‘Naked and Afraid’ is an American reality television series broadcast on the Discovery Channel, which made its debut in June 2013 and reached its eleventh season early in 2020. ‘Naked and Afraid’ quickly became one of the channel’s most popular shows, grabbing the attention of millions of fans, and in due time snatched the record as the highest-rated survival series in the channel’s history.
Through a simple yet risky concept, ‘Naked and Afraid’ revived the popularity that survival reality shows such as ‘Survivor’ established, rekindling the interest of the audience by raising the stakes higher than ever before. In each episode, two contestants – one male and one female – compete against the harsh elements of selected, isolated wildlands, surviving with quite literally the bare minimum, to triumph for little more than boasting pride.
Stripped down to their birthday suit, the two contestants meet for the first time, and although still strangers they have to work together for the next twenty-one days, living self-reliantly off the land.
They receive no food, drinkable water, or any survival gear when their adventure begins, aside from one item of their choice, which could be anything they might consider would make their stay in the wild easier. The only other items the contestants receive is a satchel with a diary camera and a necklace fitted with a concealed mic. The survival process normally includes building a shelter, foraging and hunting for food, and gathering water until the end of the twenty-one days.
At any time during the challenge the contestants are allowed to throw in the towel, but if they survive until the last day, a provided map will guide them to a rendezvous point for their extraction.
— Naked and Afraid (@NakedAndAfraid) March 3, 2021
Critics have responded warmly to the unique concept of the show, praising the production for celebrating human strength and fortitude, instead of exploiting the outrageous drama as in certain other survival series.
However, regardless of its popularity and warm reception from critics, others have expressed their scepticism about the honesty behind ‘Naked and Afraid’s reality. Of course, the most outspoken suspicions come from Les Stroud, the star of ‘Survivorman’, who claims without much evidence that most of the show is a lie.
Like any other reality show, ‘Naked and Afraid’ hides many secrets, despite the bare-it-all nature of the series. Some of the intimate details that happened on the show, many of which the producers would no doubt want to keep quiet, have even been leaked by disgruntled contestants out to spill the truth.
Although ‘Naked and Afraid’ reveals a lot, often more than one would want to see, fans and viewers might not be surprised to learn that the cameras don’t capture everything.
The isolation of the contestants plays a key factor in the general concept of the show, with the producers hoping that the isolation would create tension between the supposed partners, and lead to exaggerated drama.
As such, the contestants are set down in a variety of locations, ranging from isolated parks in the US, as well as areas of international wilderness, located in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Africa, to name a few. To further add to the isolation, contestants survive every night by themselves, with only their diary camera to record the events as each night passes.
However, it seems that the producers have not been entirely honest about the true nature of the contestants’ isolation.
The most obvious flaw remains the fact that for the better part of each day, the contestants find themself surrounded by camera crews. Although the cameramen legally agreed not to intervene, some contestants revealed that they received sympathy from the crew, such as providing them with food, while other contestants resorted to stealing from crew members.
The nights also are not as alone as portrayed by the show, but this might only be because of safety precautions. Since many of the deadliest creatures in the wild are nocturnal by nature, the night becomes that much more perilous. As a precaution, the producers provide the contestants with an emergency radio and whistle, which may be used during a night-time emergency.
Since the crew camps within walking distance of the survivors, the latter are safer at night than the show insinuates. To make things even worse for the producers, some of the locations where they film are not as far from civilization as suggested.
One example of this happened during the third season in Brazil. The producers set up camp within earshot of a nearby village, so the contestants encountered locals playing football on the beach, and were even kept up at night by a local DJ’s music.
One of the contestants even stumbled upon a fisherman’s shack, where they found supplies. Unfortunately, the producers learned of the discovery and forced the contestant to return the locals’ belongings. Either way, the contestants certainly aren’t as isolated as the show suggests.
Some producers tend to go to great lengths to ensure that their shows are as entertaining as possible, often resorting to manipulation, scripting and, of course, creative editing.
It seems that the producers of ‘Naked and Afraid’ would stop at nothing to provide dramatic and intriguing entertainment.
Aside from the usual techniques, the ‘Naked and Afraid’ producers resorted to completely neglecting to show the audience footage relative to the circumstances of certain survivors, which not only hid the influence they played in unfolding events, but also created a dishonest portrayal of some contestants.
One prominent occurrence of this happened repeatedly during the show’s first season in the wilds of Costa Rica. In the very first episode, the audience follows the survival of contestants Kim Shelton and her partner Shane Lewis. Halfway through the episode, Kim contracts food poisoning after attempting to cook and eat an indigenous turtle species.
Miraculously, she makes a recovery after only four days, and according to the footage, without the help of medicine, which in all honesty should never be possible.
Of course, the producers neglected to include footage of how the show’s medical crew nursed her back to health with IV drips, baby food, and other nutritional fillings.
In the meantime, the show portrayed her partner as a complaining weakling, more concerned about the pain in his foot than the well-being of his partner, so it seems that the audience didn’t get to see the full story behind his complaints.
Footage of an accident during which Shane broke three toes never made it into the episode. Instead of gaining sympathy from the audience, the producers wanted viewers to see him as a villain. It just goes to show, one can’t trust everything made by Hollywood producers.
Another factor of ‘Naked and Afraid’ which will further reduce the credibility of the producers, is the fact that they often manipulate the contestants, using them as puppets to produce ‘creative reality’, as if surviving without food, warmth, and clean water was not enough drama.
According to season 3 contestant, Honora Bowen, the producers and some of the cameramen do their best to influence the circumstances of the survivors. She claimed that one cameraman constantly fed them ideas to make things more interesting. The producers would also take them aside for diary interviews, often posing questions that would cause friction between her and her partner.
