The Island

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Island TV Poster Image
Macho posturing, real dangers in reality survival show.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Cooperation and creative thinking are stressed; participants often find themselves in binds and must engineer quick solutions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many of the participants are courageous and kind to each other; the show's consistent disparagement of "soft" men subverts its gentler messages. 

Violence

Participants are given no food, water or shelter; they are sometimes faced by real dangers. They also lose weight over the course of the show; young children may find their struggles frightening. 

Sex
Language

Mild cursing: "What the hell?" Occasional four-letter words are bleeped. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Island is a reality series that strands participants on a tropical island with no supplies. Young children in particular may find their struggles scary or traumatizing: They get hungry, thirsty, cold, and sick. Animals (a crocodile and a snake) are killed messily, cooked, and eaten. Cursing is mild ("What the hell?"), and any four-letter words are bleeped. There aren't any female participants on the show, and narration and dialogue focus consistently on "being a man" as opposed to being "soft." Parents may want to watch along with kids. 

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What's the story?

Modern man has gotten soft, posits survival reality series THE ISLAND, which gathers a cast of 14 American men with no particular outdoors expertise and maroons them on a tropical island with no food, water, or shelter. For one month, accompanied only by a few cameramen who have no extra supplies besides their equipment, the participants must live by their wits -- searching for sources of fresh water, hunting or gathering their food, and taking shelter wherever they can find. The show is narrated by survivalist Bear Grylls

Is it any good?

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like to be stranded on an island. What important items would you bring? Why? 

  • This show often examines the concept of a "real" man. Why do people talk about "real" men? What is a man who's not real? 

  • Are adventure shows like this one fun to watch? Do you think they'd be fun to participate in? 

TV details

For kids who love survival shows

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