posted Aug 09, 2001

Perfect Fear Factor Stunt
Personal Commentary
My wife has gotten addicted to NBC's "Fear Factor", and in a one-bedroom apartment where I'm currently home nearly all the time, that means by extension, so have I. A lot of people think it's a clear contender for the trashiest show on television, but I think that's only true from the "voyeur" point of view. From another point of view, the show also offer psychological insights into the contestants, though the insights aren't as profound as I think the Weakest Link may offer.

The show asks its contestents to do stunts that involve people's most common fears, like darkness, drowning, heights, and the ever popular eating disgusting things. Usually, about one out of the six people in the show will back out of one of the three stunts. There's a stunt I'd like to try on the contestents, just to see what would happen.

Bear in mind that the show has buried people in snakes, rats, and superworms; asked people to consume beetles, crickets, sheep's eyeballs and buffalo testicles; and done all sorts of crazy things with heights. Presumably, contestants in the second season will know these things, having watched the first series. Imagine this as the second stunt:

Our (remaining) hardy contestents are brought to some suitably atmospheric setting (a corner of a loud, working factory would be perfect) and are shown a soundproof door. The host refreshes the contestent's memories of some of the things the first season did, asks the people what they thought of them, and just generally reminisces for a bit. In the background, there's the sound of low, rhythemic thumping, which tends to produce fear reactions in our body even in the absence of any other stimuli, as any horror movie producer knows. And finally, the description of the stunt.

"Your names have been randomly chosen, and in that order, you will walk through that door. You will close it behind you and it will lock behind you, so once you've gone in, you will not be able to come back out. In the room behind the door, we have set up a challenge for you. We aren't telling what it is, but you know what the producers of this show are capable of. You must complete the challenge before leaving the room. You may back out now."

Behind the door lies... but I'm not telling you, because that's the challenge. Just walk through the door. Can you face the fear of the unknown?

Of course, I doubt they'd get this creative. Heck, I doubt most of the audience would understand unless they dropped a bit of exposition in front. But I'd like to see it.

Postscript: Oh, and I'm just waiting for somebody to say this (though they'd probably show no more then a fragment on TV and I doubt the producers would know what it is): "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." From Frank Herbert's Dune, an awe-inspiring book. FWIW, it seems clear to me that some of the stunts have had this effect on the contestants... I swear there was this one girl who landed from an eight-story jump a completely different person then the one who was cowering while the others were jumping before her... in that regard, Fear Factor may actually be the most sublime show on television. How many game shows sometimes truly change their contestents for the better?



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