Thursday, July 27, 2017

'Naked and Afraid XL' and Mean Girl Cliques

I just finished watching the third season of "Naked And Afraid XL." I respect these people for leaving the comfort, safety and security of home to face unknown hardships in remote and inhospitable places. I wouldn't choose to do it, so my comments should be viewed knowing I realize I could not do what these people have done.

In addition, I am aware that most of the action and dialogue takes place off camera. All my impressions are compliments of a cameraman and a film editor and the scenes they chose to share. A lot happens that that I am completely unaware of.

With these two disclaimers in mind, let's talk about Mean Girl Cliques on "Naked And Afraid XL." Every girl comes up against them in elementary school. They become a force to be reckoned with in junior high and have usually become more sophisticated and somewhat nicer in high school. Even boys know their wrath, but the cruelties of Mean Girls are normally reserved for other girls.

Not so on "Naked and Afraid." Here the wrath of the Mean Girls is directed towards both men and women indiscriminately. 

Spoiler Alert: Lots of plot twists are divulged in this post.

Season 3 features Lacey Jones, matched up with Giovanna Horning and Amber Hargrove. Hard-working Lacey wants to get things done. She is shown trying to encourage her teammates to fish so they can eat. Giovanna and Amber keep talking about things they are going to do, but not much is getting done. They put things off and conserve their energy. 

Lacey makes the comment that the group is all talk, and Amber snaps back that Lacey shouldn't make a comment like that, EVER. Ultimately, Lacey does get the girls to go fishing, but there's a price to pay later. The reunion show shows Amber telling Lacey how bad Lacey made her feel, and it is Lacey who ends up crying and apologizing, not Amber.

Meanwhile, Russell Sage is paired with Matt Wright after they lose Charlie. The duo thrives. Matt is the hunter and Russell his enthusiastic albeit somewhat socially awkward sidekick. At the other camp, Shannon and Fernando aren't doing as well as Shannon talks non stop about her lack of sleep, lack of food, the bugs and the bad weather, spiraling down into negativity. Fernando helplessly listens to her complaining.

The groups merge: Soon both duos set out to find others and they all end up with Amber and Giovanna who are alone after the loss of Lacey. Amber and Giovanna are thrilled to have new people there. Amber is shown sitting most of the time while Giovanna gathers a little wood for the fire. Matt is eager to provide for everyone and sets out hunting and fishing with Russell's net. The girls are all happy to be provided for and to have men to take care of them now that Lacey is gone.

The lazy-looking women are shown back at the camp, eagerly awaiting the return of Matt and Russell with the catch of the day. Russell picks up on this and tells the girls they need to cook the food he and Matt provide. He also selects the biggest fish for the two hunters to share. This annoys the entitled women, especially Amber, who sets out to turn everyone against Russell. Amber weaves her web of dissent, both being snarky to Russell's face and also trying to tear him down behind his back.

Don't get me wrong. Russell can be a jerk, but like Fernando points out at one point, there are a lot of Russels out there, and they aren't that bad. 

Negative Shannon is soon happy to be a part of the Amber-Giovanna clique and is quickly turned against Russell. The three women, especially Amber and Shannon, are often seen rolling their eyes, frowning or looking angry when Russell tries to get them to learn how to fish. The Mean Girl Clique will have none of Russell's advice or rebukes. However, they grudgingly use Russell's net when he takes the men on a hunt although they never learn the techniques Russell could teach. They appear delighted when he finally taps out. 

When newcomer Chance speaks out against Amber's plans to dismantle the raft he built, she gets up in his face with entitled-woman attitude. Amber is not just a Mean Girl; she is a Drama Queen. No one speaks to HER that way! She is above correction. 

Amber finally DOES do some work on day 38, chopping down a tree to help build a raft for extraction when no one else has the energy. She suddenly morphs into an Amazon woman, bragging about her survival skills and how she gets things done, complaining about everyone else's laziness. Right, Amber. We all forgot how lazy you looked the other 37 days.

This was all strangely familiar. In Season 1, Shane Lewis, who was teamed with Alana Barfield and Danielle was admittedly awkward in social settings and had a troubled past. From the televised footage it appeared Shane did most of the heavy work while Alana and Danielle looked on, conserving energy. Worse, Alana talked about Shane behind his back and made an ally of the more passive Danielle. Soon it was two against one, with Alana missing no opportunity to make snarky comments about Shane both to his face and behind his back while Danielle nodded her agreement.

Dani Julien also faced some Mean Girl tactics with Eva Rupert and whoever the other woman was. The resourceful Dani, who started off by herself after not finding her partners for a few days, was more of an introvert. When she would go out looking for resources alone, Eva and the other woman would talk about Dani like this was odd behavior. Hello! Not everyone wants to sit around the campfire gossiping! But Dani soon felt ostracized even though it was she who brought her teammates to the other survivor camp she discovered.

When the 3 groups merged, both Dani and Shane were targeted as both Mean Girls camps joined forces and made sure Dani and Shane were not accepted by the larger group. At one point they had Dani in tears before she ultimately felt so alienated, she tapped out Thankfully, Shane was accepted by EJ Snyder and Jeff Zausch into a 3-man team that chose not to join the larger, dysfunctional group. EJ and Jeff were smart enough to not become providers for the entitled women and their clueless male teammates.

Maybe I am not giving the Mean Girls enough credit. Certainly by conserving their energy while the providers take care of them, they are less likely to fall prey to hunger and accidents. By forming a clique of two or more, they are more likely to outvote and outmaneuver the rest of their tribe. In fact, the women who remain at camp seem much more likely to make it to day 40 than their teammates who are out trying to find food and resources. 

But here's the thing. These women talk about their empowerment while they wait for the Matts, EJs, Jeffs, Laceys and Russells to bring them food. When they do a little work, they want a LOT of credit. They feel entitled to be both taken care of and to be praised for their miner contributions. They feel entitled to talk badly about their teammates. They feel entitled to talk about how they can do everything a man can do when they CLEARLY SHOW THEY CANNOT over and over on the television screen.

Yet somehow even when looking at footage of themselves sitting while the men (and the Laceys and Danis) do the work, they are still quick to form the Mean Girl Clique and shoot down any man (or woman) who dares to point to the evidence stacked up against them. The Mean Girl Clique remains intact even on the Reunion Shows where they somehow manage to make their victims cry and apologize all over again.

What kind of women are we producing in the 21st Century? Thankfully, Season 2 of "Naked and Afraid XL" seems to have pretty much bypassed the Mean Girl Clique. Along with the Danis and Laceys, they give me hope that today's women aren't all entitled, lazy, dramatic Mean Girls.


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