The most basic and primal instincts, turning rudimentary elements of mother earth into tools of survival. The outdoorsman is well equipped to handle the barren plains and the densest muggy jungle with only constructions stemming from one’s own desire and sweat. Many people may consider themselves “outdoorsmen,” but how many could survive off the land for years like generations and explorers before us? Popular culture today shows us that anyone can grow or become an outdoorsman with the proper attire, scruffiness, attitude, knowledge of survival, and a natural connection to the wilderness.
In “Survivorman,” Les Stroud is thrown into a survival situation in a random environment and films himself along the way for seven days until he is rescued. He documents his survival techniques so anyone watching can possibly mimic his actions and hopefully improve their chances of survival, if in a similar environment. Being a popular program on the Discovery Channel, a wide audience is reached of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Like many other outdoor television programs the host is well equipped with the knowledge of the landscape, even local tricks of ways to survive in the area such as food options he may encounter on the journey. Les creates shelter, finds water, captures food, and gives us all hope that we too may find success if in a survival situation. With so much hope, it would be easy to understand if a person who watched an episode found the guts to try and stick it out in the woods for a couple days. The outcome could be death for a number of reasons or hopefully just a newfound respect for the wilderness and nature. Knowing one’s own limitations is very crucial in any situation especially survival, so no unneeded problems arise due to carelessness. Along with knowing personal limitations, it is key to realize that Les is a survival instructor and has had years of experience gaining survival knowledge. A viewer must look past the glamour and really think about what may not be shown or the less glamorous details including possible death.
Another popular television show on the Discovery Channel is “Dual Survival”. It basically centers around the same issues faced in “Survivorman” but two men are forced into the survival situation instead of only Les by himself. Cody Lundin and Joe Teti come from different backgrounds with their own set of survival techniques, helping each other along the way. Cody is more of a hippy looking character with long hair and is always walking barefoot wearing shorts in every terrain they encounter. Joe on the other hand is a former Marine and Army Special Operations so as one would expect they clash somewhat when making decisions. Cody isn’t the military man that Joe is but he runs a survival school in Arizona, focusing on primitive survival techniques. Even in the most dire looking situations they make it to civilization, no matter how small or rural it may be to accomplish their goal. Once again difficult survival situations are being completed with ease, making the viewer underestimate the severity of what wrong actions may lead to. A group of people could view an episode and think that they could do the same thing, especially in an environment their accustomed to. One wrong turn or misstep could throw them into a life and death situation and things are a lot easier said than done when you’re surrounded by unknowns and unfamiliarity.
A more laughable outdoorsman perception is shown in the “Dr.Pepper Ten” commercial. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY4QCIa3dVQ)
It shows a long haired man with a big beard living in the woods, using nature to survive while drinking “the manliest low-calorie soda.” For food he rips a piece of bark off a tree and takes a bite, followed by him screeching like a bird which motivates a hawk to fish the soda out of a lake and drop it in his hands. He is then shown carrying a log easily weighing thousands of pounds which he intends to create a canoe with, shortly later he is shown be paddled around the lake in the canoe by a black bear. This is a great example of how outdoorsmen are projected and perceived by popular culture. He has the look, of scruffiness and a deep almost raspy manly voice. The connection to the wildlife is what really stands out to me as he has his tricks of survival only a seasoned outdoorsman has. The commercial really glamorizes the art of survival to the point where it is for comedic purposes and to sell the beverage.
The outdoorsman in popular culture is somewhat of a tough guy, with the ability to overcome dire situations and make do with what the Earth provides in the immediate location. As Gary Strauss writes “ tough-guy shows also tap into escapism atypical of traditional TV.” It makes sense to me that these shows are popular as most people live in cities, but we are still creatures of survival and have instincts that run deep in our history. In Strauss’s article he also quotes Bear Grylls, a noted survival expert on why his show on Discovery ( Man vs. Wild) may be so popular. He says the show is about “what it brings out in people… People want an inside window on what they have to do.” It also helps that he does some crazy things like jumping into ice covered water and eating basically anything he can find including insects and other unfamiliar cuisine.
I consider myself an outdoorsman, growing up in Portland with a family that routinely fishes for salmon in the rivers and ventures 30 miles offshore for halibut. While growing up it was routine to travel to Montana and hike in the woods while fishing in streams and rivers, my fondest memory comes from this time when my uncle and I encountered a bear crashing through the woods while we were fishing in the middle of the stream. For my family and I it is more about providing for ourselves and the enjoyment. Being an outdoorsman doesn’t require one to be constantly away from civilization and on the edge of starvation living with what is naturally provided. A person hiking in the wilderness or a person that goes camping once in a while both can be considered outdoorsmen. If one was to only judge a person based on popular culture’s portrayal of an outdoorsman, not many would be one. A person could consider themselves an outdoorsman if they just enjoy being outside. It is basically impossible for someone to go out in the wilderness and survive off the land without bringing anything from their culture, including basic clothing, a knife, or a weapon.
When popular culture presents an outdoorsman they all have some commonalties. Their background plays the largest role in the survivor television shows like “Survivorman,” “Man vs. Wild,” and “Dual Survival.” They all have extensive survival knowledge that they are hoping to pass onto the viewer. This has the ability to create false hope for someone who thinks they could handle living off the land, when they can watch guys on TV do it so easily. It’s ok if you don’t have the biggest beard, toughest attitude, survival knowledge, and a natural connection to the wildlife or wilderness because the only thing that matters is if you think you fit in the category of an “outdoorsman.”
Dual Survival. Perf. Cody Lundin, Joe Teti. Discovery Communications , Web. 12 May 2014. <http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/dual-survival>.
Gary, Strauss. “Tough guys take over TV.” USA Today n.d.: Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 May 2014.
Man vs. Wild . Perf. Bear Grylls. Discovery Communications , Web. 18 May 2014. <http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/man-vs-wild>.
Survivorman. Dir. Les Stroud. Perf. Les Stroud. Discovery Communications, OLN, Web. 14 May 2014. <http://lesstroud.ca/survivorman/home.php>.