Saturday, September 15, 2007

Choose Your He-Man

Well, an awful lot of people find this blog by googling “Les Stroud,” and I am about to commit an act that will mean a lot of people will find it by googling “Les Stroud vs. Bear Grylls.” Now before those of you not into either of these dueling survival show masters bail on me, you may want to stick around. The issue of which guy a person prefers is about more than just whether “Survivorman” or “Man vs. Wild” is a better show.

First of all, these two Discovery Channel shows have quite different themes. “Man vs. Wild” is about just that, one swashbuckling ex-Special Forces guy taking on the worst nature can throw at him. Many people feel it is the more entertaining of the two shows, because Bear is a young, highly athletic, agile, tough and fearless fellow, whose abilities are far above average. The program’s producers have tried to convey that Bear’s survival techniques are not necessarily the sort of thing you or I should tackle. The show is more about impressing us with what one amazing guy can do, while dazzling us with the exotic locales he visits.

In the interest of fairness, I must admit right now I have only seen a little bit of this series. When I saw the ads, I said, “Oh wow, another Survivorman-type show, and the guy is really hot, and better yet, British!” I tuned in with eager curiosity, only to tune out after 20 minutes. Why the quick loss of interest? More on that later.

“Survivorman,” meanwhile, is more truly about survival techniques. Les doesn’t have any particular interest in calling attention to his personal prowess, and in fact, sometimes tries new things just like an actual survivor would do, or showcases his failures. The one-man-alone-with-cameras style makes the viewer feel much more empathy, more a part of the experience, rather than like someone watching a travelogue. And there is a lot more truly helpful survival advice; in fact, in a recent interview Les said he’d been told of three separate incidents in which real life survivors credit watching his show for helping them know what to do.

Okay this is the Erotica with Soul blog, not the Emmys, so I’m not here to review these two shows. I’m here to address the question so many have debated online: who is sexier, Bear or Les?

Let’s make the point right away that if you are going to be superficial, Bear wins hands down. I was attracted to him enough after one commercial to tune into the show. He’s young, handsome, British and can climb rocks, what more does a girl need to know? Meanwhile, I didn’t fall for Les until sometime during the third episode (note I did watch the show up till that point for its own sake). He’s 45, a tad balding, just slightly handsome, and I didn’t know yet that he was a fabulous musician with a drop-dead gorgeous singing voice. (I am a die-hard Canuckophile though, so that’s second best to British.)

However, given more than 20 minutes, my loyalties settled in the opposite way and I will explain why. My own reflections may enlighten you as to why at this point Les is the more popular of the two Discovery Channel stars, and has a bit of an edge in the sexiness department for us women. There is a palpable integrity about Les, a sincerity and openness, that truly make you feel connected to him as you share his adventures. You honestly know when he’s afraid, and consequently, you also know when he’s not, so he comes across as possessing bravery rather than bravado. His willingness to show vulnerability, clumsiness, and even stupidity keeps you mindful that he is only flesh and blood, and the danger he faces is real.

That was why “Survivorman” sucked me in, and, to my mind, “Man vs. Wild” just kinda sucked. Well, not just paled by comparison. While it’s pretty sexy for a guy to be able to leap across gorges and look good doing it like Bear does, it’s a lot sexier for a guy to know that in a survival situation you have no business leaping across gorges. When Bear eats elephant dung or a live fish, you can’t help but feel it’s just for show. When Les eats something weird, you are so convinced how starving he is, you believe it’s for survival...much sexier (or perhaps less “not-sexy”). And of course, what could be sexier than a guy all alone in danger? Yeah, he has a safety crew nearby for emergency aid, but that’s okay; it’s not sexy for a husband and father to be taking unnecessary risks for the sake of a TV show.

The alone factor definitely helps. Even though it’s silly, you feel like the poor man has no company but you as he soldiers through his seven day ordeal. And meanwhile, he’s doing his best to show you a good time! Seeing as it’s Les running all the cameras, sacrificing rest and survival time to share with you everything he can about the adventure with beauty and style, you have to admire him all the more.

That’s why all over the internet you run into people saying, “Stroud is the real deal.” Of course it didn’t help when the British Daily Mail exposed “Man vs. Wild” for misleading viewers in a dozen ways. The volcano was faked? The “wild horses” brought in? Bear stayed in a hotel for the night? His crew built his raft for him? And the wild bear...was a guy in a bear suit?

Now I’m not going to be petty and knock off Bear’s sexiness points for this stuff; for all we know, the production company or Discovery forced it on him. He is the youngest guy to climb Everest so I don’t think he’s pretending to be what he’s not. Please don’t flame me, Bear fans--I’m sure your bloke is a perfectly nice person.

Still, he’s not a wonderfully human expert on survival, he’s not a brilliant filmmaker, he’s not a fabulous composer, musician and singer. And he doesn’t quite possess that genuineness that makes viewers think of Les Stroud as a friend, a guide, an inspiration even for people afraid to go camping.

You just gotta love our Survivorman, and there’s nothing sexier than that.

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