Outback Jack

There was a reality TV series, Outback Jack, which I’m embarrassed to say I watched from time to time, before I became an enlightened feminist and joined TLH. It was similar to shows like Average Joe and The Bachelor where women compete for a man’s affections. Except those women were competing for the man’s affections in the comfort of a nice house with private bedrooms and inner-spring mattresses. Outback Jack was set in the Australian outback.

Let me explain the Australian outback to you. In summer it has up to fifty-plus degree temperatures (and I’m talking celcius here), low humidity and, because it’s too desolate for Western Power to extend electricity to, there’s no air-conditioning. You sweat it out under the shade (where at least you don’t get sunburnt, though you still get dehyrated, and your skin and hair goes to hell for it). The dozen or so women of OJ get tricked into the show, being told they’d be taken to a grand sprawling manner when, in fact, they were dropped off in the middle of nowhere where there’s rocks, sand, more rocks and sand, and oh, did I forget to mention the rocks and sand?

And the fifty-plus temperatures. In celcius.

It was beyond my comprehension why these women stood for it. I mean, it was one thing to compete for a man’s attention when they had a private bedrooms with inner-spring mattresses and spa baths to go back to. It was entirely another when they were sleeping in tents on roll-out mattresses with mosquito nets so they didn’t get malaria. And because this is desert, it’s freezing cold at night, to go with the blistering heat of the day. These women traipsed around the outback in their determination to win a man. What the…?

To be fair, one women gave it up after a day and wanted to go home. Nothing was worth braving the Aussie outback for, and quite frankly, I didn’t blame her. I spent about a week there, and I wouldn’t go back. But what I don’t understand is why no-one else did. Who the hell spends week after week braving it in the scorching heat and freezing cold to win a man?

And to top it all off, they looked like they had hair and make-up artists to take care of them. As I said, it’s hot and dry; no way could those women have kept on looking fresh-faced and sleek-haired as they did without some serious professional help. So on top of putting women through hell for a man, they made every effort to make them look good in the process, when in fact they’d chosen one of the most hostile environments in which to look good in.

The show bothered me more then most shows in its genre because it shows women prepared to go through hell or high water – and believe me, the Australian outback covers both those – in order to win a man.

If it had been me, I would have been the woman who packed it in at the first opportunity.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    You know, many years ago I dropped a friend off at a casting agency. While I loitered outside, some guy in a production van asked me if I’d like to be on a new reality show where people would try to survive on an island. I said no. He mentioned it could launch my career as an actress. I said I wasn’t one. A few months later, “Survivor” began to air.

    Since then, I’ve been very suspicious these shows are really carefully planned improvisations, and the women are actresses. If they have hair and makeup – and obviously a camera crew – it’s very possible the whole thing is just a romp that’s going to launch some lucky actress’ career. Not actually a husband search.

    That said, we still have the question of why TV networks think we would buy that women would do this. And why they think we’d like to watch it.

  2. sbg says

    Yeah, there’s no such thing as a reality show. I mean, even on shows like the Bachelor, the guidelines for what makes a good woman are pretty tight. There’s no way a regular girl’s going to make it on the air – contestants have to be gorgeous and look fabulous in a swimsuit. Because everyone knows that a rich man in search of a wife couldn’t possibly be interested in someone with a little cellulite.

    And, shoot, the ornate hair and makeup that the women all don can’t all be done by themselves. Or if it is, they’re all way more talented than I in that regard.

  3. scarlett says

    I remember one episode showing the women bravely trying to cross hot, rocky terrain in miniskirts or short shorts and high heels. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so dumb. I mean, even if you’d grown up in a mild environment with all flat surfaces, surely just about anyone would realise you cover up in that kind of exposed sun and you don’t wear high heels on uneven surfaces. I would have liked to see some burnt skin and broken ankles to demonstrate the consequenses of their stupidity.

  4. MaggieCat says

    But what I don’t understand is why no-one else did. Who the hell spends week after week braving it in the scorching heat and freezing cold to win a man?

