Recently, my husband decided to try an experiment. Always on the hunt for entertainment the entire family will enjoy, he wondered―would our kids like the CBS reality show, ‘Survivor‘? I mean, was Richard Hatch the deceptive but likable one million dollar winner of the first season, I ask you? In layman’s terms, yes they do, or as my 11-year-old excitedly said, “It reminds me of ‘The Hunger Games’ but no one gets killed.” So there you have it.
As of this writing, we’ve made our way through the first season of ‘Survivor’, and I’d like to offer a few thoughts on why this reality show makes a compelling watch for families (with slightly older kids, I’d say 8+). Keep in mind, I can’t offer commentary on any ‘Survivor’ drama during later seasons, as it’s circa 2000-2001 in these parts. But with 40 seasons under their belt (season 41 begins September 22), it’s safe to say a lot of fans of the show began just like we did, making it one of the longest running reality shows ever.
As your children get older, it can be hard to find television series and movies that are not only age-appropriate but interesting enough that the whole family will enjoy. I put in my dues, mind you. One can only watch so many episodes of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol without dreaming of the day your child will be old enough to watch The NeverEnding Story or Home Alone.
But, back to the island of Borneo, shall we?
From learning survival techniques to understanding game strategy, here are 5 reasons to watch the first season of Survivor with your family:
Whether you’re Team Tagi and or Team Pegong, the first season of Survivor offered more lessons than we expected.
The importance of teamwork
So many lessons on the importance of teamwork on Survivor: Borneo! Despite the fact that everyone was ultimately playing for themselves, being a team player was a vital part of the process, whether during tribe challenges or working together to build a raft or roof structure.
Respecting the outdoors + the value of learning survival techniques
On the first season of Survivor, cast members spent 39 days “roughing it” in the great outdoors (well, until each one was relieved of their torch) and that produced many valuable conversations about respecting our planet as we moved our way through the season. Not only that, but the importance of experiencing the outdoors, learning survival skills, like how to start a fire (and be safe around one), and why learning how to swim is a vitally important.
Understanding game strategy
From episode one, it became abundantly clear that ‘Survivor’ was about a lot more than cast members playing games and eating an over-abundance of rice. Day to day life within each tribe was a lesson in game strategy, in addition to each team challenge (my family particularly loved the “Squared Off” challenge).
Like many “thinking” games (chess comes to mind), we would pause the show and talk about the importance of thinking three steps ahead, and considering more than just a straightforward answer.
Seeing how far we’ve come
We’ve come a long way, baby, as the saying goes. In 2000, Rudy Boesch, the show’s designated cantankerous character and former Marine made it known early on that he did not approve of Richard Hatch’s lifestyle as a gay man. He would often make derogatory remarks about Hatch that by today’s standards would be deemed un-politically correct, let alone just plain mean, and 100% unacceptable. And yet, the two formed an alliance that would last the entire season.
My children think nothing of seeing a gay person on TV now, or for that matter, in our day to day lives, so we were presented with an opportunity to talk about how far we’ve come as a society since then.
Separately, but still connected―ageism. When it came to the more mature cast members, it was interesting to take a look at how they were treated based on their age (and in the case of Rudy, how they were underestimated). Another reminder that age is just a number.
Sometimes the person you don’t like the most wins the game
Oof. This is a tough one, because we always want the good, kind-hearted person to win, right? Unfortunately, this life lesson is a harsh but realistic one. Sometimes, a person wins because they played the smartest and knew how to strategize, not because they were likable.
Oh, and as it turns out―you can eat beetle larvae if you’re really, really desperate.