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Naked and Afraid: Survivalist Reality Television Goes Full Frontal

by Ethan Tussey

by Teter for IN MEDIA RESPost-Survivor debut in 2000, survivalist reality television has been moving up the ladder at a quick pace. The genre has a draw of its own, testing the human body and psyche, but it also capitalizes on the critique of technological co-dependence. Similarly, survivalist shows offer the chance to experience the wilderness survival alongside the hosts or contestants. Keith McCafferty says, Watching the videos, I was kneeling right alongside him while he struck sparks from his axe with a rock. (McCafferty). This is an exclusive experience for the viewer, while still allowing them to maintain their creature comforts. Though survivalist television is already a thrilling concept, theres another key ingredient to spice things up.
Nudity is definitely not new to reality television. However, naked survival, Adam and Eve style, is a new concept among survivalist reality television. The show Naked and Afraid made a name for itself by throwing two strangers, male and female, into the exotic wild totally naked. Executive producer Joseph Boyle argues that the nudity forces the participants to start from an authentic point and that it amplifies survival factors (Multichannel News). Whether or not nudity produces authenticity, the thrill of reality televisions voyeuristic nature, the rising popularity of survivalist reality TV, and Americas fascination with nudity is a recipe for success.
While Boyle suggests that nudity may be just another element in making survival more authentic, it also exemplifies the peeping tom aesthetic by granting visual access to the body. Even the participants highlight this; for example, at 0:43 Jonathan states, I hope . . . she dont mind me staring at her. Therefore, participants are vulnerable by: being in the wild, being naked, and being watched. One then must consider a power advantage being a part of the shows success. Because being nude is largely considered intimate, the power is then derived from the voyeuristic nature created by the addition of this element. For viewers this is enhanced by the fact that audiences dont have to engage or be held accountable for their act of looking.
While power from voyeurism may not have been intentional, it is important to consider how power may be at play here, due to the added factor of nudity. Ultimately, this show may have found the key to standing out in the wild crowd.
'Naked' and Intense Television. (2015). Multichannel News, 36(37), 5.
McCafferty, K. (2010). Death by Survival.Field Stream,115(5), 42-45.

Survival Media and "Naked and Afraid"

A clip from reality show "Naked and Afraid

from Naked and Afraid (2013)
Creator: Discovery Channel
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey