The Victories and Losses Are All Ours

Survivor works for us because it places a mirror in front of us that not only reflects our image, but the kind that allows us to see those around us.

We tuned in to "Eretz Nehederet" to laugh. We switched over to entertainer Dudu Topaz to escape. We watched the news to get updated, sports so we could love and hate, soap operas so we could get excited, and trivia game shows so we could test ourselves. We watched "Survivor" so we could learn.

A reality show is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about television and learning, but forget for a moment the format of educational TV. Survivor works for us because it places a mirror in front of us. Not the kind that only reflects our image, but the kind that allows us to see those around us. For many reasons, Survivor should have been broadcast on the science channel or National Geographic, not a commercial station.

Each episode has allowed us to examine ourselves - me and myself, me and others, me and the group, me and humankind. This is what a self-assessment questionnaire looks like through the medium of television. I'm more of a friend type, or an ambitious type. I go for beauty, or humanity. I'm weak, I'm strong. I'm a cheat, I'm genuine. I'm naive, I'm realistic. The success of the series hinges on only one thing - the casting, which assured the greatest variety of human types. Give yourselves some credit: Good looks, the perfect behind, the sculpted chest are enough to get you through an episode or two. But loyalty to the show depends on curiosity - what would I have done instead of Dan, or Na'ama, or Marina or Moshe?

If you want to compare watching Survivor to everyday life, ask yourself how often you stand in front of the mirror, and what is the only question that bothers you. That's right, "How do I look?" That is the upshot of the Survivor gimmick. The show allowed us to stand in front of the mirror of legend and ask: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the best suited of them all?"

This is why nothing could bring down Survivor - not reports of a rigged show, not production problems, not frustrated contestants. None of those things interested the viewers, who were watching a microcosm of mankind. In effect, all of us were on the same island, all of us faced the same tests. The attempt to tell us to give up trying to learn something about ourselves is like a mother telling her sobbing son that he is crying at a mere movie, a fiction - but a few hours later she finds herself weeping as she watches "The Young and the Restless." Our level of attachment is not connected to the authenticity of what appears on screen, but to our ability to relate what we see to similar situations in our own lives.

The debate over various Survivor contestants is quite cautious and conservative, because we know that our choices tell more about us than the contestant we favor. Choosing the good-looking one means I'm superficial. Choosing the rogue means I'm one, too. And putting my needs before those of the tribe means I'm egotistic. The possibility of being sent to the Island of the Dead or being kicked off the island was just as relevant to us as to the contestants, because the show was about us. With all due respect to Na'ama Kasri, the victories and losses belonged to us more than to any of the contestants.