I watched Bear Grylls and I didn’t like it….
I discovered Bear Grylls this week. I had known of him and seen images of him in soggy combats and a sludge covered face, but up till a few days ago had no idea what he did in his programmes.
This episode followed him trekking through a jungle in Belize. The weather was torrential; the kind of rain that makes you think there must be someone in the sky just holding a hose over the world. He looked exhausted, soaked to the skin, freezing but yet kept on going. He forged through the delicate ecosystem like a bull in a china shop or more appropriately in his case an elephant in a rainforest. As he walked he talked, rapidly and with the excitement of a child with ADHD. The camera work added to this because at times it was shaky, following him in a kind of epileptic fit that made the watching experience all the more disconcerting.
He showed us how to build a jungle bed using branches, a vine that I can’t remember the name of but seemed to be used for everything, and a large palm leaf. He ripped and whittled, tore and crunched until he had what looked like, well a hammock with a lid. Now my question here is why not just bring a hammock? When I was in the jungle it was the first piece of equipment we were advised to get, a slim-line hammock that we could wrap around ourselves to keep warm and sheltered. There was no massacre of trees, but an easy wrap around that on leaving in the morning left no trace. Instead he just left an arboreal atrocity to rot into mulch. Anyway, moving on….
Then he came across a snake, a huge boa constrictor that hissed and lashed out. Grylls paced around it like a tiger, prodding it at intervals with a long stick. The snake hissed louder, its fangs on view for the world to see. Grylls kept circling explaining in choked breaths how the snake killed things, basically by squeezing them to death and then consuming them whole. I listened with interest waiting for the circling to end when WHACK he suddenly clobbered the snake over the head with his stick. WHACK, WHACK…. then he picked it up and professed what a good meal it would make. With his oversized knife he split the creature in two and disembowelled it, throwing its insides into a heap on the ground. By this point I was looking at the TV through fingers. I am not squeamish. It was more shock, at him killing and slaughtering an animal on television. Then like a proud father he wrapped the limp snake around his neck and moved on.
From there he ended up in a cave. Pitch black he lit a bunch of sticks and made an impressive torch. The he went on the hunt. In a flash we saw a huge rodent, something the size of the rat Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He chased after it waving the torch back and forth. But it was a cave and thankfully the rodent had the sense to move away from the flame not towards it. Um….duh? Unsatisfied he did a sweep of the walls and spotted a huge spider/beetle creature that he promptly whacked on the head (again) and shoved straight in his mouth, legs akimbo and wriggling, saying it wasn’t enough food but it would do.
Now I understand the premise of this programme is to see what it would be like to survive if you had nothing with you. I get that it is survival at its most extreme. But really what the hell do you learn from this programme? How many people sitting in their living rooms with a cup of tea and a Kit Kat are ever going to be in a situation where they are in the middle of an unchartered rainforest and suddenly go ‘Oh yeah remember that snake dance Bear did before clobbering it over the head? Maybe we should do that for dinner.’ Plus there is a cameraperson with him, someone that probably has a backpack full of Frosties and an energy bar. Did that snake and weird beetle thing (that was probably on the endangered species list) really have to die just for the shock value.
The best part about the programme was when he made a raft and floated down the river. Away from land and the possibility of butchering more rainforest creatures. He floated and talked about alligators and bull sharks, which I hoped at this point, would make an appearance just to scare the crap out of him. He floated and talked as the rainforest turned to blackness. I watched it with relief. It was over. Although at one point I did wonder if he was going to sharpen the end of his paddle. It would have made a great homemade harpoon.