Russian game show paves the way for a horrific future
A new reality TV show from Russia is pushing the limits of what we might humbly call “sane.” The program, Game2: Winter, is a new survival show, pitting multiple contestants against each other and it allows for anything. Anything at all, including rape and murder.
The show will feature 30 contestants, both male and female. They will be filmed over the course of months as they roam a sectioned-off area of Siberia, while hundreds of cameras film them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The survivors, those that don’t tap out along the way (or literally don’t die), will win the equivalent of $1.65 million.
To kick things off, the contestants will undergo survival training from former members of Russia’s elite special forces, GRU Spetsnaz. Once the training is complete, the contestants will be left to survive on their own in the unforgiving Siberian wilderness, where temperatures can reach over 100° degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and -40° in the winter.
The show will begin on July 1, 2017 with the training. Contestants will then need to survive in the unforgiving, bear-infested wilderness until April 1, 2018, surviving, foraging, and looking for shelter throughout. The show will take place over a fairly massive area, covered with nearly 2,000 cameras but no officials. Viewers at home will also be able to help the contestants they like ala the Hunger Games, but it’s not yet clear exactly how.
There will probably be plenty of tricks and twists as well, but the contestants are allowed – even encouraged – to do anything they want. Even horrible things.
“Each contestant gives consent that they could be maimed, even killed. 2,000 cameras, 900 hectares and 30 lives,” the show proudly announces. “Everything is allowed. Fighting, alcohol, murder, rape, smoking, anything.”
To join the show, contestants can either buy their way in for $165,000 or they can be voted in by the audience. The show laughingly suggests that the entry fee may encourage wealthy adventure seekers, which could happen, but it seems far more likely that you’ll see desperate people crowdfund their way in, and badly ill-suited people chosen by the audience. Contestants are required to sign a waiver that recognizes (and exempts the showrunners) that anything could happen. If the contestant can’t stand it, they can leave the area by walking out or they can hit a panic button. Both forfeit the prize.
Despite the terrifying potential, there are two things working in favor of the contestants. First, and most importantly, just because the contestants won’t be held liable by the show if they, say, murder someone, they will still be accountable to Russian law enforcement. In theory at least. Second, the cameras will be rolling at all times, and there are a lot of them. If someone does commit a crime, even if they aren’t immediately arrested, they will be aware that the eyes of millions are on them. If that doesn’t control their behavior, nothing will.
While it’s hard to imagine that someone would murder another contestant on film, the chances of them hurting one another are very real. Fights can, and probably will break out often, and as long as no one dies and no one makes too big a deal out of it, law enforcement will probably be more than happy to stay out of it. But in this type of game, other humans are only one small portion of the threat.
Regardless of how the contestants treat each other, the threats from the wilderness are also very real. There are several animals that can destroy a human in the area. The weather is unforgiving. The food is scarce. Survival is very much not guaranteed, and people will be able to watch the contestants’ struggle online 24/7.
However this turns out, shy of a public outcry (which doesn’t seem forthcoming), this is just the next step in pushing the boundaries of acceptable TV. From here, it’s not a huge stretch to image felons on Death Row fighting to the death, or trying to survive traps and enemies. And while it’s easy to point out that it is a Russian TV show, does anyone really think it couldn’t happen elsewhere?
Even if a kinder, gentler version is created in somewhere like the US, it’s only a matter of time until things are ratcheted up for the sake of ratings. Anyone remember the first few seasons of MTV’s The Real World? That show started as an interesting look at how diverse people forced together would react, but over the years it developed into a mess, where producers stocked the houses with liquor and encouraged as much drama as possible. Imagine if they suddenly told the people on that show that one of them would win $1 million, but they had to beat the others. It would get ugly quickly, and it would make for “great TV.”
This may very well be the future of TV. But hey, at least it will be an interesting slide downwards.