There’s been more than one real life situation where I have known secrets about people relatively close to me and others, sexuality being the least of them. A secret confided to you is a sacred trust. A secret you divulge because of personal gain is reckless and irresponsible. It’s betrayal.
Survivor, Game Changers pulled out the last scripted reality stunt for me last night. Survivor is one of the few TV shows I tolerate watching with my family, as they are entertained far more than I, watching grown-ups ‘play’ a ‘reality’ game of ‘survival and strategy’ on a tropical island. The end of the game is $1,000,000 prize voted by a jury of the last survivors to the winner who best played the game.
When the first season of Survivor aired, my first thought was, and still is, that a million dollars was simply not enough money to live so exposed in front of a film crew documenting such base human behavior. While the prize hasn’t changed over the last 17 years, obviously the producers have figured out the show’s motto, “outwit, outplay, outlast” is not as important to success and ratings as tugging at the emotions of the viewer by throwing in weekly melodrama that will foster feelings for the villain or the underdog and with scrupulous editing and scripting there are always villains and underdogs. Always, for why else would people keep watching this supposed Reality Show of everyday folks competing with survival strategies to win a million dollars?
I am a cynic. After watching the Tribal Council where Jeff Varner outed Zeke Smith as deceiving his fellow survivors by not disclosing that Zeke is transgender, I immediately slipped into my skeptic mode. I can’t be sure if the disclosure itself was planned or scripted, but Zeke’s reaction felt to me as a look more stoic than shocked or blindsided.
The household booed my reaction. How could I think that the emotions weren’t genuine? How could I think that such a thing would be scripted? I’ll tell you how.
First the immunity Challenge, lost to Zeke’s Nuku tribe, a puzzle spelling out one word, Metamorphosis. Varner is arranging the letters.
Then during the Tribal Council Zeke was extremely poised, almost cool compared to the rest of the Nuku tribe. I believe Zeke was the only one truly prepared for the reveal. I can’t be sure if Varner was truly as desperate for his Survivor Life as he said or if he was prompted by the producers.
I went so far as to compare the scene to being aired on the last Lenten Wednesday, known as Spy Wednesday, the day Judas betrayed Jesus. Maybe that’s a stretch, but still coincidental.
However, after the show ended, a coordinated public relations campaign between, Probst, Varner, Smith and representatives from GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy organization, aired. Social Media traffic revved with even Jeff Varner and Jeff Probst posting on Twitter espousing support and tolerance.
Also, Late Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy guest column from Zeke. It is thorough, thoughtful and well written. He described his transitioning process, how competing on “Survivor” helped him prove his “manliness” to himself and what it felt like to be outed on national television. His honesty was inspiring.
Whether or not Zeke Smith wins $1,000,000 on Survivor, he should certainly make that much in book sales. I am confident there’s one in the works.