Nude Survival Show ‘Not Exploitative,’ Says Producer

Trying to create authentic experience

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When the public received word of the Discovery’s new all-nude reality survival show, Naked and Afraid, many accused the formerly-education-based channel of low-level pandering and exploitation. What other reason could there be for such gratuitous displays of flesh than to compete in a hyper-sexualized TV market?

Salon’s TV writer Willa Paskin sat down with Denise Contis, executive producer of the show—which premiered last night—to ask her just what they were thinking.

On the origins of the show’s primary hook (nudity):

I think what we were always looking to do with the producers was develop the ultimate survival show, and a survival show where our cast of survivalists really had to rely on their body and their brain. What’s the quintessential survival show that allows for that? So really it was just looking and developing that and this is where we went with it.

On whether any of the contestants objected to their bits being on TV:

No, they really embraced the really kind of authentic, pure nature of the survival aspect of the show, and what we all found really interesting was, once they hit the ground, once they’re on location, within minutes, it’s irrelevant to them that they were naked, completely irrelevant, not a plot point. They were in survival mode. Their focus quickly shifted: I need to get food, I need to get water, I need to get shelter.

On whether she considers the nudity to be exploitative:

Well, we didn’t develop the show to be exploitative, ever. We always developed it with our filter being “how do we protect and it make it a pure survival experience?” And to your original question, could we have given them shoes? Yeah. And try to remember, too, each person can bring one item. I mean it’s interesting the items they bring. One person brought goggles, which I find fascinating, because he knew he was going to be by the ocean. Another person, very wisely, brought a very small cup, because they knew they had to boil water. One person brought a machete. What’s interesting is, nobody brought clothes. Nobody brought shoes.

Read the rest of the interview at Salon.

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