Okay, since this blog is about television, I should start with a confession: I love reality television, I love Survivor, and I make absolutely no apologies for it. Yes, I’ve heard all the argument. Reality television is manipulative. Reality television dumbs down the national dialogue. Reality television is real in name only. Reality television puts hardworking television writers on the unemployment line. I’ve heard all the arguments and I say “So what?” Reality television is silly, over the top, and a lot of fun and really, isn’t that what television is supposed to be in the first place? The rest of you can have your predictable urban cop shows and your pompous, issue-themed gabfests. I’ll take Survivor any day.
Up until this latest episode (entitled Thanks For The Souvenir), the current season of Survivor has been dominated by one person and that person is a flamboyantly gay, self-described Republican, and downright nasty individual named Colton. When the season first began, I was like a lot of people in that I felt sorry for Colton because he was an outcast, an outspokenly gay, unathletic man stranded with a tribe of alpha males. I was happy when Colton got the season’s first immunity trial and then, by forging an alliance with the game’s other outcasts, managed to vote out the most insanely alpha of the alpha males. (That would be Matt, who I actually talked to a little bit on twitter. He turned out to be a surprisingly charming guy.)
And then suddenly, Colton went from being an underdog to perhaps the worst human being to ever appear on a reality television program. He somehow talked the men’s tribe into giving up their immunity and going to tribal council, all so he could kick Bill out of the game. Colton’s problem with Bill appeared to come down to the fact that Bill was 1) not rich and 2) black. When the tribes were eventually rearranged and Colton found himself a member of a new tribe, he immediately teamed up with the equally loathsome Alicia and voted out Monica, one of the few decent people on the island this season. Upon returning from that tribal council, Colton and Alicia immediately started to taunt Monica’s only ally, Christina. Colton told Christina that she was already pre-selected as the next to go. “You can either quit, get voted off, or throw yourself in the fire,” he told her in between fits of maniacal laughter.
In short, Colton was the type of over the top, unlikable asshole who could only exist in the world of reality television. No television writer would have had the guts to create a character as loathsome as Colton. They certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to make him as openly and flamboyantly gay as Colton was. If they had, they would have been accused (and probably quite rightly) of promoting homophobia. And yet, honestly, it was the conflict between Colton’s outcast status as a homosexual and his own cruel personality that made him a compelling character. If he wasn’t gay, he would have just been another elitist, racist toadsucker. However, since he was gay, it made him all the more interesting of a character. You watched and you considered the irony that this guy who had undoubtedly had to face discrimination on a daily basis could, at the same time, have no problem being an openly racist elitist who bragged about his ability to destroy other people. You wondered if his “villainy” was more of a defense mechanism or perhaps revenge for a world that he knew would never accept him.
As the show progressed, it was hard to ignore that the world of reality tv was the only place that a character as frequently loathsome as Colton could become a star. The fact of the matter is that we reality tv fans love our villains. We love to hate on them. We love to talk about how disgusted we are by them. We watch them and we say, “Why won’t they just vote him off!?” but secretly we know that the reason we watch a show like Survivor is for the chance to see what newest outrage a person like Colton can come up with from week to week.
Up until this last episode, I thought that this season would be the season of Colton. I expected he would probably be around long around into the game and I was looking forward to seeing him finally get voted out, blindsided by those that he had spent the entire season dismissing.
That’s not going to happen.
Halfway through tonight’s episode, Colton suddenly stopped being obnoxious and arrogant and suddenly, he was lying in a fetal position in the middle of the jungle, whimpering in pain and crying as he was informed, by Jeff Probst and the team’s medical team, that he had appendicitis and would have to leave the game. In a final act of pure Colton selfishness, he took the immunity idol with him, claiming it as a souvenir.
Now, I have to admit that I didn’t have much sympathy for Colton. I like to think of myself as being a good person and I usually hate to see anyone in any type of pain but honestly? Colton deserved it. I hope he’s okay now and I’m glad that he didn’t die but that doesn’t make Colton any loathsome of a human being. As I watched him being taken out of the game, my first thoughts were along the lines of “Yay!”
It was only during the next commercial break that I asked the obvious question.
“Who are we going to hate now?”