She made further claims, suggesting that the argument that took place between the two partners happened at the instigation of the producers. Adding at how the producers would manipulate contestants, Bowen accused them of taking advantage of the loss she experienced before appearing on the show. Bowne’s father passed away shortly before she competed in ‘Naked and Afraid’, but he gave his daughter useful advice before his untimely departure.
He instructed Honora to request a magnifying glass as the piece of equipment she could take along, since it could make starting fires easier and held numerous other survival benefits. As requested, the producers gave her the magnifying glass, yet requested that while she appeared on the show, she should refer to it as a sentimental gift from her father.
The true origins of the magnifying glass, however, wasn’t as sentimental.
Filming of each episode takes place over the course of twenty-one days, with each episode
featuring new contestants and a different location. However, the audience only gets to see forty-plus minutes of all the actual events as they take place, and as many can guess and now know, somethings don’t appear in the episodes.
Still got it..The legendary EJ "Skullcrusher" Snyder is taking on #NakedandAfraid: Alone in Bulgaria starting NOW on Discovery.
Aside from leaving out certain details, manipulating the circumstances, as well as the survivors, the producers of ‘Naked and Afraid’ are also guilty of creative editing. Of course, cramming three weeks’ worth of footage into a single episode requires a considerable amount of editing. However, the editing often changes the portrayal of the contestants, creating dishonest representations for the sake of entertainment.
Several contestants complained about the editing of the show, claiming that the focus most often tends towards their complaints and dramatic arguments, yet seldom includes the accomplishments they achieve. The primary intent of editing seems to be to create protagonists and antagonists for each episode, and the producers are not afraid to manipulate the footage to such an extent that it warps the truth of the actual narrative.
One contestant, Allison Teal, said the show never included footage of how she made a 40-foot ladder, or makeshift fishing gear but instead focused more on her partner’s complaints. For entertainment reasons, the focus also tended towards the tension between the two survivors.
If anything, it challenges the true nature of ‘Naked and Afraid’s reality, and makes one simply wonder if anything about the show really is true.
The show only has two requests with which the contestants have to comply, and that is to be naked and afraid, as the title suggests. While surviving the wilderness holds many dangers, including but not limited to all forms of predators, bugs and poisonous plants, it seems that for most contestants, the greatest challenge is stripping down to their birthday suit.
Certainly, most of the dangers in the wild become more threatening when one survives in the nude. Yet, according to some contestants, the part that has them most anxious is appearing naked in front of the audience, as well as spending twenty-one days baring it all before a perfect stranger, not to mention the camera crew.
While being one of the key factors that attract so many viewers, the nudity displayed on the show gained negative attention from One Million Moms, despite that most of the scenes get blurred and censored. One Million Moms is a non-profit organization that actively attempts to ensure that entertainment remains suitable for children and sensitive audiences, especially on channels such as Discovery.
Their concern with the show focused on the fact that ‘Naked and Afraid’ would blur frontal nudity, but showed no concern for posterior nudity, which for some reason appears in full glory. As a result of their efforts, One Million Moms successfully caused some of the show’s sponsors to withdraw, which includes Pedigree and Delta Faucet, and might soon add Hershey to the list. Regardless, the show refused to change its censorship or its age rating.
While some viewers might think stripping down and spooning with a stranger would do something for the libido, they could not be more mistaken. According to most contestants, the circumstances of the show just don’t provide the right kind of chemistry to create the desire for intimacy.
Hunger and the fear of predators, not to mention insect bites, causes most contestants to never think in that direction.
Not even their partners, who sit safely at home, expressed any concern about infidelity, and for the better part simply worry more about the survivors well-being.
On top of that, the lack of hygiene and clean water is not a good motivator. As it turns out, the contestants get dirty on the show, but not the way some viewers might think.
The producers might have the audience believing that the only reward for surviving the twenty-one-day challenge is bragging rights, but this is just another misconception they feed their viewers. According to investigations done by inquisitive reporters, the contestants who are able to complete the game show and arrive at the extraction point, receive a cash prize.
Although not as much as presented by other shows such as ‘Amazing Race’ or ‘Survivor’, the $5,000 award could still be considered a substantial amount.
We love these 2 already.😍
— Naked and Afraid (@NakedAndAfraid) February 13, 2021
However, like many of the contestants and some of the viewers, one might question if all the danger, discomfort, and stripping down to bare it all would be worth such a comparatively measly prize.
There are conditions to winning the prize, which include having to complete the challenge and not forfeiting, and of course, staying within the rules.
A Producer’s Fatal Encounter
Despite the many creative elements of the show, many of the hazards participants face are real and genuine, and this is something one of the producers could confirm. During the first season, viewers might remember the brief encounter producer Steve Rankin had with a venomous snake. However, the incident occurred before filming started, while the crew scouted the local region in Costa Rica for a suitable location.
Beware the howler monkeys 🙈 Naked and Afraid starts NOW 🙉
Although not part of the show, the producers included footage of the incident to show the audience just how real the dangers can be; indeed, after the Fer-De-Lance snake bit Rankin’s foot, he experienced extreme symptoms that could have cost him his life.
The Fer-De-Lance snake of the local region is, after all, responsible for an estimated 125,000 annual fatalities, and considered among the most venomous viper species in the world. Luckily, Steve survived the ordeal, receiving medical care in time to prevent any long term damage.
Despite the creative influence exercised on the show, ‘Naked and Afraid’ remains one of the most entertaining survival shows on Discovery Channel. If you are among the millions of fans who simply can’t get enough, feel free to keep watching the latest instalments of season eleven.
If you want even more naked survival, check out the many spin-off creations, which includes ‘Naked and Afraid XL’, and the lone survivor edition.