The moment we saw that “Survivor: One World” slipped to a series-low 2.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic (excluding recap episodes) for Wednesday night’s new episode, it has us wondering the same question we always do when we see a ratings drop for a beloved show — what’s the reason?
For a show that’s been on for 24 seasons, you could easily attribute it to age; or, you could also blame it on te heavy competition that’s still around with “American Idol” and new comedies on both ABC and NBC. But here’s the question we’ve been wondering — are casual fans snubbing strong female players? Can a player like Kim (who has arguably played the strongest strategic and social game ever for a first-time player thus far) really be a Boston Rob or a Colby to more than just the diehard fans?
We wouldn’t be making such a claim about casual fans often ignoring strong female players without something to back it up with, and the evidence seemed stacked to show that there is some very subtle prejudice out there. It’s possible that we may have our very first all-female final six this season; the only time we ever had an all-female final four (in “Micronesia”), it produced the lowest viewership ever for a finale. The irony here? This was one of the strongest seasons ever in terms of gameplay with Cirie and Parvati, who to this day is one of the few female Survivors to really be talked about in the same breath (sadly enough) as a Richard Hatch or a Rob.
Unfortunately, part of the other blame here has to go to casting or consistently giving us female characters that fail to be memorable. Jeff Probst has mentioned as much that there aren’t as many popular female players as there are men, and one of the reasons for that is that there are always four to six women cast on the show based mostly on their appearance or athletic ability. It’s sad — and it does happen to men sometimes, as well — but it’s true. Only occasionally are there contestants in this group that truly turn out to be great players, and oftentimes you have a situation where one of them (Danielle) gets cast over “Heroes vs. Villains” rather than someone else (Twila) who is a more interesting character but does not fit the “look.” We’re not so much trying to blame CBS for this (as they obviously have teams that are telling them this bikinis sell), but we are blaming society for putting anything above individuality and spirit.
We’ve also been taking note of the general consensus among fans this season, and there are plenty of them who can’t stand Kim at this point and yet want to see Troyzan make a comeback and go far, despite him not really making more than just a few moves that actually constitute good gameplay. When Kim’s in control, she’s suddenly polarizing — when Boston Rob or Coach is in power, it’s suddenly incredible.
We get the appeal of male castaways to many. For the men’s it’s a chance to live their jungle dreams vicariously through some testosterone-ridden guy on the beach. The men are also mostly given more varied edits and more to do when it comes to strategy — and when they lose, it’s often looked at as “why the man lost” versus “why the woman won.” (Here are just some of the victories by women that some fans were outraged with — Tina in “Australia,” Amber in “All-Stars,” Natalie in “Samoa,” Sandra in “Heroes vs. Villains,” and Sophie in “South Pacific.” The list of male winners with the same label is largely nonexistent, as Fabio from “Nicaragua” and Bob from “Gabon” are lauded for winning based on being the best of the worst, and not the results of a “bitter jury.”)
More than anything else, we hope that “One World” opens the eyes of some short-sighted “Survivor” viewers who forgot about “Micronesia,” and realize that the game is far more interesting when there are occasionally women running the show. If Kim continues to play the game the way she is and ends up winning, we also hope she is embrace in the same way as some of the other greats. This is one of the best seasons in years — and even if the next few weeks are predictable, there is still great promise for drama at the end.
Do you think strong women on “Survivor” fail to frequently get the same sort of respect as men — and just for a kicker, who do you think are some of the top female players to ever take on this game?