First a confession: the only Survivor Philippines season I watched religiously was the first one, where JC Tiuseco won, where I was rooting for Nanay Zita and Kiko Rustia (he who kept a diary throughout his time on the island, aaaaw). Another confession: I stopped watching Survivor Philippines because I treat TV shows as one of those things you put in a box to return to your ex. Since I can’t actually do that, I’ve just learned to periodically let go of many shows on my TV list.
But I’m suddenly back on Survivor Philippines, a surprise even to me. And I think it’s because the show has changed, enough to make me forget about the things I equate it with, enough to make me think that it’s a different show altogether. Something that might be easily explained away by the fact that it’s the Celebrity Showdown. But things are never as simple as that.
No stereotypes here
One thing that’s most interesting about this edition of Survivor is that while it does have a set of celebrities, there is no major superstar, no box office king or queen that would’ve surely made ratings soar. Instead, many of the castaways are familiar in this I’ve-seen-her-somewhere-I-just-don’t-know-where kind of way, making the near stranger a real person to us, even when we barely know them from Adam or Eve.
Even more interesting? The fact that there aren’t any clear-cut and solid stereotypes here, i.e., the celebrity castaways weren’t introduced with labels that would tie them down and box them up for viewers. This is what the Pinoy reality show usually does for its contestants from the get-go, which also explains why there’s always a girl and boy next door, a mahinhin virgin, a mayabang hunk, a single parent, a working student, a loyal daughter or son, a geek, someone who’s poor and someone who’s rich, on local TV half the time. These stereotypical labels create characters that are presumed to be more interesting than just regular normal people.
And it is regular normal people that this season of Survivor is able to sell us. Instead of giving each celebrity castaway a producer-imposed stereotype, the castaways themselves talked about the roles they thought they’d play in the game, and were given labels based on these. These defining labels are farthest from the limitations of stereotypes, because definitions can change, are not cut-and-dried, not at all limiting. Instead it allows for a set of possibilities and impossibilities, the latter being the things that will necessarily be tested in the face of group dynamics and isolation on an island elsewhere. Instead it gives us a set of people who speak for themselves, versus characters that are limited by stereotypes, the ones that will surely capture our hearts.
Tagged: Aubrey Miles, Buhawi Meneses, definitions, Elma Muros, extreme reality show, Jon Hall, labels, local popular culture, Michelle Madrigal, Mico, Moi, Nanay Elma, Paolo Bediones, popular culture, reality show, Richard Guttierez, Solenn Hussef, stereotypes, Survivor Philippines, Survivor Philippines Celebrity Showdown, Trizia