Parents' Guide to

The Island

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Macho posturing, real dangers in reality survival show.

TV NBC Reality TV 2015
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If gender role anxiety and Survivor-type reality shows are your thing, The Island will be too. The show's anti-citified-man theme is front and center in the opening narration: "The twenty-first-century male has come a long way from his hunter-gatherer origins, but has his modern life robbed him of his ability to survive in the wild?" asks a rugged Grylls over images of men doing yoga (horrors!), manipulating a remote control, and splashing on what one presumes is the sort of lavender-scented Gillywater that transforms a brute into a mincing dandy. The aim, clearly, is to set a bunch of soft-handed types in a brutal survival milieu and watch them struggle -- from the comfort of one's couch. "It's time for me to man up," says a stay-at-home dad, pointedly photographed amid baby gear. "I need my man card back."

Ugh. It's not that it's not fun to watch city folk grapple with the demands of nature -- umpteen seasons of Survivor have proved that. Watching people eat worms, try to start a fire without matches, and purify water in the wild is a kick. But a show that puts forth the idea that "real men" do stuff like hunting and that if a man instead practices law, or cares for children, or creates software he's somehow less-than is counter to most parents' ideas about gender equality. Most parents would prefer their boys to grow up to be men who are both competent and compassionate, and The Island's consistent digs at "civilized" men distinctly favor the former. If you must let kids watch, be sure you're there to counter any iffy messages.

TV Details

  • Premiere date: May 25, 2015
  • Cast: Bear Grylls
  • Network: NBC
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Last updated: February 26, 2022

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