    I can’t say for sure, but I wonder how much of it had to do with the guy at this point. If I, after some sort of massive head injury, found myself on some sort of reality show I’d quite possibly stick out because my pride wouldn’t let me just quit. I have been accused of being a ‘to the death!’ sort of competitor though. ;-)

    Of course I’m not sure how much pride these women have if they ended up on a dating show to begin with…

    I remember hearing about this show at some point, and being very irritated because they weren’t even giving the women a chance to pack appropriately. (Or at least not that I gathered from ads.) At least on Survivor they don’t kidnap people and drop them on the island- they get a chance to prepare.

  5. scarlett says

    Well, I applauded the one woman who was like ‘this isn’t what I signed up for, I quit’.
    And the lack of ability to pack appropriately may have explained the high heels and miniskirts, I hadn’t thought of that. Yeah, another point against the show – it’s a hostile environment, and not giving people the oppurtunity to pack appropriately is irresponsible.
    Having said that, tghey didn’t do themselves any favours – there was one woman who got very bad heatstroke because she wasn’t drinking enough water. How you can do something so dumb is beyond me. I always thought it was human instinct that when it’s hot, you drink – especially when the producers have been nice enough to provide lots of cold bottled water.

  6. MaggieCat says

    Yeah, while I might not do the same thing in the same situation, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against anyone who protested the bait-and-switch routine, especially in an environment as harsh as that. I wonder if they made the contestants have a medical check beforehand, because I for one physically wouldn’t make it there, and I know I’m not alone. But I suppose they’d be risking lawsuits if they didn’t.

    Having said that, they didn’t do themselves any favours – there was one woman who got very bad heatstroke because she wasn’t drinking enough water. How you can do something so dumb is beyond me. I always thought it was human instinct that when it’s hot, you drink – especially when the producers have been nice enough to provide lots of cold bottled water.

    Heatstroke and dehydration are two very different things. Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises to a temperature in excess of 106°F/41°C, perspiration slows to practically nothing, causing an even more rapid rise in body temp, circulation slows down, even coma- and drinking all the cold water in the world won’t help, it requires medical intervention. Even if that woman only had dehydration, that’s frighteningly easy to end up with- sometimes you just cannot take in enough water to make up for what you’re losing, particularly in very extreme climates.

  7. says

    I don’t know; “oh my god, we’re sleeping in tents on roll-out mattresses with mosquito nets so we don’t get malaria” sounds so stereotypically female. To a lot of people mosquitoes are a regular staple of life, and lots of people run away to just those types of conditions on their vacations.

    While the Outback is considerably more extreme then most camping expeditions, it still gets a lot of tourists. Perhaps some of the people weren’t as upset about the conditions as you would be. Perhaps some of them weren’t going to let simple weather stop them. Perhaps some of them had seen the stereotypes of the weak woman who panics at the outdoors–Parent Trap comes to mind here, but I know I’ve seen more solid examples–and didn’t want to be that stereotype.

  8. scarlett says

    OK, fair enough – part of what I had edited out was that she had been told not to go out and sunbake in the open sun for so long, and that she’d been told constantly to keep cool and drink water or she might get heatstroke.

  9. scarlett says

    OK, my take was this, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clearer: they were promised a sprawling mansion with all the modern conveniences, and were given the outback in the most basic of conditions. The way it was played, they stuck it out in the hopes of winning a guy. It really focused on how much they disliked getting dirty and working up a sweat.
    I’m sure some of them could have camped out as well as they could have lived in the lap of luxury. If there had been more reaction of ‘well, we’re here now, may as well make the best of things’ as opposed to ‘this is the worst thing that could have happened to me, but I’m not going to lose the guy’, that would have been OK. But to me, the whole show was played as these women were determined to stick it out to win the man, no matter how miserable they found the environment.
    Again, kudos to the woman who said, This isn’t what I signed up for, I quit.

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    Actually, there’s no way they stranded them in a hostile environment without being prepared to offer medical aid and so on: they’d get sued.

    There’s no way they did anything these women didn’t agree to: they’d get sued.

    There’s no way this whole thing was any form of reality: it’s all been carefully staged. It’s a parody, only most of the audience doesn’t seem to get that… or care.

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