Why We Watch Survivor


Monday’s mean one thing at Survivor Oz… a new Feature Article is published! This week, Ozlet Clayton Shirley puts pen to paper, (well in this case, he typed it), to bring you an article about just why people watch Survivor. Despite being on the air for thirteen years, Clayton discusses the various reasons why millions of people around the world continue to tune in each week to the greatest reality show on the planet! So read on to see why Clayton thinks we watch Survivor and don’t forget to comment below about whether you agree with Clayton and the reason YOU watch Survivor!

As a recent addition to the Survivor Oz crew, I’ve been giving a lot of throughout lately to the fact that I’ve been watching Survivor for thirteen years now. I was there on day one and now, not only am I still watching, but I’m more immersed in the show than ever before. That led me to think, “Why?” What is it about this show that has me, as well as millions of other viewers, coming back after all these years? After all, Survivor has been on the air for thirteen years, it has aired twenty-six seasons, which is an enormous accomplishment for a television show, both in terms of longevity and productivity. So what is it that Survivor offers that has us all so obsessed with it?


When the show initially aired in the summer of 2000, the biggest draw was concept itself: survival. The idea of putting complete strangers on a deserted island to fend for themselves was both shocking and thrilling. What would they eat? How would they live? Would they live? These were the questions everybody was asking. Once those questions were answered, it seems likely that novelty would have worn off, yet the show continues to deliver on its basic premise because no matter how many times you do it, you are always going to get a different outcome. Factors such as climate, contestants, resources, and nature in general provide countless variables as to how survival is going to play into any given season. While survival aspects such as fishing and hunting have unfortunately gone by the wayside in seasons of late, we are still seeing contestants take on the elements in ways that we hadn’t before. A good example is Denise Stapley in Philippines, who with three days left in the game, suffered a terrible bite on her neck by some unknown creature in the night. Denise, who had been so tough the entire game and had made it so far, was suddenly and visibly affected by something that no one could have seen coming or done anything about. Denise, who had attended every single Tribal Council and had endured, still had more obstacles to face in the wild, even after thirty-six days. Denise, of course, pushed through and won the game, but she serves as a prime example as to how survival against the elements is an ever present component of the show, one that can have a drastic impact on the game at any time.


Over the years, Survivor has put together a long list of big, memorable personalities, several of whom they have felt to the need for us to revisit over and over to the point where they become thought of more as characters than real people. While these contestants can be a fun and entertaining part of the show, it’s often the connection we feel towards contestants as people that stays with us and makes us truly want to root for somebody. After Brenda was voted out of Caramoan earlier this year, viewers were sent into an uproar, furious and heartbroken that Brenda had been betrayed by Dawn, whom she had helped in a moment of crisis. People weren’t upset because Brenda was a great character and thrilled viewers week after week with her antics. In fact, Brenda had been virtually absent the entire season. People reacted strongly because they had felt a connection towards her as a person, most of which came from the very episode she was booted off! Even though we hadn’t seen much of Brenda, we did see her wonderful relationship with her father and how she took his advice to simply, “be humble.” Brenda had gone from a calculating villain in Nicaragua to a girl who was motivated by her father to be a better person. We were able to see the results, and so between that and the Dawn incident, viewers felt more of a connection to Brenda with her scarce bit of screen time than they even would with, say, Phillip and his overwhelming amount of screen time.


Survivor is unique in that it offers an opportunity for us to see both the best and the worst in people. Instances like the loved ones visits, when someone chooses to help someone in the game despite it being at their own detriment, or even when true love forms on the island, remind us how even in a cut throat game for one million dollars, there is still humanity and goodness. The other side of the coin, however, is that Survivor also has the ability to show us the dark side of humanity, be it greed, anger, desire for revenge, or simply mistreatment of others. I’m not referring to the usual lying or deceiving that goes on during Survivor, which is simply part of the game. Rather, moments like the Ted and Ghandia situation on Thailand or the seething hatred of the All-Stars Jury or Brandon Hantz’s meltdown, all paint a less than pleasant view of the contestants. Often times we even see both honourable and condemnable behaviour from the same person within a season. Sure, there’s a level of drama involved in these scenarios, but beyond the drama lies truths about the way we as humans behave and how there is ultimately both good and bad within all of us, it is simply a question of what we allow to control us.


All of these things which we relate to are reasons we engage in the show, just as we would films, books, or other television shows. The difference with Survivor, of course, is that we are watching real people. Despite the show’s recent trend of casting over the top personalities, there are still plenty of average, day to day people that make it on show. It’s these people who tend to become the most well liked by the fans and, more often than not, even end up winning the game. In the past four seasons, three of the four winners were strong, independent women who were neither loud, nor crazy, nor really outstanding personalities and I believe it is those outcomes that keep people coming back. One of the greatest things about Survivor is that anyone can win and that in and of itself is an enormous draw.


People complain that Survivor just isn’t the same anymore, what with all the Hidden Immunity Idols and too many repeat players, but the core of the show remains the same. People are put on an island to fend for themselves and vote each other off until one is declared a winner. That premise alone offers a television show unlike any other. After twenty-six seasons, we still don’t know what people may do or how they may react to each other, the elements, or the game itself. Ultimately it is the human element that makes Survivor what it is and why so many people are still watching after all these years. We want to see heroes and we want to see villains. We want to see people survive and we want to see people diminish. No other show fulfils these desires like Survivor and no show ever will.


Do you agree or disagree with Clayton? Leave your thoughts by commenting below!

About Survivor Oz (2110 Articles)
Australia's Only 'Survivor' Radio Show! Tuesdays from 2PM AEST www.survivoroz.com

4 Comments on Why We Watch Survivor

  1. Great article! You did a great job!

  2. brendaaa ❤

  3. Spot on. Good article. We just never know exactly what will emerge from the people who play the game, no matter how much we think we know. I, too, have seen every episode from day one, and dislike things like the easy-to-find immunity idols. But anything can happen on Survivor — anything. What other show can make a viewer’s heart pound during tribal council after so many seasons?

  4. I like the themes that Survivor can frame itself around. For example:

    Pearl Islands – Pirate Adventure
    Palau – War Adventure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: