The host of Survivor: Island of the Idols, Jeff Probst responds to the unwanted touching incident that has plagued the show. The controversy has brought #MeToo gender politics to reality television.
It started when season 39 contestant Kellee Kim raised concerns about inappropriate touching at the hands of fellow competitor Dan Spilo. Two of the other contestants, Missy Byrd and Elizabeth Beisel, had similar complaints about Dan’s handsy behavior. Though it was revealed that those two women admitted that they exaggerated the claims in order to get Dan voted off. However, Footage of the questionable touching was caught on camera and was replayed. Although Kellee voiced sincere concern about Dan’s lack of boundaries, he wasn’t voted off immediatly. Meanwhile, after a blindside, she was sent packing after a vote to remove her from the island, as was her advocate Jamal Shipman. In light of the allegations, Survivor’s producers spoke with each cast member separately, as well as with the group to ensure everyone felt safe enough to continue on the program. The cast felt that further interference from the producers was unneeded. The producers also served Dan with a warning about his behavior. Although he had initially disputed the claims that his behavior was anything less than honorable, he accepted the reprimand and told the producers he understood.
Probst recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the incident, as well as the fallout from the disclosure going public. He began his statement, “Survivor is a microcosm for our real world.” The host continued, “Situations just like this one are playing out in offices and bars and colleges across the country and the world.” He followed up his initials comments with additional commentary, delivered to the outlet via email. “What Survivor offers that is different from the workplace is the opportunity to vote someone out. This is an important point. Tribal Council has always been the place where players are held accountable for their actions. In this situation, it can’t be ignored that despite a lot of story, controversy and upset feelings swirling around him, Dan has yet to be voted out. That remains one of the most fascinating elements of this season.”
Probst noted that he was surprised that there wasn’t more of a consensus among the women on the island about Dan’s behavior. Just like real life, Survivor’s allegations of sexual harassment have been debated just as much as they’ve been believed. To see this type of he said/she said evolve into a game-play tool for a reality show has been tough for a lot of viewers. Probst revealed that the fact that the Survivor format is so relevant is because it’s as much a social experiment as it is a game. He said, “So their actions and opinions always reflect the current state of our culture. We are obviously in the middle of a powerful and much-needed cultural shift relating to how men and women interact with each other, and we’re seeing a manifestation of that play out on this season of Survivor.”
Reality television, like any other job or industry, has a responsibility to keep its participants safe. These shows claim to go through extensive vetting of participants. They claim to force potential cast members to undergo psychiatric evaluations as well as criminal background checks. Much to Survivor’s credit, Probst has been protective of the remaining participants on the show. Fans have wondered if the producers should have addressed the alleged sexual misconduct sooner. Fortunately, the guilty parties (those who did the touching, those who turned a blind eye to it, and those who exploited the touching to stay in the competition) will have to leave the island eventually. When they do, it’ll be karma making the final judgments.
Next: Survivor’s Inappropriate Touching Incident: Did CBS Do Too Little Too Late?
Survivor: Island of the Idols airs Wednesdays at 8 pm EST on CBS.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter