey. “The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political
Journalism.” Political Communication: 259-76. Print.
Davis, Miles, and Quincy Troupe. Miles, the Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster,
Fed up. Dir. Soechtig. RADiUS-TWC, 2014. Film.
“Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children.” (2015). WHO. World Health Organization.
Web. 3 Dec. 2015
Judge, Mike. Idiocracy. [Twentieth Century Fox], 2003. Film.
“Manipulative Editing.” TV Tropes. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Mast, Gerald, and Bruce F. Kawin. A Short History of the Movies. Abridged 11th ed. Boston:
Pearson, 2012. Print.
“McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items.” Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
A fan said something to me yesterday on Facebook about “punching a hole in the movie screen.” He couldn’t have said that more perfectly, and I’m not sure anything could have been more humanizing to me than to hear someone say that at this time.
When I approached Discovery Channel about how my prescription was withheld from me on the shoot of Naked and Afraid XL, they responded by censoring me. My Q&A was indefinitely postponed once again, and I was essentially cut off from all communication with my press contact. No help was offered, and nothing was said.
I have mentioned this issue time and time again, on-camera and off. I talked about the prescriptions every day in Colombia. I talked about it in private interviews, private messages to producers, and at the reunion shoot this last July. In fact, I pretty much got kicked out of my final interview because the producer was so pissed at me for once again bringing it up.
As a result, I have been watching this bizarrely edited story play out on television and been unable to advocate for or defend myself. My partner from my initial episode and I were not allowed to have the usual Q&A either, so I have now experienced this censorship continuously since signing up for the show.
The show has withheld all footage pertaining to my drama with production, of course, and focused on anything else that makes sense with their story line. Critics have poured every abusive label onto me and some of the other cast members, deeming themselves as self-proclaimed web psychiatrists and spouting diagnoses from bipolar to sociopath to BPD, etc, etc, etc.
Knowing what I know about what really happened in Brazil and Colombia, I have to say it would be detrimental to my physical and mental health to keep shut about it. Discovery made a mistake. A huge one.
To summarize the medical thing:
My first partner was taking amphetamines out in the Brazil sand dunes, and they created a false story line because the actual story line would have been “bad for the viewers, and bad for the show,” as Executive Producer Steve Rankin told me in Colombia. My partner told me on night 1 that he “could not believe they let him take Adderall” out there, and that he had managed to get a prescription right before leaving for Brazil. While I thought this was going to be a good thing, it was not. Twice a day, a PA would give him his amphetamine pill, and then he would proceed to sit in the shade and talk excessively with the crew members, like he was on speed. He was not focusing on anything, nor was he getting up and doing anything. He wasn’t hungry, and he was talking a lot. That is it.
Note: I actually do have ADD (inattentive ADHD), and have been prescribed Adderall myself in the past. It does not have a speedy effect on people with ADD; it usually does the opposite: it helps them focus. The chemical processes of someone with inattentive ADHD are different than those without. So for example, if I were to do cocaine, it would work more like Ritalin or Concerta; it would help me focus and would not affect me as a party drug like most people.
So, my partner was on amphetamines and I was on Malarone, dealing with its side effects such as UTIs, sun-sensitivity, nausea, nightmares, hallucinations, and intense emotions (though who knows, some of that could have also been from being asked to talk about my dad over and over again).
Hence, because the actual events were not something Discovery wanted to portray, they threw me under the bus. They cut me out of shelter building and did not show a single thing that I actually did: fishing, fish baskets, killing birds, finding moriche fruit and coconuts and sharing them with my partner, making charcoal for water filtration, doing a 24-hour toxicity test on the cactus they only show my partner eating, etc, etc. Instead, they focused on their fabricated story about “my dad’s magnifying glass” and made me look like I was running a daily marathon out in the dunes until I passed out. The producer told me I had done more than any other female contestant, but the edit portrayed the exact opposite.
I showed up in Colombia with a doctor’s note for salt and another supplement for my kidneys. Two days before we started the challenge, Steve Rankin and two field producers stepped into my hotel room to discuss my prescription. Steve Rankin told me that it would be unfair to the other contestants and thus they could not honor my prescription. He said to go home or do it without. (By the way, Steve Rankin was the executive producer for Man Vs. Wild).
On Day 1, I found out that one of my partners got homemade tincture, made by his brother, containing fish oil, alcohol, herbs, and “lots of other” unknown ingredients. He was allowed to take this tincture at-will, and it was always accessible to him in our dry-bag. He said he also was allowed to take a similar concoction in his last challenge. My other partner said one of the women in another camp got to take B-vitamins (which she has confirmed with me). Both of these things were substitutes for the Malarone many of us were told to take.
Now, Malarone is not supposed to be taken by people with any kind of history of kidney problems, because it filters through the kidneys. But I was never given an option to bring my own homemade tincture, or to take B-vitamins as a substitute. There was NEVER an option for any alternative, ever.
