Post- Apocalyptic Simulation and the Neoliberalist legacy in Bear Grylls: Running Wild

Curator's Note

Moments of national crisis have long manifested in fictional post-apocalyptic narratives. Elsewhere in the mediascape, reality television has been linked to the Neoliberalist cause since the deregulation of the 1980s. These two genres have been kept separate, until 2014’s Running Wild With Bear Grylls. Running Wild poses the curious collision of dystopian simulation and celebrity, mediated through genre of reality television, a genre linked with the Neoliberalist cause. Running Wild utilises year zero depictions of nature, and obfuscation of celebrity from personal brand, to push the extremity of Neoliberalism in its praise for survivalism. Concurrent to the gratuitous shots of remote settings, is a rather unusual treatment of celebrities, which often sees their professional accomplishments obscured in order to focus on the roles that each plays in their own nuclear sphere. The message of the unimportance of celebrity is driven home at Grylls’ obliviousness to who Sofia Vergara is in S02E02. Clearly, the only identifier that matters in Running Wild’s dystopic simulation is that which one plays within their traditional nuclear units. The treatment of Kate Hudson’s own unorthodox familial set up is one that reinforces this. Matriarchal lineage is largely unexplored during her conversations with Bear. Grylls chooses instead to probe the importance of the relationship between Hudson and her surrogate father, Kurt Russell. Shortly before this, Hudson herself is praised for her domestic prowess, cooking for Grylls’ and making their basic camp more ‘homely’. All but one celebrity of Running Wild’s run is American, and their Americanness is both emphasised in the presence of Grylls’ stiff British upper lip, and linked inextricably to the frontier narratives of self-discovery that play out in both the editing of the show, and emotive responses of each of the participants. Wrapped up within this is a sense of Neoliberalist identity, which survives in a post apocalyptic simulation and presents itself as particularly American.

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