Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jeff Probst Really Wants To Watch Shows About Gladiators

I was a pretty die-hard fan of Survivor at one point, but, starting sometime around season five, the producers allowed Jeff Probst off-his-leash and suddenly he became as much a player and an asshole as the contestants. (And sometimes much more than them).

I stopped watching two seasons ago, but I’m probably going to watch the new Fan Vs. Favorites season, if only because some of the favorites come from seasons I actually watched. (Plus, there really isn’t much else on).

But Jeff Probst’s sexism always tended to grate on my nerves and part of what drove me away. That’s why Miss Alli’s post on Television Without Pity is kind of a revelation. It’s not that Probst isn’t a sexist asshole, it’s just that he’s a fan. Of shows. About gladiators. And since the women on Survivor tend not to be as physically buff as the guys (and many aren’t even buff for women) they just don’t merit Probst’s admiration.

He's so torn, because he wants to just make it a game of men, a game where big guys wrestle each other and fight to the death and tear at buffalo hides with their teeth. This is where his heart is. He isn't much interested in strategy at all. He doesn't like diplomatic maneuvering; it doesn't move him. He considers the entire Fiji season a failure -- he says so in so many words -- despite the fact that it had an enormously likable winner (if not a physically overpowering one) and contains perhaps the greatest and most satisfying episode in the game's history, in terms of pure strategy. He shrugs that it was the show's decision not to have excellent strategist Yul in the cast -- Yul being the most popular winner in recent years, and possibly the most popular winner ever, in one of the show's most popular seasons. His only mention of most of the women cast as "favorites" comes from discussing the fact that Parvati (whom he still calls "Poverty" in what's beginning to feel like a passive-aggressive slight) might or may not ever go beyond "flirting," and Ami probably will go for another -- his words here -- "girls' alliance." Getting by on your wits instead of your muscles simply isn't interesting to him, and he can't fake it.
Miss Alli explains that Probst is basically one of those guys who just gets doe-eyed when talking about a football player he really admires and can’t like, also admire a chess player. So its not that he doesn’t disrespect women, it’s just that they can’t play sports as well as men – especially in direct competition to them. So, he just can’t admire them. (The few times in Survivor when a woman outperforms a guy in a physical challenge is about the point that Probst does start respecting her). It’s an interesting take on his attitude.

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