. . . elaborately artificial game show

. . .

Gilligan's Isle Zonked in a hotel room in Toronto last week, I decided that, having taken the effort to jam a folded-up newspaper into the television cabinet's door's hinge to keep it from swinging shut, I might as well watch the television. With no Black Classic Movies channel to distract me, I ended up tuning to "Survivor."

I'd vaguely pictured some cameras showing some people surviving on an island. Imagine my (or, indeed, your) shock on finding an elaborately artificial game show in which the "community" must eliminate one of its members each week until only one human (not counting the network spokesperson, well-fed and invulnerable in the great tradition of angelic/demonic messengers) is left sole owner of "A MILLION DOLLARS!"

This is no way to maintain a species. It's the same desperately misanthropic vision as in Joanna Russ's great novel, We Who Are About to..., except presented here, quite insanely, as some sort of model for "natural society." In real life, social success means to extend one's circle. Where else but in a television executive's mind could success be defined as reducing one's social circle to complete solitude?

In immaturity, that's where else. Children are powerless and power-hungry, and their ambitions are easily (and regularly, in most school systems) guided into the narrowest nastiest channels possible. That's one reason maturity seemed so attractive to me as a child: it seemed as if, unlike us, adults had the opportunity to be alone when they wanted to, to enjoy friendship without endless intrigue and struggle, and to leave the dodgeball mentality behind.

And I'm delighted to say that it's true! Being an adult is great! You do leave that mentality behind! What's odd -- well, "odd" is too unjudgmental a word -- is that so many inexplicably nostalgic adults seem bent on recreating it.

Don't you believe 'em, kids. Gym class isn't "like real life" unless you're a case of arrested pre-adolescent development, like some of my more severely rednecked relatives, or television executives, or the losers on this show (link via Twernt): Vampire Cowboys

"I think it's the best show out there," said Joel Klug, the salesman and health club business consultant kicked off the island in Episode 6. "Every part of America is on that show. It is us. Some people are going to band together. Some people will go on their own. Some people will have trouble stabbing other people in the back or fighting to win. It's every part of life."
"Think back to grade school," said Ramona Gray, the chemist who lasted only through Episode 4. "When you're playing kickball, picking teams, somebody always gets left out. Somebody's always going to get picked first. It happens every day to every one of us."

Illustrative samples plucked from J. R. Williams' BUMMER, originally published by Cat-Head Comics

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The Hero with a Thousand Pages

And a related note on Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren, courtesy of Michael Richard on the rec.arts.books newsgroup:

"I was just thinking this would make a great Survivor/BigBrother kind of tv show. Go rent out some burned out city like Grozny, or maybe get a better deal with Kisangani, stuff it full of cameras, and sell tickets to get inside."
Back in the late '70s, me and my college friends used to discuss our dream cast for a movie version of Dhalgren -- Donny Osmond as the Kid, Marie Osmond as Lanya, Mason Reese as Denny, Charles Nelson Reilly as Bunny, and Sammy Davis Jr. as George Harrison -- but I gotta admit, this miniseries idea beats it.
Mason Reese


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.