Why is sensationalizing a ‘Survivor’ contestant’s death suddenly okay?


Dan Kay -

Let’s face it — in some ways, the media is an almost-constant bearer of bad news. This is especially true the past year or so. Think about all of the iconic people who have passed away; it is a responsibility to report on it, since otherwise, you start to get into the position of picking and choosing your own coverage, and there is a certain sense of dishonesty that comes along with that.

Yes, the media’s coverage of particular deaths as of late has started to teeter into a more unseemly direction. Take, for example, the decision to immediately start talking “Star Wars: Episode VIII” mere minutes after the death of Carrie Fisher, or posting all sorts of crazy rumors about Prince or George Michael’s lives immediately following their passing.

Still, there is something very unsettling about what E! News chose to do on one of their own shows this week, airing a segment about “Survivor” entitled “Why a ‘Survivor’ Curse Could Be Real” and focusing on the death of Dan Kay, a former contestant from season 17 set in Gabon. The video’s already been removed from some places as of this writing (it is still up on MSN for now), and while taking it down is the right thing to do, you do have to wonder what in the world someone was thinking at the time of it first being created?

The obvious issue with the video is that it’s incredibly insensitive. Maybe some producer somewhere thought it’d be a “buzzy” idea that would fill up a quieter news week, but it felt like a punch to the stomach. The next problem is that you’re claiming that losing four contestants (Dan, B.B. Andersen, Jenn Lyon, and Caleb Bankston) out of almost 500 (Reality Blurred cites Survivor Wiki with 498) is somehow worthy of calling something a ” curse.” Also, you call a sports team not winning the World Series for a predetermined amount of time for some silly reason a curse. You don’t say that when you are speaking about people’s lives. They also try to cite Ethan Zohn getting cancer twice (which he conquered) and Richard Hatch going to prison (he was released) as reasons to justify the claim beyond the aforementioned deaths.

Look at things this way: Take a poll of the number of non-Survivor related people out of a sample of 500 who die over the course of fifteen-plus years, go to prison, or battle cancer. Would the number be any different?

It’s not often that we want to bring attention to a particular frustration in the media, but this was specifically a sticking point this time around for a number of reasons: “Survivor” is a show we have loved since the beginning, and a show where we care about the people on it, even if we don’t know many of them personally. We’ve said that “Gabon” is a sentimental season that holds a soft spot in our heart and that still holds true. Also, Dan Kay was not a celebrity with dreams of being in the limelight; he was a real person who just so happened to go on a reality show and there are a lot of people out there that are much like Dan Kay. Exploiting death is never okay, but Dan Kay was not someone looking to be on E! News or garner fame while alive.

Since we don’t want to end this article on a down note, for a more healing experience regarding Dan we suggest visiting our friends over at Rob Has a Podcast, who have a lovely tribute podcast to Dan up featuring Ken Hoang and Randy Bailey, two players who played with him in Gabon. (Photo: CBS.)


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