Naked and Afraid

June 19, 2020

Do you know the tv show “Naked and Afraid?”


If not, please, let me enlighten you.


I used to think it wasn’t an actual show, I thought I was seeing bogus commercials that advertised the craziest idea ever. It seemed like a concept that network executives come up with at 3:00 a.m., the morning after the office Christmas party, when the only three people left are huddled in the janitor’s room, passing around the last bottle of cheap champagne.


But I was wrong.


The show pairs two strangers, a male and female, and after they take off all their clothes, they’re dropped in a wilderness to survive for 21 days. A camera crew follows them and documents their every move.


No, I’m not making this up.


It’s one of the highest rated shows on the Discovery channel.


We do live in interesting times.


This is something I don’t understand. Portions of my body haven’t been exposed to sunlight since 1955, and, frankly, the world is the better for it. I would never be part of a show titled “Naked and Afraid.” If you paid me enough, I might go for “Worried, Wearing Boxer Shorts,” but the check would need to be significant, and the network would need to provide sunscreen.


I’ve watched enough now to get the gist of the rules. Competitors aren’t completely without resources.  They’re given a satchel to carry stuff and they’re allowed to bring one personal item - usually a fire starter or a knife, which I think shows a lack of imagination. Me, I’d suggest a cell phone with pizza delivery places on speed dial. If that wasn’t allowed, I’d want a pillow and air mattress.  At this point in my life, sleeping on the bare ground would lead to long hours of boring tv while I tried to work the kinks out of my neck and back. No one has chosen a chainsaw as their personal item, but that seems like a reasonable choice as well. Give me a chain saw and I wouldn’t be at all scared of the wild boars or alligators. The possibility of stashing a pound of beef jerky under the gas tank would make it even better. 


Whoever chooses the locations has a real mean streak - Hannibal Lector mean. We saw part of one episode where the competitors were in the Amazon and their bodies were literally covered with mosquito bites, and another one where the two folks were somewhere in Alaska. I stopped watching that one when the man was crossing a snowbank and fell through, right up to his…you know…bits. I’ve been cold and wet many times in my life, but never that cold and wet. It looked like a huge mistake.


I do like a challenge, though. It would just take a few tweaks to make this a real game. For instance, if I could keep a few clothes on, I’d be willing to compete in the Tuscan Olive Orchard challenge, where I’d need to survive for 21 days on white wine and prosciutto, along with all the pasta I could snatch from untended villas. I’d also be willing to be dropped off a streetcar behind the dumpsters at Café De Mond in New Orleans. I could live on day-old beignets and chicory coffee for 21 days. Doing the French Quarter Challenge would mean clothing choices wouldn’t be so important…I’ve walked down Bourbon Street and almost any outfit could blend in.


Without modifications, the show is usually pretty dumb, but it does have its moments. People hanging in there when they’re beyond tired, sore and hungry, two strangers cooperating to lift each other up, the look on their faces when they finally succeed - kind of cool.


I’m sure this show’s popularity says something very important about American culture.


I just have no idea what.


Copyright 2020 Brent Olson

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