The reality TV show Survivor attracted a lot of attention last season because of a controversial twist on the show’s format; instead of being divided into “tribes” (teams) according to gender or age, as had been the case in previous seasons, Survivor: Cook Islands contestants were initially assigned to tribes based on their ethnicity. Immediately following the producers’ announcement of this change, an intense media brouhaha erupted but mostly died down as the season progressed and as the original tribe groupings inevitably fell by the wayside.
In the first few episodes of the season it was interesting to see how the tribe members interacted, and to speculate whether their similarities would outweigh their differences, or vice versa. It didn’t take long to see the dissimilarities among the members of Puka, the Asian-American tribe, who not only were ethnically diverse (South Korean, Filipino, and Vietnamese) but had very different personality styles. My sympathies were definitely with the laconic Yul (who eventually won the game), as opposed to the quite chatty Cao Boi, and the contrast between them reminded me of survivors past who tended to either extreme.
In general, it pays to be an extrovert on Survivor, although if you go too far (see Jonny Fairplay) it can work against you. Introverts don’t usually last long, mostly because they’d rather keep to themselves than sit and gossip around a smoky campfire. And they are not so ready to unburden their innermost thoughts in private interviews; in short, they don’t make for good reality TV, with its attention to the machinations and personality clashes of their less self-conscious tribemates.
In previous seasons, it has been painful for me to see how “the tribe” treats introverts. Usually they are seen as loners, and a tribe member’s solitary walk down the beach is often interpreted as evidence that they are not a “team player.” I have infinite sympathy for these poor souls–I too would feel an urgent need to take a break from living with other people 24 hours a day. Speaking of which, for the last few seasons, there has been a punishment that involves spending a few days alone on “Exile Island,” which always seems appealing to me. There is a lot of talk about how grueling it is, and I don’t doubt that it is physically challenging, but I suspect a lot of introverts wouldn’t find spending time alone to be much of a punishment.
In light of the above, I propose a new twist for the next season of Survivor: Introverts vs. Extroverts. I can see it now, alternating shots of the two tribe camps, one group speaking quietly to each other, if at all, and at the other, nonstop conversation erupting from time to time into meaningless spats (a regular occurence on the show). I know which tribe I’d rather belong to.