When you are a contestant on a reality TV show, how can you tell the difference between what is real and what is manufactured for the program? One woman faces this dilemma as real-world events collide with simulated ones.
The survival-type show begins with twelve contestants sent into the woods to face numerous challenges--singly and in groups, physical and mental. The contestant who outlasts the others wins a cash prize. It seems simple enough, nothing that hasn’t been seen on these types of shows before. Some participants are in it purely for the money; some are out for the adventure. None suspects that the greatest challenge would come from outside the show. How could they, when real-world events mirror the show's trials so closely? We watch one of the female contestants force herself to keep going, to keep moving toward a goal she can only hope is correct, as her physical condition deteriorates and she grasps at every clue she comes across.
Aside from the intriguing premise of reality and fabricated reality running into each other, what fascinated me about this story was the backstage look at how these kinds of shows are made. It’s all in the editing. Video footage is carefully selected to portray each contestant as a specific type of person, a type chosen by the show’s producers. Furthering this type-casting, the show’s staff refers to the competitors by their category, never by their name. They are introduced to us as Rancher, Banker, Cheerleader Boy, Zoo, Exorcist, Carpenter Chick, Engineer, Tracker, Waitress, etc.
It makes one question everything seen and heard through the media. Do we ever get a full, accurate picture, or are we always seeing only what others want us to see? Are we then like the game show contestants, never certain what is real and what is contrived?