Survivor Goes Woke, Then Broke

November 1st, 2021 | RR

Survivor is more than just a show, it's an institution that spans two generations. When I first heard of it in 2000, I was 19. I was excited to see real people put into a Lord Of The Flies situation, with only one person coming out on top. The show didn't disappoint and it went on for twenty years, acting as an unbiased and universal source of entertainment for forty seasons. Of course, as it went on, more minorities were chosen as contestants, which helped make the show more appealing to more people—without going off the deep end. However, the latest season took it to the furthest fringes of woke culture and turned away more than two million viewers, putting the show's future in peril.

In the very first episode of the latest season, Jeff Probst opened the first immunity challenge in the same way he has for twenty years, uttering the innocent phrase, “Come on in, guys.” This time, it became clear, very quickly, that producers had something different in mind. Whether they were looking for a controversial headline, or whether they were on a misguided quest to appeal to a new generation, they chose an unnecessary and needlessly divisive way to pander to a new audience.

Completely unprovoked, Jeff went on to ask the new contestants a question before starting the first challenge. “My question to you is, in the context of Survivor, is a word like guys ok, or is it time to retire that word?”

The contestants quietly looked around at each other, silently analyzing the mood of the group, before one of the show's gender obscure lesbian contestants piped up and said, “I, personally, think guys is ok. It's such a signature expression and I, as a queer woman, do not feel excluded by guys.”

The others nodded in agreement and it seemed settled.


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Normalcy had successfully prevailed over the fringe lunacy that has been infecting most of our society for the past decade. It was clear (and relieving) to see a normal, reasonable reaction from the majority of the contestants. Even the cheery lesbian, who most would have judged as the first one to speak out against the word, was fine with it. She proved, for a minute, that most members of the LGBTQ community aren't hysterical fascists looking to police our language. For a minute, I relished in the outcome and the idea that one of my favourite shows had successfully overcome the urge to join the woke side.

Then, after a few commercials, everything changed .

Ricard, whose husband is pregnant, interrupted Jeff before the next challenge could start, to say, “In the last challenge, you asked us a question.” Claiming he had not been thinking clearly and was too overwhelmed by the game to give an honest answer, he went on to say, “I don't think we should use the word guys. I don't really agree with it. The reality is that Survivor has changed over the past 21 years and those changes have allowed all of us, all of these brown people, black people, Asian people, so many queer people, to be here simultaneously.”

Immediately, Jeff's face lit up and he delightfully agreed to never say “come on in, guys” again—despite repeatedly continuing to use the word, in other situations, to refer to the castaways throughout the rest of the season.

To make it worse, after agreeing to stop using the word, Jeff defiantly challenged people on Twitter to disagree with him. “I probably won't read it anyway, but go ahead,” he said. Expecting backlash, Probst chose to antagonize not just the mindless haters, but the rest of us who feel no need to cancel innocent words and phrases to appease a few sensitive people. The rest of us, who have nothing against the LGBTQ community and who cheered for Richard Hatch in the first season, were sneeringly mocked by the show's host and producers.

Had Jeff Probst simply and quietly stopped using the phrase, we probably wouldn't have noticed.

"For a minute, I relished in the outcome and the idea that one of my favourite shows had successfully overcome the urge to join the woke side."

The very fact that producers had chosen to make a spectacle of Survivor's new woke direction speaks for itself. By loudly and defiantly advertising their wokeness, producers have made their intentions clear to life-long fans: conform, or get lost. In a misguided and out-of-touch move, they alienated what was left of their audience under the assumption that younger generations across America are as woke as their bubble-dwelling friends in Hollywood. Their strategy set out to capture a younger audience, at the expense of an older audience that would eventually die off. It's a classic corporate strategy that attempts to secure a brand's longevity into the future.

It failed and it was unnecessary.

The idea that younger generations are more woke and driven by inclusiveness might be accurate, but assuming they're ok with censoring language and cancelling innocent phrases is a bit too presumptuous. If television ratings and music sales are any indication, younger generations are becoming more and more hostile toward censorial behaviour. Millennials are the most sensitive generation in history, but their children are entering adolescence now and their slow entrance into society is starting to change our culture—the same way Millennials did twenty years ago.

When Millennials started entering society as adults and adolescents in the late 90s, things started getting worse. Censorship, social justice and radical ideas about gender identity have since become hot topics in every corner of society. Now, as they take over our institutions and court systems, we're seeing the effect Millennials are having on our society as a whole—and it's terrifying.

Luckily, most of their antics are backfiring and younger generations are showing the same kind of defiance their parents did, but in the opposite direction.

Survivor is a good example. The show's Millennial producers did what Millennials do best, which is to miscalculate the outcomes of their own decisions. Assuming everyone, even their children, are as woke and keen on censorship as they are, they took the show in a defiant new direction—just to spite their parents and all the haters. In true Millennial fashion, they chose to put their own snide righteousness over the best interests of their product and brand.

As a result, a lot of people who have worked on Survivor for the past twenty years, including Jeff Probst, will be unemployed in a few short years.

For the past few seasons, Survivor has maintained a steady 7 million viewers and a healthy share of the 18-35 demographic. That's a steady drop from the 20 million viewers that watched the first six seasons, but the decline began to plateau around season 31 in 2015. Since 2018, every season has grabbed 7 million viewers on the premier episode and held steady on that number (or grown) throughout the season, with the exception of this latest season.

The first episode of the latest season pulled in 6.2 million viewers. From there, after Jeff's declaration of enlightenment, the show has seen a troubling decline of nearly 2 million viewers overall. In Survivor's history, that sets a new precedent. No other season in the show's long history has seen such a quick, dramatic and sustained decline in viewership

The second episode dropped by more than 300,000 viewers; the third by 110,000 viewers; the fourth by another 120,000 and the fifth by 50,000 and the sixth by another 30,000. For comparison, the past two seasons increased in viewership after the premier episode.

This season of Survivor has hemorrhaged viewers like never before.

Normally, when a cable television show drops below 6 million average viewers per episode, it gets cancelled. Unlike subscription channels, like HBO and Showtime, cable television is available to a larger, more mainstream audience and depends on sponsors and advertisers to make money. Therefore, the threshold for most shows to break even is about 6 million viewers.

For the first time in its history, Survivor has dropped below the 6 million threshold and failed to bounce back. This indicates that viewers have written this season off. It's possible that many viewers have even written off the whole show and won't ever come back. If so, Survivor will likely see one or two more seasons before being axed by CBS for no longer turning a profit.

It'll be a sad day, but a bitter sweet one.

Like with the NFL, CFL, NBA and award shows, excessive and defiant wokeness has permanently damaged the Survivor brand. As though no lessons have been learned, the show's producers pushed ahead with their defiant smugness and destroyed what was once a profitable product. As sad as it will be to see Survivor go, failure is the only solution to the lunacy of woke Millennials.

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