I was pissed. I felt betrayed and discriminated against. I spoke about this daily. In fact, I pretty much refused to answer any interview question because I was so pissed off. Then one of the producers informed me that “many of the cast members got to take supplements.” This was after he stood idly by in my hotel room while Rankin told me it would be “unfair” to honor my supplement prescription. So, knowing that “many of the cast” got supplements, there was still an executive decision to disallow mine, though mine came prescribed.
I had brought salt and my other supplement out to Colombia with me. When I was told I could not bring them on the show, I ended up dumping the bag of salt onto my head and scrubbing it into my scalp, so that I had salt in my hair for a couple of days. I was picking at salt like head lice until I got so hot that I had to go for a dip in the creek and it dissolved.
In fact, I had so much salt on my head that when I stripped on Day 1, it literally poured out from my shirt and down my torso. (FYI, they also had us film the initial strip-down/walk into the jungle scene two days before the actual start of the show, to save time when we actually started, so there is footage of me stripping without salt pouring off as well).
After three days of telling the producers they were corrupted, they conceded to find me some salt pills. Apparently in the whole of Eastern Colombia they could only find 10 tiny salt packets, and so they said I could have one pill every few days. They did not honor the other half of my supplement prescription, and the amount of salt given to me was not what was recommended.
I think they had gotten the point that I would not answer any questions on-camera if I was going to be discriminated against, and since the only drama I was speaking about had to do with THEM, they needed to do something.
The day before I tapped out, I told production I wanted to go home. The Malarone was building up in my system because it filters through the kidneys and my kidneys were not functioning properly due to low salt and electrolyte levels. I was having severe UTI symptoms as well as an intense pain in my left kidney alarm point. (By the way, as soon as I was medically examined post-tap out, the doctor said to immediately cease taking Malarone because of my kidneys).
So back to the challenge… I tried tapping out and they begged me to stick it out another day.
The day I tapped out, the medics arrived first thing in the morning to check me out. Then they left to get me antibiotics. I was laying down and my partner proceeded to tell me for about 15 minutes that I needed to get up and pull my own weight.
What you saw on the show was the very tail-end of a 15 minute berating session from my partner. Like in the Brazil episode, nearly everything my male partner said got completely edited out and they cut to my reaction, resulting in what appears to be an irrational response to absolutely nothing. This is not what happened.
It seems to me that when a major television network or its affiliates realize they have made any kind of mistake that could possibly get them in trouble or damage their reputation, they throw whomever was injured under the bus. They edit that person to make them look irrational, crazy, untrustworthy, or any other stereotype so that if they do choose to speak out, no one listens to or believes them. This is what happened with me in Brazil and at least one other cast member on the XL show. This is also what they did to the honorable Cody Lundin from Dual Survival.
This is what television does when it is a major network channel funded by dirty politics. They have the power to essentially brainwash viewers by using the power of suggestion. They edit, cut, delete, dub, sub, and repeat certain lines or scenes so that the viewer hears and sees something enough times that they actually believe it.
(They say if you hear something three time, it starts to become a truth in your mind.)
Well, back to the fourth wall. In theater, when an actor communicates with the audience, it is called breaking the fourth wall. As my fan commented, I essentially broke the television screen when I threw my partners’ tools in the creek. I broke the fourth wall.
I was rebelling against the entire system.
This was not just about me and my partners. Not at all. This was production, this was Discovery. This was manipulation, exploitation, discrimination, starvation. This was dehumanizing a woman for television so someone in a leather office chair can make a buck.
This was my primal scream.
My only wish is that I could have climbed out of the television at that point.
But, now that the metaphorical wall has been broken, perhaps people will see the show for what it really is.
A note: If you are seeking the article about “How Naked and Afraid is Like a Nazi Experiment and Why I Faked the Blackout in Brazil,” please click on the link from the homepage. This is a different article which was written prior. — Honora
This quote says it all. I’ve said my entire life that I am honest to a fault. The problem with honesty is, it makes people uncomfortable or pisses them off. Granted, lies and pretension make ME uncomfortable. To each their own.
Is it really possible to be honest all the time AND liked by everyone? I don’t think so, honestly.
I don’t think it’s possible to be liked by everyone. Period. Nor do I think it is possible for the average human to be honest.
Think about it. The people who are known for upholding the most dignity are usually…hm, politicians, perhaps? Yet, everyone knows politicians lie. ALL THE TIME. I think most people have a tendency to be dishonest for the sake of self preservation.
My honesty comes out kind of like Tourette Syndrome…and I don’t think that will ever change. At least, I hope not.
I look at my flawed personality and willingness to show it as part of my path. I am not perfect, never have been. Anyone who knows me well knows I know that. But I take my personal honor system very seriously: Honesty. Always. Not perfection. Not pretense. Honesty.
