Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bear Grylls as the new modern nature man

Here's a link to an interesting article by Jim Motavalli, author of Naked in the Woods: Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery, discussing Man versus Wild's Bear Grylls.

Grylls has allegedly faked some of his outdoor exploits for the Discovery Channel. Who knew?


Aiden F said...

Man vs. Wild is sensationalized. Bear Grylls might have the expertise to do what he's shown to be doing in the show, but he does them because he can, not because he needs to. I'd say that Les Stroud of "Survivorman" would be more of a Modern Nature Man, although that's still sensationalized. What we need is a new Thoreau, or something. They would need to be out in a wilderness for two years, and now we could have video evidence of what they were up to.

Like the Truman Show! Except real and in the wild!

Robert L said...

I wouldn't use Thoreau as an example of a nature man. He barely lived on his own, subsidizing the little farming he did while at the pond with groceries from town, and he had plenty of visitors while living there. The idea of secluding ones self should not be associated with the type of nature man these shows are going for. Thoreau went to Emerson's farm to get away so he could finish a book, not to return to nature.

Dean Gamache said...

I think a New Thoreau would be good for radio, but bad for television. He is to wordy. Has anyone ever read "Into thin air" or "Into the wild" (the book is better than the movie) by John Krakauer? They are very good accounts of wildernessism. I suggest reading them both.

Kristen H said...

You know, it's interesting that Robert doesn't think Thoreau was "back to nature" enought...when clearly true "back to nature" didn't work for Bear Grylls or Knowles or most people. Thoureau was as back to nature as modern man can get, though I suppose there are people in the world that do live off less...but for someone raised in the western world, it would be nearly impossible to live completely in the wild--from lack of knowledge and from cultural needs you've grown up with.
Of course, there was Noah Rondeau, the Adirondack hermit. Anyone heard of him? I guess if anyone was "back to nature" he surely was.

Michael Black said...

Oh no no no!
Bear Grylls is NOT the new nature man. While Les Stroud is a bit closer, neither is he. You simply cannot be a true nature man if you have a camera following you around everywhere.
A perfect parody of this can be seen on the show "The Office", when Michael Scott goes into the wilderness of Scranton, PA. He survives, but is more of a joke than anything.
The problem with Bear Grylls is the same as Les Stroud and Michael Scott: they try and conquer nature, not sustain themselves on it. Every show is always a survival situation.
A nature man should be concerned about sustaining, not surviving.
The closest example I can think of as a true nature man is Christopher McCandless, the man who went Into the Wild.

He had the right idea.
But he died.

Maybe that's the point...

Jim Tantillo said...

LOVED the reference to the Office episode--hadn't seen that, just got done watching it. great stuff!

Matt Christensen said...

I'd like to present another viewpoint on the Chris McCandless story and on the lure of "Man vs. Wild". I think both say something specifically to the North American mindset.

Chris McCandless, in some ways, achieved what he set out to do: go 'into the wild', reconnect with his inner 'primordial beast' and achieve some sort of enlightenment.

But one could argue that his motives for going into the wild arose from his disgust from the American society around him. McCandless was running away... Just as so many Americans before him had moved West to escape certain social aspects of the East (I realize there were other forces in motion as well).

In a similar way, Bear Grylls show gives viewers a slight relief from whatever social pressures may be present. "Man vs. Wild" is sensationalized and almost instructional, with the effect that the viewer can feel that they too are independent and could survive in the wild...if they needed to.

My point is that the stories of Thoreau, McCandless, Grylls maybe represent not the true 'nature man' ideal, but instead a public fantasy of escape from reality.

Just another point about McCandless, I spent about 5 weeks discussing this book a few years back in high school, might as well use it.

The real power of "Into the Wild" comes with McCandless' realization near his death. That the enlightenment he strove for was not quite what he expected, as we can infer from the phrase "happiness only real when shared". The 'nature man' is a romantic ideal, but humans are social animals, and escape 'into the wild' is only a temporary hideaway.

Eric C. Nuse said...

A great read related to this topic is "A Death on the Barrens" by George Grinnell about a canoe trip in 1955 where the leader Arthur Moffatt dies of exposure in the barrens of northern Canada. All the members of the expedition except Moffatt were college students.