Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from Reality TV - Lesson 6

Lesson Six: Law of the Jungle

(You might think that reality television is one of the signs of the impending end of Western Civilization, BUT if you look closely enough, you can find some important life lessons.  So, kids, here’s One to Grow On…)

We humans may be crafty and complex animals, but we are still animals.  Modern life can make it easy to forget this, but watching one season of Survivor will quickly remind you.  Removed from family, friends, work and the comforts of society, Survivor players wind up reverting back to some basic animal behavior, and it’s not just the Snakes and Rats of Sue Hawk’s famous final trial speech in Season One.

This season of Survivor:Fiji might depend on a distinctly human element – the Rich vs. the Poor – for its current drama.  But beneath that, the same kind of behavior you can see out in the wild is still a major element of the game play.

Alpha Males

Survivor: Fiji’s Ravu tribe shows the male pecking order in full effect.  Mookie Lee and James "Rocky" Reid are currently dominating the tribe through little more than bluster and volubility, a human equivalent of gorilla chest-beating. 

They are most likely the physically strongest but thus far, their physical strength hasn’t actually helped the tribe win any challenges or find any food.  It was Erica Durousseau that found the tribe’s primary food source – pineapple – but Mookie and Rocky were able to strong arm the rest of the tribe into voting her off.  It was scrappy little Michelle Yi who brought the most valuable thing of all – fire – to the tribe, but this didn’t seem to improve her standing in the group.  She was no more able to control the voting to protect her friend Rita Verreos from being sent home than she would have been able to defend her from a physical attack. 

Ravu has not reaped any direct benefit from keeping Mookie and Rocky around, but the deeply-ingrained belief that a young, strong males are inherently the most valuable members of a pack is clearly affecting the others’ behavior as they seem incapable of pulling together to go against the two.

Herding Instinct

The movement of animals in herds might seem to be motivated by a need to protect the group, but it is actually considered to be the result of the individuals all acting in self-preservation.  By sticking close to the center of the pack, the individual can reduce the likelihood of being picked off by predators. 

In Survivor, this is generally called “flying under the radar,” and is the survival technique of choice of those who might not be the physically strongest or the most strategically cunning.  Whether aware of their own weakness, or simply acting instinctively, these individuals are generally reluctant to strike out on their own and form new alliances or attempt to excel in challenges.  Rather they latch onto a core group and hang on. 

Lisi Linares and Stacy Kimball from the current season are looking likely to be examples of this.  Neither seems likely to physically dominate.  They also haven’t demonstrated a heck of a lot of savvy by actively alienating members of their own tribe who are now likely to turn against them after a merge.  But they have nestled solidly into their own little pack and are depending on safety in numbers to keep them in the game.

As the number of players diminishes, the game usually starts to revert back to more of a mind game.  (Although in Survivor: Exile Island carried through the return-to-the-wild behavior all the way up until the final three as Terry Dietz and Aras Baskauskas seemed to find themselves unable to break out of the young buck vs. veteran stag battle they fought in every challenge.)  Until then, even with the pillows and china cups at Moto, expect to see more animal nature dominate the game play.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from Reality TV:

Lesson 1: How to Wrestle Back Dignity from Utter Humiliation
Lesson 2: How to Lose Friends and Alienate Everybody
Lesson 3: The All-Tim Gunn Edition
Lesson 4: Why We Love Bad Boys and Girls
Lesson 5: Skills Don't Always Pay the Bills
Lesson 6: Law of the Jungle
Lesson 7: Mean Girls Do Cry

(Image Courtesy of CBS)