Acting has taught me a lot about this concept, actually. For instance, in method work, we learn to relate the current character and scenario we are playing with something else that makes us feel the way we are portraying. We step into someone else’s shoes for a period of time, but in a way we still relate to. It’s more personal than Meisner’s technique, but also sometimes very wearing.
We can take the lessons we learn from acting and apply them to many different aspects of personal insights. For many, this would be an heightened ability to act in “real” situations, aka, to be dishonest. For others, this could be an heightened ability to perceive differences in personalities or thought processes. I think the best part is purely the temporary moment of opportunity to think as and “be” another person. And, after enough of that, one starts to value the things that makes his or herself unique. If I am not on camera or on a stage, I am still part of a grander play called Life. I am still in this body’s incarnation, playing the part of myself.
So, how does this apply to reality television?
In my case, when I was preparing myself for my initial 21 day challenge in Brazil’s sand dunes, I was living out of a car and trying to put on weight so I could curb the expected weight loss I was about to experience. I was broke. So, you could say I prepped for Brazil by just doing my normal routine at the time: surviving.
I showed up, thinking, “awesome. this is going to be a real experience.” And it was, in many ways. But, when I was told on day 1 that I needed to start calling the magnifying glass I was provided with by production “my dad’s magnifying glass,” things changed.
All of a sudden, this experience was turning into an acting gig. Every time I called the magnifying glass exactly that, I had to repeat what I said but as “my dad’s magnifying glass.” I was being interviewed at least twice a day about my dad’s recent passing. And of course, I was starving. It was like the most extreme method acting anyone could ever experience, because I was being asked to pretend that an inanimate object had a sentimental value to me, and I was being questioned repeatedly about a real sentimental and sorrowful experience that had happened only two months prior.
So I found myself in a real starvation scenario, being filmed for a reality television show, and acting because I was being directed to. Weird.
Even weirder was the fact that of course, like I said, we were starving. We ended up filming the episode about 6 weeks later than originally planned, so the berries weren’t ripe and the coconuts were gone….
My partner and I wondered if they were actually planting coconuts, because to be honest, I think they were.
There was one time when I went for a swim in the lagoon (which was much larger than they ever showed on film) and found a shack. Gold, really. I found a shack that had a perfectly thatched buriti palm roof, complete with pots, pans, a knife, fishing line, garbage bags full of empty food wrappers, an immense pile of empty Campari bottles, and….coconut husks.
Yes, that’s right. The locals had some kind of ownership or rights to this part of the national park, and they would come every weekend and fish and eat the coconuts.
So naturally, I, being low on electrolytes, went dumpster diving. I licked every single chocolate wrapper and potato chip bag clean, complete with all the ant infestations inside them. I examined every single Campari bottle and, if it had a cap and clear, sweet-smelling liquid inside it, drank up what was left.
Oh, it was a good day. I actually swam back with a bunch of tools tied to my waist, but had the entire production team waiting for me on the shore and was told to give it back. But I had eaten some salt, a little sugar, and drank about a shot of Campari. On an empty stomach, that goes a long way, let me tell you. And then I was forbidden to return.
A few days later, well… I couldn’t help myself. Coconut #3 of 5 (2 which were shared with my partner), the coconut that never existed, was found on a swim and it and I returned to “Hobo Island” to enjoy our peace together. Then it started thundering and so we basically were stuck there to wait it out. Imagine my surprise when one of the PAs came trudging through the rain and lightning and waist-deep water to find me there, half way through eating my coconut. Hm, yes….the producer wasn’t too happy with me.
This is something that kind of goes along with the honest but flawed theme. I mean, it’s self preservation. This is the kind of situation that pushes me to be dishonest. I am starving on camera for a reality show and my father’s death is being exploited. What would you do if you found alcohol and potato chip crumbs? I’ll be damned if you say you wouldn’t do the same thing.
Colombia sort of had a similar thing happen….I went on a walk one day and found a medic tent over a mile away from camp. No one was around. What did I find there? A small box of Emergen-C. That is right. Foolishly, I shared these with my partners, of course, and of course they partook of them. Oh well. Lessons learned.
Back to Brazil…so, I’m starving, I’ve found alcohol and managed to dumpster dive in the middle of nowhere. Well, a few days later, my electrolyte levels were so low that I started to lose control of my bladder. I started to kind of piss myself multiple times a day. Muscles were cramping, severe dehydration kicked in….not from any lack of water, just from lack of electrolytes. I had become severely hyponatremic.
And then, one day, I heard my dad’s voice. He said, “I love you, P.” P was my nickname when he was alive.
I remember so well. His voice was in the wind, it was in the sky. He was right there with me. And then, like a child just wanting to be carried and tucked into bed, I closed my eyes, and I laid down.