Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A different kind of "horn porn"

Boyfriend and I love watching hunting shows on TV, but there's a reason we call it "horn porn" - you willingly endure a lot of bad dialogue, cheesy music and low production values just to get to the "good parts," where you might either witness an expert shot or actually learn something of value.

But lately we've turned away from Versus and the Outdoor Channel to watch a fascinating new show on the Discovery Channel: The Alaska Experiment. It's a reality show that puts four teams of people in Alaska as winter approaches and makes them fend for themselves.

I love survivor shows in general because I like learning what you can do to take care of yourself out in the wild. But I love this one in particular because a bunch of non-hunters have to hunt to survive - they learn very quickly that they really need protein. And they learn hunting isn't as easy as they thought.

Sometimes they come home empty-handed (been there). But sometimes they're successful.

In last night's show, Tim, the handsome IT guy from Southern California, not only shot a mountain goat, but helped dress it on the spot, then packed 100-plus pounds of meat back to his camp. I loved it when he got back to camp and showed his teammates what he'd gotten - and seeing the look of pride in his face. Here's a guy who probably never dreamed he'd kill an animal, and he was beaming when he brought it home. Like your cat does when she drops a dead mouse at your doorstep. Like my boyfriend did when he started hunting and proudly brought home his first ducks. Like I do every time I actually hit what I'm shooting at. Does this make him the stereotypical vicious, cruel, salivating killer?

As the team fried up some of the meat and ate it, I loved hearing one of Tim's teammates recall that she'd thought the show was going to turn her into a vegetarian, but she was feeling quite the opposite at that moment. Not so gross now, is it?

The cool thing is these people are hunting just like we do, only this show portrays it in a context that's neither garish (lots of cheering, whooping and pumping of fists) nor hysterical (oh how dare they kill those poor little animals). It is what it is: hunting for food.

I clearly see myself reflected in this show - especially because I, too, am still pretty new at this, and I, too, am hunting to put food on the table. The only question is whether non-hunters will realize this is what hunting is, or whether they'll continue to compartmentalize it and say this hunting is OK because it's survival, but hunting when you could go to the Piggly Wiggly, Kroger or Safeway is somehow a sin.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008

15 comments:

The Hunter's Wife said...

Holly, I would love to see you and Kristine on the show. I haven't seen it yet and will have to let my husband know about it. Also, I would have to agree with the porn music...my husband was watching one of those hunting shows and from the other room thats what it sounds like.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Ha! For us, "porn" has become a catch-all term for a genre where you endure anything to get to the good part. Cheap martial arts flicks are definitely porn. So are a lot of musicals, I've learned. I used to have a coworker who loved them. I asked how he could put up with cheesy plots. "Oh, all I care about is the song and dance routines," he said.

Bow-chicka-bow-bow!

Dan said...

Holly,

Sat through the first 3 episodes and found myself so engrossed that my wife left the room, especially after I started ranting on the mistakes the groups were making.

1)Walking 2 miles across snow to get water? (even though drinking snow melt depletes vitamins)

2)Building crab traps for food when there's a bear that visits each day. Think bigger i.e. calories, build bear trap.

I found it funny that the real estate lady was upset about the use of guns for hunting
("I'm a pacifist) and having to cut the legs off a rabbit, but she was the first with her knife out on a buffalo carcass.

I love this show, even though it sometimes makes me want to throw strawberries at the screen.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I haven't watched each episode completely because I've been drowning in grading work lately, so I missed some of those.

But I was impressed last night with the dad who set up that nice water gathering system right outside their cabin. And I was pretty impressed that he downed the goat with the second shot after what sounded like a really bad first shot.

The biggest problem with shows like these (and my other favorite: cooking reality shows) is that they tend to want to pick the most ignorant people because it makes for better TV. One of my boyfriend's students said he should go on the show, and he told her he knows way too much - they wouldn't ever pick him.

Now that would be a show, wouldn't it, to pick some experienced hunters and gatherers and see how they fare?

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

We had a pair of shows, first 'Fat Men Can't Hunt' and then the even more exploitative 'Can Fat Teens Hunt?" and yes it was a case of choose the biggest whiners you can find so the folks at home can mock from the comfort of their armchairs. It was interesting watching how the guys who started the series portraying themselves as tough guys withered so quickly, and the woman who doubted herself so much to start with seemed to find an inner practicality that after the culture shock of living on the african pains, enabled her to flourish.
By the time most of the boys had cried off and been flown home, she was digging a porcupine out of its borrow and shouting 'lets get it killed and get it eaten". The fat teens? don't ask!

Tom Sorenson said...

I don't have a TV, so likely won't get the chance to watch this - but I'll have to say...with all the garbage that's on TV, that actually sounds quite fascinating! I hope the people who are involved actually take these lessons learned with them.

NorCal Cazadora said...

From what I've seen so far - and Dan may be able to correct me on this - I don't think most of the people on this show are whiny - mostly just ignorant, and and by that I mean not stupid, but just inexperienced.

I do love how all these shows have a way of revealing character. It shows you who the chiefs would be if we were all in tents and huts...

SimplyOutdoors said...

I haven't had a chance to catch this show. I honestly don't watch that much tv, but it sounds very intriguing. I might just have to check it out sometime.

Dan said...

I believe you can go to the discovery channel.com and view the episodes via computer. No, I agree, these folks aren't stupid, rather they are placed in an environment not of thier chosing and forced to rapidly adapt to situations outside their experience base. I probably watch an hour of TV a day, most junk. This show has my attention.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Re what Tom said, I'd LOVE to check in with these folks a year later to see how it's changed their lives.

At the very least, I suspect they'll really appreciate modern conveniences they used to take for granted.

Phillip said...

Glad someone is enjoying this show, I watched the first episode and wrote it off. Just another pseudo-reality show as far as I'm concerned... letting someone else play the games you should be out there playing yourself (metaphorical "you", by the way...nothing personal as many readers here DO get out there).

I am glad, I suppose, that they're showing hunting as a real event, and as a means of gathering necessary protein. But let's not forget that WE (no metaphor this time) don't hunt out of necessity. We hunt for fun, even if we feel that it's a vital part of us, we don't have to do it.

With that in mind, do shows like this build support for Sport hunting? Or do they further undermine our positions by drawing the clear line between subsistence and recreation?

I don't have the answer to that one, but it's one I've pondered a little. Kinda wondering what other folks think...

NorCal Cazadora said...

I'm not sure I totally agree with the distinction. True, hunting is fun. And true, hunting is not the only option we have for obtaining meat.

But meat, to me and more than 95 percent of the U.S. population, is a necessity. The fact that I choose to obtain the healthiest form of meat, and do so in a way that gives me exercise, supports conservation and requires me to pull the trigger - does not alter the necessity of having meat in my diet.

But I too really wonder about the impact of this show. I'll have to do a little research on that and see if it's not too early to tell...

Blessed said...

This sounds like an interesting show - more like "Survivor" than "Survivor" is. I too would be interested to see how these people's attitudes towards hunting is in a year.

Kristine said...

I've heard a lot about this show, but never seen it. I too would be interested to see what the people who were on the show think about hunting in a year, and if the show influenced the attitude toward hunting of anyone who watched.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Oh my goodness Holly I am having a good laugh at your "Bow-chicka-bow-bow!"