Humbling to see and honest depiction of people pushed to their limits. This is honest reality TV,
In April 2015 the second season of The Island with Bear Grylls was aired, this time with a men’s and a women’s island. The show provided much entertainment, from desperate struggles to provide the groups with water, to petty arguments about soup. This is the ultimate challenge for these modern day men and women who are stripped of all their daily comforts and possessions, with just one goal in mind: survival. The men and women are dropped on two separate Pacific Islands with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and some basic survival tools. This is this an unbelievable challenge for the contestants, but provides a social experiment to see if people can survive without their 21st century luxuries.
The programme provided an incredible insight into reality when people are pushed to their limits and forced to fight for survival. It presented not only the extreme honesty of the contestants at their lowest points, but also the incredible highs at moments of success. The well accomplished Bear Grylls, who served as a British army and SAS reserve, constantly emphasises throughout the show that inevitably these men and women will face extreme lows. However it is through embracing these lows, and expressing cheerfulness in adversity, that these ordinary people learn to not only survive on the island but thrive.
The show sparked various areas of controversy, such as the fact that a fresh water source was topped up and extra indigenous animals to the island were brought there specifically to be killed and eaten by the contestants. Although everyone enjoys an authentic reality TV experience, understandably contestants had to be left in an environment that was challenging, but not life threatening. As well as this, The Island was far more credible in its content than shows such as I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (although still a highly entertaining show).
The most controversial aspect of the TV show however was the capture, killing, and recording of animals for the contestants. Despite always being an incredibly sensitive topic, this TV show resulted in hundreds of complaints to Channel 4 arguing that it was cruel and inhumane to televise the torture and killing of animals. One scene in particular which created much attention was when a group on the women’s island ambushed a sleeping pig, whose cries could be heard until it’s throat was cut. As distressing as these scenes were, it must be said that this could be seen as a far more humane way of killing than the mass slaughter of farm animals.
From 2009- 2014 Animal Aid secretly filmed inside ten random slaughter houses in Britain. They released shocking footage of animals being kicked, stamped on, picked up by their ears, and being burned by cigarettes. As well as this, although the method of stunning is seen to be humane, whereby an electric bolt in the animal’s head makes them unable to feel pain, this video revealed animals being improperly stunned and killed whilst conscious. Even the supposedly more humane slaughter houses such as Freedom Food proved to be just as appalling as the standard ones. These are the issues that often go unnoticed by the general public because all of our meat comes pre-packaged, and pre-prepared. However when slaughter was depicted on The Island it resulted in massive disapproval.
After their island experience, the contestants expressed that they wanted to kill the animals as humanely as possible, and even they found the process distressing. Bear Grylls explained that for the women especially, who killed and ate two piglets whom they had befriended, they had to turn their natural instinct to nurture into an instinct to hunt. He also explains that before the show the contestants were all trained in the humane killing of animals. None of these contestants took pleasure in the actual killing of these animals, but as Bear stated, “if you hesitate, you lose and at the end of the day it’s either them or you.” Although an unpleasant process, killing of animals for survival has been a natural human instinct from the beginning of mankind.
Despite the negative attention the show attracted, the second season of The Island was a huge success with 3.2 million tuning in to watch it. The show was incredibly humbling not only for the contestants, but for the audience. Both the men and women left the island with a renewed sense of appreciation for their lives. It really emphasised that in 21st century people live such a cushioned life, and never have to wake up in the morning with thoughts of what they will have to eat and drink that day to stay alive. One of the most emotional points in the show was in the final episodes where contestants are seen contacting their loved ones when they make it back to civilisation. These expressions of happiness and relief remind the contestants and the audience of how lucky we are to have important people in our lives. The Island with Bear Grylls is a one of kind TV show, giving people the chance to experience a way of life which most of us never will, and proving the audience with an insight of what is truly most important in life.
The Island with Bear Grylls aired on Channel 4.