TV's Survivor: Heroes and Villains

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In 2000, three simple words encircling a tiki torch and palm tree defined not only a television series, but a whole new culture of entertainment: outwit, outplay, outlast. When the competitive reality show Survivor first hit the air, producers Mark Burnett and Jeff Probst left sixteen Americans stranded on a tropical island, hoping only for nature to take its course and drama to ensue. No one could have predicted the phenomenon that would be a catalyst not only for reality TV, but competitive game shows set on putting people in their most vulnerable state. Now that ten years have passed, many people have begun to quickly dismiss Survivor as the Destroyer of Thoughtful Television: a show focused only on scheming, conniving, and eating bugs, all for the sake for winning one million dollars. Going even further, intellectuals argue that shows like Survivor encourage blatant discrimination, racism, sexism, and ageism - after all, the idea of the show is to form social cliques (dubbed "alliances") and vote people both out of the game and off the island, sometimes for no reason other than not “liking” them. Not to mention the fact that it always seems to magically start pouring rain the moment two people are left standing on a ten-foot pole above the Atlantic Ocean in the final challenge, introducing the controversial concept of whether or not reality TV is real at all, but merely a contrived series of events captured by a camera.

While all of these negative arguments are valid, critics are underestimating the positives of the show. The reason why the series has managed to last through ten years, twenty seasons, two-hundred contestants, and dozens of locations varying from jungle isles to desert oases is that it offers a psychological ...

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