Channeling the Siren Song of “Adventure”

Remember this guy? Ed Wardle of National Geographic’s Alone in the Wild?

Well, his spiritual cousin on the Discovery Channel — Les Stroud of Survivorman — evidently was the inspiration for Richard Code (below left), who was just found dead in the Canadian wilderness.

Richard Code and his father, Mel Code

“TV abstracts the real ugliness of survival,” said [wilderness instructor Gino] Ferri, who runs a school called Survival in the Bush and trained Stroud back in the day. “They make the wilderness look like it’s a romantic place. Well, it’s romantic, as long as you have all your gear and you’re camping and enjoying it. In a survival situation, it’s a nightmare.”

Do TV programs like Survivorman and Alone in the Wild bear any responsibility for the death of Richard Code?

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≡  photo of Richard & Mel Code via thestar.com

  • Roger Baumgarten

    Hard to say. Any number of shows depict what would be considered risky behavior by “laymen”–Olympic snowboarding; NASCAR; curling. OK…maybe not curling. But is NASCAR (and their auto-manufacturer sponsors) responsible for fatal crashes on the Interstate?

    • If you drive 160mph on I-81, and crash — and then tell the EMTs that your lifelong idol is Jeff Gordon, then yes, there’s a link. Is NASCAR responsible for your idiotic behavior? Only if NASCAR suggests that the rules of Daytona also apply to the interstate.

      Re: snowboarding — yes, it’s risky. But it’s not deadly. No one has to die to give the sport its frisson. As for NASCAR, I’m not so sure.

      The disturbing part of shows like Alone in the Wild is that it romanticizes an “adventure” where the game is: Can You Cheat Death? I don’t think that’s a game, and it’s certainly not one that I want my Society to glorify or underwrite.

      Now, if Ed Wardle put his life on the line to bring home some venison bologna for his family, well… that’s a whole different story. 🙂

  • Roger Baumgarten

    Hard to say. Any number of shows depict what would be considered risky behavior by “laymen”–Olympic snowboarding; NASCAR; curling. OK…maybe not curling. But is NASCAR (and their auto-manufacturer sponsors) responsible for fatal crashes on the Interstate?

    • If you drive 160mph on I-81, and crash — and then tell the EMTs that your lifelong idol is Jeff Gordon, then yes, there’s a link. Is NASCAR responsible for your idiotic behavior? Only if NASCAR suggests that the rules of Daytona also apply to the interstate.

      Re: snowboarding — yes, it’s risky. But it’s not deadly. No one has to die to give the sport its frisson. As for NASCAR, I’m not so sure.

      The disturbing part of shows like Alone in the Wild is that it romanticizes an “adventure” where the game is: Can You Cheat Death? I don’t think that’s a game, and it’s certainly not one that I want my Society to glorify or underwrite.

      Now, if Ed Wardle put his life on the line to bring home some venison bologna for his family, well… that’s a whole different story. 🙂

  • Therese

    Re: Channeling the Siren Song of “Adventure”

    Although I find “reality” shows like this distasteful, wildly misleading, and dumbing down to the lowest common denominator (shame on Discovery and NG for hosting shows like this), reality shows should not be blamed for deaths of (adults who watch them. From the article I read, this guy Richard Code was 41 years old, and although “It remains unclear if Code has ever received formal wilderness training but relatives say much of his knowledge came from watching Survivorman,” he should have known better.

    • Therese – Thanks for your comment, and I think we’re in agreement: Discovery and NG shouldn’t host shows like this. And Richard Code probably should have known better. Question is: Who is responsible for romanticizing this dance with death in the great outdoors? As I said above, I don’t want my Society to subsidize such craziness. There are all sorts of people who risk their lives for good reasons. Firemen, for instance. They’re worth honoring. But Survivorman?

  • Therese

    Re: Channeling the Siren Song of “Adventure”

    Although I find “reality” shows like this distasteful, wildly misleading, and dumbing down to the lowest common denominator (shame on Discovery and NG for hosting shows like this), reality shows should not be blamed for deaths of (adults who watch them. From the article I read, this guy Richard Code was 41 years old, and although “It remains unclear if Code has ever received formal wilderness training but relatives say much of his knowledge came from watching Survivorman,” he should have known better.

    • Therese – Thanks for your comment, and I think we’re in agreement: Discovery and NG shouldn’t host shows like this. And Richard Code probably should have known better. Question is: Who is responsible for romanticizing this dance with death in the great outdoors? As I said above, I don’t want my Society to subsidize such craziness. There are all sorts of people who risk their lives for good reasons. Firemen, for instance. They’re worth honoring. But Survivorman?

  • Therese

    I agree—I don’t want to see the National Geographic Society romanticizing this; unfortunately, these kinds of shows sell. If people didn’t watch them, NG and other channels wouldn’t make them.

  • Therese

    I agree—I don’t want to see the National Geographic Society romanticizing this; unfortunately, these kinds of shows sell. If people didn’t watch them, NG and other channels wouldn’t make them.

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