Most TV shows don’t reward you for paying for attention. –Matt Groening
When it comes to television programming, Groening’s above quote is aptly put. Often times when watching TV, most people turn their brains off because the programs being watched don’t really require their use. Only at times are we required to turn it back on, and it’s only when something has grabbed our attention and imagination. It used to be the History Channel showed programs about history, TLC, funny enough, showed things that you might actually want to learn. Nearly every educational network, PBS aside thankfully, has drifted away from being a teaching tool, and more into the sensationalized, edgy, and entertaining programs that garner viewers, and ratings.
This is all fine and dandy, as in the end, if what we’re watching is not intended for us to learn anything, there is no harm to be done. What you watch could be forgotten and nothing bad would result from that. However when something actually important is being shown, and we pay attention in order to learn and remember that information, and that information is wrong or presented in an unclear way, a dangerous situation has arisen. You have people watching these “supposed” educational networks believing they are learning something useful, when in fact, the information they are being fed can actually be both dangerous and life threatening.
This is exactly the case with most survival reality television programs that have become common place nowadays. Between Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild, The Colony, and most others, a person would die faster in the wild following what they’ve learned from these programs than had they known nothing at all. I will pay credit where credit is due however, and one survival television program that is quality and mostly does not mislead viewers is Survivor Man. Les Stroud, sir… you have my upmost respect!
So What Do They Teach That Is So Wrong?
Now, it’s not always that what is being taught is necessarily wrong, but often time’s critical points are left out. Points that can turn a survival technique or action into a potentially dangerous and lethal disaster. For instance and the best example I can think of, in a Man vs Wild Episode, Bear Grylls decides that to save time and energy, he would scale the face of a waterfall rather than take the long journey around it. This all while climbing a vine dangling from the top of the waterfall like a rope.
Now, there’s one main point here that is worth noting. You should never trust a vine to climb hundreds of feet up. You don’t know the vines integrity, it rooting, or even how it’s attached. Perhaps if a sea of fire was cascading toward you and the only way to avoid it was to climb this vine hanging down, than sure, go ahead and gamble. It’s better than the alternative. But Mr. Grylls haphazardly gave the vine a few weak tugs and decided it was surely secure enough to scale up with. He then proved his point by climbing it.
Now beyond the fact that when you watch the video, which can be seen here, it looks ridiculously dangerous, but upon closer inspection he is actually wearing a harness with a safety rope attached, which of course was secured at the top of the waterfall. Though it’s well disguised, and hard to see, it’s there. Obviously neither Mr. Grylls nor the Discovery Channel would want their star becoming injured. But beyond that, who would ever consider doing this? They tout the show as showing strenuous and difficult survivor techniques, but in this instance and many others, their teaching people nothing more than how to put their lives in even more danger than they may already be in.
Not to keep on the mistakes of Mr. Grylls, but if drinking the juice of Elephant dung to avoid dehydration doesn’t speak to negligent teaching, would else could? Granted he mentions this is a last resort technique taught to him by an old ranger and could provide you just a bit more time, but what exactly are the risks of drinking that? He mentions the harmful organisms that could be inside the dung, but how about if you can’t stomach it and throw up, along with what useful liquid was already in your system? What he squeezed out was barely enough to perhaps last at most an hour in your system in the hot dessert. Rather than a technique, this seems to be a trick his ranger friend played on him. I would imagine they themselves couldn’t believe he did it. However, you know some schmuck out there has it in mind now that come worst case scenario, he’s drinking dung juice. It’s ridiculous.
Sadly, I could list example after example, and for those who actually know better, there is no need. But for those that do, the most important thing to remember, if anything, is to be skeptical of everything you think you’re learning from such programs. Common sense alone would tell you not to do certain actions and sadly when you believe you are learning something useful from a reliable source, you forget or set aside your common sense. Because after all, what do you know? They’re the experts. So in the end folks, believe nothing. Nothing I’ve said, nothing you’ve read, been told or seen, unless of course it agrees with your own common sense and reason. Intuition alone will likely keep you out of trouble in the wild, beyond that, forget most to everything you’ve ever watched on a reality survival television program.
The author of this article was Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @CustParadigm. When I’m not writing about the faults of reality television programs, I can often be found finding the best guided white water rafting trips available throughout the southwestern United States.